Sosa v. Robinson

Decision Date22 September 2020
Docket NumberAC 41832
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
Parties Andres SOSA v. Dave ROBINSON et al.

Andres R. Sosa, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

Janelle R. Medeiros, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, was William Tong, attorney general, for the appellee (named defendant).

Prescott, Bright and Moll, Js.*

BRIGHT, J.

The plaintiff, Andres Sosa, appeals from the judgment of the trial court, dismissing certain counts of his complaint in which he sought compensatory relief from the defendant, Dave Robinson,1 a correctional commissary lead operator at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (MacDougall), in his individual capacity and rendering summary judgment on the remainder of the complaint in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff claims that the court erred in concluding that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over his claims seeking compensatory relief against the defendant in his individual capacity and erred in concluding that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment on the remainder of the plaintiff's complaint due to the plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. In addition to arguing that the court's subject matter jurisdiction analysis was correct, the defendant argues in the alternative that the court correctly rendered summary judgment in his favor because the plaintiff's claims fail as a matter of law. We agree with the plaintiff that the court had jurisdiction over the claims in which he seeks compensatory relief against the defendant in his individual capacity. We agree, however, with the defendant's alternative argument that the plaintiff's claims fail on their merits as a matter of law. Therefore, we reverse in part and affirm in part the judgment of the trial court.2

The following facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and procedural history are relevant to our analysis of the plaintiff's claims.

At all times relevant to this appeal, the plaintiff was an inmate at MacDougall. While incarcerated, the plaintiff filed a number of inmate complaints alleging that several Department of Correction (department) employees were engaging in discriminatory practices and favoritism. The first complaint of record was in response to the plaintiff's removal from the M housing unit (M-unit)3 on August 24, 2004, for "unknown reasons." On September 1, 2004, the plaintiff wrote to the M-unit major, claiming that he was discriminated against because no misconduct report was filed prior to his removal. The plaintiff further suggested that Warden John Sieminski was retaliating against him for his pending lawsuit against Warden Giovanny Gomez.

On September 22, 2004, the plaintiff filed an inmate request form, alleging that he was discriminated against by the defendant on September 17, 2004. Specifically, the plaintiff stated that when he showed up to begin working in the commissary, the defendant turned him away twice for not having completed a commissary work application, a document the plaintiff alleged he, in fact, did complete. On October 15, 2004, Andrea S. Baker, the classification committee chairperson, issued a response to the plaintiff's request in which she concluded that there was no discrimination in the plaintiff's assignment. Baker further stated that the plaintiff was "on the institutional laundry waiting list as a primary, as well as, the commissary waiting list as a secondary" and that job placement was moving slowly "due to the volume of inmates on the job waiting lists."

On January 3, 2005, the plaintiff began working in the commissary until he subsequently was transferred to the restrictive housing unit on June 27, 2005, for allegedly "interfering with ... safety and security." The plaintiff later was acquitted of the disciplinary citation on July 12, 2005. Soon thereafter, the plaintiff spoke with Sieminski about having his job restored because the disciplinary citation was dismissed and he was released from restrictive housing. Sieminski advised the plaintiff to write to his unit major to resolve the matter. After again alleging that he was being discriminated against, the plaintiff, with the help of the Inmates’ Legal Assistance Program, was reinstated to his commissary job on September 9, 2005.

While working in the commissary, the plaintiff received, for the most part, positive feedback from his supervisors for his job performance. On May 8, 2006, however, Alicia Demars, a commissary supervisor, issued the plaintiff a class B disciplinary citation, allegedly because he "became belligerent" and started "causing a disruption" when she gave him a direct order. As a result, the plaintiff's employment in the commissary was terminated. There is no evidence that the plaintiff disputed the disciplinary citation or his termination of employment from the commissary.

On September 10, 2013, the plaintiff filed another inmate request form, this time with Warden Peter Murphy, requesting assistance with the commissary application process. In response, on September 23, 2013, a paralegal with the department's legal affairs unit informed the plaintiff that Lou Failla, the commissary lead supervisor, would consider the plaintiff's application for an assignment in the commissary, provided that the plaintiff met all of the qualifications for such a position. On February 7, 2014, the plaintiff was informed that the defendant had denied his application due to the plaintiff's May, 2006 disciplinary report and termination. At the time that the plaintiff's application was denied, MacDougall had a written policy that provided that, for an inmate to be eligible to work in the commissary, he must "[h]ave not been previously terminated from a commissary position."

