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Holloman v. Clarke

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 15, 2015

HAROLD CLARKE, et al. Defendants.


DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK, District Judge.

On June 9, 2014, plaintiff Tajuan Holloman ("Holloman"), formerly in custody as a pre-trial detainee at the Suffolk County Jail and currently in custody at MCI Shirley, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking monetary and declaratory relief. By Order dated July 28, 2014, plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted and Holloman was assessed an initial, partial filing fee. See Docket No. 5. On April 8, 2015, plaintiff's motion to transfer the name of the lead defendant was granted. See Docket No. 14.

Because Holloman is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, his complaint is subject to preliminary screening. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (proceedings in forma pauperis); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (screening of prisoner suits against governmental officers and entities). For the reasons state below, the Court directs summons to issue as to the following eleven (11) defendants: Gill, Ferrarra, Maine, Mendonsa, Spencer, O'Dell, Gelb, Ladouceur, Owens, Fedel and Diagneault. The claims against defendants Deakin, Clarke, Bender, Russo, Brodbeck, Maenpaa, Thornton, Berdard, Williams, Fasoli, Tocci, Palodian, MacDonald, Rodrigues and Wendover shall be dismissed in 42 days of the date of this Memorandum and Order unless Holloman demonstrates good cause, in writing, why his claims against these remaining defendants should not be dismissed for the reasons stated below.


Section 1915 authorizes federal courts to dismiss actions in which a plaintiff seeks to proceed without prepayment of fees if the action lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact, Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), or if the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and (iii). In forma pauperis complaints may be dismissed sua sponte and without notice under § 1915 if the claim is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or factual allegations that are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-328; Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992).

Section 1915A also authorizes the Court to review prisoner complaints in civil actions in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or officers or employees of a governmental entity, and to dismiss the action regardless of whether or not the plaintiff has paid the filing fee, if the complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or fact, fails to state a claim, or seeks relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the factual allegations in a complaint must "possess enough heft" to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "Plausible, of course, means something more than merely possible, and gauging a pleaded situation's plausibility is a context-specific job that compels [the Court] to draw on [its] judicial experience and common sense." Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012) (quotation marks omitted). Dismissal is appropriate if the complaint fails to set forth factual allegations respecting each material element necessary to sustain recovery under a legal theory. Gagliardi v. Sullivan, 513 F.3d 301, 305 (1st Cir. 2008).

In conducting the preliminary screening, the Court construes Holloman's pro se complaint generously. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Rodi v. New Eng. Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 13 (1st Cir. 2004).


Plaintiff's civil rights complaint consists primarily of a recounting of events beginning with Holloman's 2010 transfer from the Suffolk County Jail to MCI Concord as a pre-trial detainee and continuing through several subsequent events occurring at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center from 2010 through 2013.

The fifty-two page complaint is brought against the following twenty-six (26) correctional officials and employees: (1) Harold Clarke, former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction ("DOC"); (2) James Bender, former Deputy Commissioner of the DOC; (3) David Deakin, Assistant District Attorney for Suffolk County; (4) Bruce Gelb, former Superintendent of MCI Concord; (5) Lois Russo, former Deputy Superintendent of Operations at MCI Concord; (6) John Brodbeck, former Director of Security at MCI Concord; (7) Jorma Maenpaa, former Director of Security at MCI Concord; (8) Anthony Mendonsa, Superintendent and former Deputy Superintendent at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center ("SBCC"); (9) Luis Spencer, Commissioner of Correction; (10) Nick Palodian, SBCC mail clerk; (11) Thomas Tocci, SBCC grievance coordinator; (12) Amy Owens, SBCC Treasurer; (13) Pamela O'Dell, SBCC grievance coordinator; (14) Kristie Ladouceur, DOC Administrative Resolutions Coordinator; (15) Frank Maine, SBCC correctional officer; (16) Aaron Gill, SBCC Sargent correctional officer; (17) defendant Ferrarra, SBCC Lieutenant correctional officer; (18) Jeffrey P. Diagneault, SBCC correctional officer; (19) Sargent Fasoli, SBCC correctional officer; (20) James C. Thornton, SBCC superior supervisor; (21) Gregory A. Bedard, SBCC lieutenant with disciplinary office; (22) Shelley Williams, SBCC captain and shift commander; (23) defendant MacDonald, SBCC Deputy of Security; (24) Michael Rodrigues, SBCC Deputy Superintendent of Operations; (25) Thomas Fedel, SBCC disciplinary officer; and (26) defendant Wendover, SBCC correctional officer.

The complaint contains thirty-two counts under federal and state law. Counts I, III, and V are claims for violation of the Declaration of Rights under the Massachusetts Constitution, Mass. Gen. Law c. 231A. In Count VII, a claim concerning the constitutionality of Mass. Gen. Law c. 276, § 52A is alleged. The remaining twenty-eight (28) counts, Counts II, IV, VI, VIII - XXXII, are claims for cruel and unusual punishment, denial of due process, denial of equal protection, denial of the right to petition for redress of grievances and denial of access to the courts in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.


The following facts are alleged in the complaint. On December 2, 2010, Holloman was detained at the Suffolk County Jail on Nashua Street. See Compl., ¶ 31. The following day, on December 3, 2010, Holloman was transferred to MCI Concord. Id. at ¶ 32. Holloman alleges that defendants Clarke, Bender and Deakin knew, or should have known, that their agreement and approval of such a transfer pursuant to [M.G.L. c. 276, §] 52A was unconstitutional. Id . When Holloman's defense attorney communicated to the state court plaintiff's desire to be returned to the Suffolk County Jail, Assistant District Attorney Deakins "pressed the court to keep plaintiff at the DOC state prison." Id. at ¶ 39.

Upon arrival at MCI Concord, Holloman was placed in handcuffs and leg irons, placed in segregation without notice or hearing, and his requests to speak with staff were ignored. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34. Holloman complains that he was left in "inhumane" conditions for 7 days, id. at ¶ 35, causing severe emotional and physical distress. Id. at ¶ 38. Those conditions included "sleeping without a mattress, denied to shower, and being confined to a cell for 24 hours a day without recreation, having no access to the law library or general library, and having no access to the telephone to call his attorney or family." Id. at ¶ 35. When Holloman sought to file a grievance and requested writing materials, he was suddenly transferred, without notice, to the SBCC maximum facility." Id.

Holloman contends that defendants Brodbeck, Maenpaa, Russo, and Gelb knew, or should have known, that plaintiff was denied due process and that the conditions constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at ¶ 36.

On or about December 8, 2010, Holloman was housed in a double-bunked cell with a sentenced inmate. Id. at ¶ 43. Holloman complained to defendant Burdock who instructed him to address his concern to Deputy Superintendent Mendonsa. Id . Holloman's request to Mendonsa for ...

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