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Chandler v. Carroll

United States District Court, Second Circuit

May 28, 2013

Charles Chandler, Plaintiff,
Karen Carroll, Richard Carroll, David Howard, Williams Sorrell, Tracy Shriver, Andrew Pallito, Phillip Damone, Gary Stevens, William Lundgren, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER (Docs. 25 and 27)


Plaintiff Charles Chandler, proceeding pro se, brings this action claiming that Vermont officials, including state court judges, prosecutors, and Department of Corrections ("DOC") personnel, violated his constitutional rights. Several claims and defendants have been dismissed. Remaining in the case are Chandler's allegations of mistreatment while in DOC custody. Those allegations are brought against Defendants Andrew Pallito, William Lundgren, Gary Stevens, and Phillip Damone ("Defendants").

Defendants now move for summary judgment on the remaining claims. Also before the Court is Chandler's motion to compel discovery. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to compel is DENIED, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and this case is DISMISSED.

Factual Background

Chandler was incarcerated at the Southern State Correctional Facility ("SSCF") between March 30 and April 12, 2010, and again between March 16 and March 31, 2011. Chandler's pending claims arise out of his incarceration in 2011. The Complaint alleges that Chandler was initially placed in an eight by ten foot cell with seven other inmates. The cell had only one toilet, and Chandler was allegedly forced to sleep on the concrete floor. Chandler claims that he was subsequently "locked in a cell with no heat, a broken window and left there to freeze to death" at the direction of DOC Commissioner Pallito. (Doc. 1 at 10.) He further alleges that he was denied adequate medical and dental care; was forced to endure "starvation and [a] reduced calorie diet"; was not allowed "any shaving device for almost 10 days"; was initially denied access to a telephone; caught a cold; and lost seventeen pounds. Id. at 11.

At summary judgment, Defendants respond to Chandler's allegations with a series of affidavits. The most comprehensive of these is the affidavit of Joshua Rutherford, Security and Operations Supervisor at SSCF. Rutherford avers that Chandler was never placed in a cell with a broken window or lacking heat. For support, he cites routine cell inspections and records of prisoner complaints during those time periods, none of which reportedly reveal problems with either the windows or the heating.

With respect to Chandler's claims of overcrowding, Rutherford contends that the claims are false, and in particular, that no one at SSCF is required to sleep on the concrete floor. Rutherford explains that "[t]here are 2 large holding cells in Admissions at SSCF, in which inmates might have their mattresses on the floor, but all inmates are issued a mattress on which to sleep." (Doc. 25-2 at 1.) The Rutherford affidavit states that during each of Chandler's two detentions, he was moved from Admissions one day after he arrived at SSCF, and placed into a cell with no more than two other inmates and a bunk for each inmate. Rutherford also attests that there are no records of Chandler ever requesting medical or dental treatment.

Defendants' remaining factual statements focus on their personal involvement - or lack thereof - in the alleged wrongdoing. Rutherford, who is not a party, attests that "[n]one of the Defendants in this lawsuit were involved with Chandler's placement at SSCF. Field staff, including [Defendants] Phillip Damone, Gary Stevens and William Lundgren, have no input on placement after an inmate is lodged." Id. at 2. Rutherford further submits that "the Commissioner has no direct input on placement (and did not have any input in this instance.) Placement is handled entirely by local staff at SSCF." Id. (ellipsis in original). In addition, Pallito, Damone, Stevens and Lundgren have submitted their own affidavits, in which they each state that: they do not work at SSCF; they did not discuss Chandler's placement at SSCF with anyone; they had no personal involvement in Chandler's unit assignment at SSCF; they were not aware of Chandler ever complaining about the conditions of his confinement; they do not know whether the conditions of which Chandler complains actually existed; and they were never aware of any risk of harm to Chandler's health or safety. (Docs. 25-3, 25-4, 25-2, and 25-6).

In response to Defendants' motion and supporting affidavits, Chandler has submitted his own affidavit. With respect to the heat in his cell, Chandler contends that SSCF records must show "they were there working on the furnaces while plaintiff was incarcerated in the F unit between March 16, 2011 and March 31, 2011." (Doc. 26-2 at 2.) He also asserts that segregation cells in F unit "did not have heat in the cells. Their intake of air comes near the toilet and the units have broken [w]indows that leak air from the outside into prisoner[']s cells." Id. Chandler claims that when other inmates complained about the cold they were moved to heated cells, but that when he complained he was "laughed at" and forced to remain. Id. When Chandler tried to cover the window frame with plastic, DOC guards allegedly took the plastic down and told him that he was being targeted for "special treatment.'" Id.

Chandler also responds directly to the Rutherford affidavit. Although he concedes that there were five or six mattresses in the Admissions cells, he describes them as "filthy." Id. He also claims that the cell was too small for the number of people being housed there. There is a dispute about the amount of time Chandler spent in this larger cell, as Chandler maintains that he was in the cell for three days, and not merely overnight as reported by Rutherford.

Chandler further states that he complained repeatedly about his conditions "both verbally and in writing, " although "on at least one occasion" he saw a guard throw his written complaint into the trash. Id. at 2-3. He contends that he also complained about being ill, but that a guard told him it would take two weeks for his medical request to be addressed, and that "by then you'll be out [of] here, though I think your medical care can wait two weeks [so] you can get it when you leave.'" Id. at 3.

Chandler has also submitted the affidavit of Faye Ainsworth, who describes herself as a "close family member to the plaintiff in this case." (Doc. 27-1 at 1.) Ainsworth states that Chandler was in "very good" health when he was first incarcerated in 2011, but that his health was "very poor" when released two weeks later. Id. at 1-2. Chandler reportedly asked her for Advil upon his release, which she was able provide. She also gave him soup, and attests that it took Chandler several days of rest before he "had any strength to do anything." Id. at 2. Ainsworth further states that she accompanied Chandler when he traveled to the DOC's main office to complain to Commissioner Pallito, and that she has "seen many of the written complaints Charles has mailed to various people in this matter." Id.

Chandler asserts that the "special treatment" he received while at SSCF was directed by the four Defendants. He first claims that Stevens, Lundgren, and Damone wrote a biased pre-sentence report for the Windham County District Court that left the judge no choice but to place Chandler in prison. He also alleges that Stevens, Damone, and Lundgren told probationers to avoid him, and warned Chandler himself that he would be receiving "special treatment" when he reported to SSCF in 2011, and called SSCF to "insist" that Chandler be treated poorly. (Doc. 26-2 at 5.) With respect to ...

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