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Born Allah v. Milling

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

November 22, 2017

Almighty Supreme Born Allah, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Lynn Milling, Director of Population Management, Griggs, Counselor Supervisor, and Cahill, Captain, Defendants-Appellants, Quiros, Warden, Powers, Deputy Warden, Fulcher, Deputy Warden, LaJoie, District Administrator, and Deputy commisioner dzurenda, Defendants.

          Argued: February 28, 2017

          John J. Morgan, Barr & Morgan, Stamford, CT, for Plaintiff- Appellee.

          Steven M. Barry, Assistant Attorney General, for George Jepsen, Attorney General for the State of Connecticut, Hartford, CT, for Defendants-Appellants.

          Before: Katzmann, Chief Judge, Pooler and Lynch, Circuit Judges.

          Gerard E. Lynch, Circuit Judge:

         Defendants-appellants Lynn Milling, Brian Griggs and Jason Cahill ("Defendants") appeal from a judgment entered in favor of plaintiff-appellee Almighty Supreme Born Allah ("Allah") by the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (William I. Garfinkel, Magistrate Judge). Following a two-day bench trial, the district court ruled that Allah's due process rights were violated when prison officials assigned Allah, who was then a pretrial detainee, to Administrative Segregation in October 2010. The district court also rejected Defendants' claim that they were entitled to qualified immunity. For the reasons that follow, we agree with the district court that Allah's substantive due process rights were violated, but we conclude that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, we REVERSE the judgment of the district court, and direct the entry of a judgment in favor of Defendants.

         Defendants-appellants Lynn Milling, Brian Griggs and Jason Cahill (collectively, "Defendants") appeal from a judgment entered in favor of plaintiff- appellee Almighty Supreme Born Allah ("Allah") in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (William I. Garfinkel, Magistrate Judge).

         Following a two-day bench trial, the district court ruled that Allah's due process rights were violated when prison officials assigned Allah, who was then a pretrial detainee, to Administrative Segregation in October 2010. The district court also rejected Defendants' claim that they were entitled to qualified immunity. For the reasons that follow, we agree with the district court that Allah's substantive due process rights were violated, but we conclude that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, we REVERSE the judgment of the district court.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts as found by the district court are not in dispute, see Almighty Supreme Born Allah v. Milling, No. 11 Civ. 668, 2016 WL 1311997 (D. Conn. Apr. 4, 2016), and we recite only those necessary to explain our resolution of this appeal.

         I. Factual Background

         A. The Inmate Classification Process

         During the relevant time period, Allah was an inmate in the custody of the State of Connecticut Department of Correction ("DOC"). Pursuant to DOC administrative directive, each inmate is assigned to a DOC facility through a "classification process, " id. at *1, the goal of which is to place inmates in a facility appropriate for their individual needs while accounting for the security risk they pose. As part of the classification process, inmates are assigned an "overall risk score" of one (low risk) to five (high risk), id., calculated on the basis of certain risk factors, including the severity or violence of the inmate's current offense, any history of escape or violence, and the inmate's disciplinary history.

         An inmate's overall risk score can determine whether he or she is placed in Administrative Detention or Administrative Segregation, which are, as described in more detail below, "restrictive housing status[es]" in DOC facilities that "provide[] for closely regulated [inmate] management" and physical separation from the general prison population. A. 82. Pursuant to DOC administrative directive, inmates who receive an overall risk score of five are placed in Administrative Segregation. In addition, and central to this case, if an inmate re- enters DOC custody after having been released from a prior term of incarceration with an overall risk score of five, the inmate is automatically placed in Administrative Detention upon re-entry pursuant to DOC administrative directive, pending a determination within 15 days of whether Administrative Segregation should be continued. If a continuance is recommended, a "classification hearing" must be held within 30 days, at which a hearing officer is required to "examin[e] evidence to support the classification, including statements by the inmate and/or any witnesses." Allah, 2016 WL 1311997, at *4 (internal quotation marks omitted). The hearing officer then makes a written recommendation to the Director of Offender Classification and Population Management, who decides whether the inmate is to be placed in Administrative Segregation.

         DOC administrative directives leave discretion to prison officials to discontinue Administrative Segregation for inmates who re-enter DOC custody after being released from a prior term of incarceration with an overall risk score of five. But the district court found, on the basis of Defendants' testimony at trial, that placement in Administrative Segregation "will continue" for such inmates except in specific circumstances: where the inmate was close to completing all three phases of the Administrative Segregation program or had been released from DOC custody more than five years before re-entry. Id. at *5. In such cases, the inmate "might not be continued in Administrative Segregation." Id.

         B. Allah's Previous Incarceration and Assignment to Administrative Segregation

         In December 2009, after being sentenced to 27 months' imprisonment for violating probation, Allah was in DOC custody as a post-conviction prisoner with an overall risk score of three and was incarcerated at Carl Robinson Correctional Institution, a medium-security "open campus dormitory-style facility." Id. at *4. On December 22, 2009, Allah and approximately fifty other inmates were standing near a control station waiting for a commissary visit when they were told that the visit would be delayed. Allah asked the correctional officer in the control station if he could speak to a lieutenant about the delay - a request that was apparently perceived, in the context of a facility with a history of riots, as an attempt to incite other inmates to protest the delay. In response, a lieutenant was called to the scene with prison staff and dogs, and Allah later received a disciplinary report charging him with "Impeding Order, " id., to which he pled guilty. Thereafter, following a hearing, Allah's overall risk score was increased to five, and on February 11, 2010, he was placed in Administrative Segregation, where he remained until his release from DOC custody on March 25, 2010.

         Allah does not challenge his placement in Administrative Segregation, as a post-conviction prisoner, on that occasion.

         C. Allah's Subsequent Arrest and Return to Administrative Segregation

          Following his release, Allah was arrested on new drug-related offenses and returned to DOC custody as a pre-trial detainee on September 13, 2010. Consistent with the classification procedures described above, Allah was placed in Administrative Detention upon re-entry and transferred to Northern Correctional Institution ("Northern"), a maximum-security facility, pending a classification hearing to determine whether he should be reassigned to Administrative Segregation. On September 23, 2010, Allah received written notice of the hearing, which stated in relevant part as follows: "According to the DOC Classification Manual, any inmate who discharges while on Administrative Segregation (A/S) shall be re-admitted at that status. You were placed on A/S on 02/08/10. Since that time you discharged and returned to the DOC without completing the program." A. 109.

         Plaintiff's classification hearing was held on September 30, 2010. The hearing officer, Defendant Griggs, explained to Allah that he was being considered for placement in Administrative Segregation because he had been discharged from a prior term of incarceration while on that status. Hearing records prepared by prison officials note that Allah stated at the hearing that "[he] was in Phase One, " A. 106, ostensibly referring to the fact that Allah was in the first of the three phases of Administrative Segregation when released from his prior term of incarceration.

         On October 4, 2010, Griggs recommended that Allah be placed in Administrative Segregation, reasoning in relevant part as follows:

Summary of placement rationale: According to the DOC Classification Manual, any inmate who discharges while on Administrative Segregation (A/S) shall be re- admitted at that status. I/M Allah was placed on A/S on 02/08/10. Since that time he discharged and returned to the DOC without completing the program. . . .
Reason(s) for recommendation: Inmate Allah did not complete the program, therefore, he needs [to] continue in Administrative Segregation placement to complete program requirements prior to being placed in general population.

         A. 106-07. Defendant Milling, in her capacity as Director of Offender Classification and Population Management, authorized the placement the same day, writing on the approval form, "Continue ...


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