On February 8, 2014, the plaintiff filed a grievance against the defendant and Steven Plourde, the department's fiscal administrative supervisor for commissary administration, alleging that they denied his commissary job application despite his meeting all of the requisite criteria. The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant and Plourde engaged in the inconsistent enforcement of facility rules, favoritism, and retaliation.

On February 18, 2015, the plaintiff commenced this action for compensatory, declaratory, and injunctive relief against the defendant in his individual and official capacities, raising federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a takings claim.4 In the first count of his three count complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated his rights under the first amendment to the United States constitution by denying his commissary job application in retaliation for claims he previously had filed against other department employees.5 In particular, the plaintiff claimed that his filing of claims against other department employees was protected speech, and that, by denying his commissary job application, the defendant took adverse action against him in violation of his first amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

In the second count, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution by discriminating against him in his employment assignments. Specifically, the plaintiff stated: "The [defendant] is clearly violating the equal protection of law by deliberately and purposely discriminating [against] the plaintiff, a minority race (Hispanic), a [n]ative [c]itizen of the Dominican Republic in the [c]lassification of [a] [j]ob [a]ssignment [in the commissary] ...."

Finally, in his third count, the plaintiff set forth a claim that made reference to the defendant's allegedly misappropriating from inmate trust accounts interest earned by inmates on their Social Security benefits. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had a practice of not employing illegal immigrants and citizens without Social Security numbers because he could take interest earned on Social Security benefits only from the inmate accounts of individuals with a Social Security number. The plaintiff further alleged that a property interest exists in whatever interest has accrued on moneys in an inmate trust account, and the defendant's appropriation of that interest constitutes an unconstitutional taking in violation of the takings clause of the fifth amendment to the United States constitution.

As to the first and second counts of his complaint, the plaintiff sought actual damages, punitive damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief against the defendant in both his individual and official capacities. As to the third count of his complaint, although the plaintiff did not allege that there had been any taking of any money from his inmate trust account, the plaintiff sought the return of all "tax return" interest collected by the defendant.

In his answer, filed on June 26, 2015, the defendant denied the plaintiff's allegations and raised five special defenses. The defendant asserted that (1) the court lacked jurisdiction over all three counts because the defendant is immune from suit pursuant to General Statutes § 4-165, (2) the plaintiff failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted, (3) in the absence of an allegation of permission to sue the state, pursuant to General Statutes § 4-160(b), the plaintiff failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted, (4) to the extent that the plaintiff sought equitable relief and recovery of money damages from the defendant, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute on the basis of sovereign immunity, and (5) the plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

On November 19, 2015, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the decision to reject the plaintiff's commissary application was based on nondiscriminatory reasons, namely, because the plaintiff previously had been...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • Campbell v. City of Waterbury
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • February 9, 2022
    ...Clause claims. See 184 Windsor Ave., LLC v. State , 274 Conn. 302, 319, 875 A.2d 498 (2005) (state takings claim); Sosa v. Robinson , 200 Conn. App. 264, 294 n.12, 239 A.3d 1228 (2020) (federal takings claim).It is true that the Supreme Court has recently overruled its longstanding preceden......
  • Bongiorno v. J & G Realty, LLC
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • March 22, 2022
    ...jurisdiction is raised, it must be resolved before the court addresses the merits of the plaintiff's claims." Sosa v. Robinson, 200 Conn.App. 264, 276, 239 A.3d 1228 (2020); see also Kelly v. Albertsen, 114 Conn.App. 600, 607, 970 A.2d 787 (2009) ("[a]s soon as the jurisdiction of the court......
  • Campbell v. City of Waterbury
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • February 9, 2022
    ...forum for Takings Clause claims. See 184 Windsor Ave., LLC v. State, 274 Conn. 302, 319 (2005) (state takings claim); Sosa v. Robinson, 200 Conn.App. 264, 294 n.12 (2020) (federal takings It is true that the Supreme Court has recently overruled its longstanding precedent that had required a......
  • Bongiorno v. J & G Realty, LLC
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • March 22, 2022
    ...... matter jurisdiction is raised, it must be resolved before the. court addresses the merits of the plaintiff's. claims.'' Sosa v. Robinson , 200 Conn.App. 264, 276, 239 A.3d 1228 (2020); see also Kelly v. Albertsen , 114 Conn.App. 600, 607, 970 A.2d 787 (2009). ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT