Wine v. Mulligan, AC 44261

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
PartiesDANIEL WINE v. WILLIAM MULLIGAN ET AL.
Docket NumberAC 44261
Decision Date14 June 2022

DANIEL WINE
v.

WILLIAM MULLIGAN ET AL.

No. AC 44261

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 14, 2022


Argued February 15, 2022

Procedural History

Action to recover damages for the alleged violation of the plaintiffs constitutional rights, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the court, Cobb, J., granted the defendants' motion to strike the plaintiffs complaint; thereafter, the court, Noble, J., granted the defendants' motion for judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

Daniel Wine, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

Jacob McChesney, with whom, on the brief, were William Tong, attorney general, and Clare E. Kindall, solicitor general, for the appellees (defendants).

Alexander, Suarez and Sheldon, Js.

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OPINION

PER CURIAM

The self-represented plaintiff, Daniel Wine, appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered after it granted the defendants'[1] motion to strike his complaint. On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the court erred in granting this motion because the stricken complaint adequately stated a claim that the defendants had violated his constitutional right of access to the courts. We disagree, and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The record reveals the following facts and procedural history. At all times relevant to this appeal, the plaintiff was incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (MacDougall). In July, 2019, the plaintiff initiated the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[2] The plaintiff alleged in his complaint that, on January 25, 2019, the defendants improperly confiscated materials in his outgoing mail, [3] and that such improper confiscation violated his constitutional rights of access to the courts and to equal protection of the law. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that Rollin Cook, the then Commissioner of Correction, was responsible for the overall operation of the Department of Correction's correctional facilities, which included MacDougall. The plaintiff alleged that he had written to Correction Lieutenant Roy Weldon requesting an informal resolution regarding the confiscation of his mail. In his claim against William Mulligan, the warden of MacDougall, the plaintiff alleged that Mulligan was "legally responsible for the operation of [MacDougall] and for the welfare of all the inmates in that prison." The plaintiff alleged that he also had written to Mulligan requesting an informal resolution regarding the confiscation of his mail. The plaintiff claimed that he had a conversation with Peter Sacuta, a correction officer, regarding the confiscated materials. The plaintiff alleged that Sacuta told him that "any material containing [Uniform Commercial Code] material will be confiscated as unauthorized information by him at the time he is making copies or doing notary."[4] The plaintiff further alleged that he handed a manila envelope containing his materials to Shaila Tucker, a counselor, and asked her to seal the envelope but she declined to do so, stating that "the mailroom may want to check it." Finally, the plaintiff alleged that Weldon seized his outgoing mail on January 25, 2019. The plaintiff sought an injunction and compensatory and punitive damages.

On August 22, 2019, the defendants filed a motion to strike the plaintiffs complaint for failure to plead a valid cause of action and failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. In the memorandum in support of their motion to strike, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs complaint was legally deficient because the conduct alleged did not constitute a violation of his constitutional rights, and that the plaintiff

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failed to allege the specific personal involvement of four of the defendants in the conduct claimed to constitute a constitutional violation. The defendants argued that "only [Weldon] was alleged to have confiscated the plaintiffs outgoing mail" and, therefore, the plaintiff had failed to adequately allege a § 1983 claim against Cook, Mulligan, Sacuta, and Tucker. As to the plaintiffs claim that the defendants had violated his right of access to the courts, the defendants first argued that the materials confiscated from the plaintiff did not relate to a challenge of any of the plaintiffs criminal convictions or resulting sentences, or to any alleged violation of his constitutional rights, as required to establish a viable access to the courts claim. The defendants further argued that the plaintiffs allegations were legally insufficient because he failed to set forth any claim that he suffered any injury in fact as a result of the defendants' allegedly unconstitutional conduct. As to his equal protection claim, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs complaint was legally deficient because it failed to allege any disparate treatment by them of similarly situated individuals or that the confiscation of his outgoing mail was not rationally related to the Department of Corrections' "security protocol or some other legitimate penological interest."

On January 29, 2020, the court granted the defendants' motion to strike the plaintiffs complaint "[f]or the reasons stated in the defendants' memorandum."[5]On February 26, 2020, the defendants filed a motion for judgment, which the court granted on March 9, 2020. This appeal followed. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly granted the defendants' motion to strike because he sufficiently alleged a violation of his right of access to the courts in his complaint.[6]

We begin our analysis with the standard of review. "Because a motion to strike challenges the legal sufficiency of a pleading and, consequently, requires no factual findings by the trial court, our review of the court's ruling on the [defendants' motion] is plenary. . . . We take the facts to be those alleged in the complaint that has been stricken and we construe the complaint in the manner most favorable to sustaining its legal sufficiency. . . . Thus, [i]f facts provable in the complaint would support a cause of action, the motion to strike must be denied. . . . Moreover, we note that [w]hat is necessarily implied [in an allegation] need not be expressly alleged. ... It is fundamental that in determining the sufficiency of a complaint challenged by a [defendants'] motion to strike, all well-pleaded facts...

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