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Lisasuain v. Hillsborough County Department of Corrections

United States District Court, First Circuit

May 6, 2013

Armando Lisasuain,
Hillsborough County Department of Corrections et al.[1]


LANDYA McCAFFERTY, Magistrate Judge.

Armondo Lisasuain files this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights during his incarceration at the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections ("HCDC"). The matter is before this magistrate judge for preliminary review to determine, among other things, whether the complaint (doc. nos. 1, 3, and 8-10)[2] states any claim upon which relief might be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a); United States District Court District of New Hampshire Local Rule ("LR") 4.3(d)(2).

Standard for Preliminary Review

Pursuant to LR 4.3(d)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the magistrate judge conducts a preliminary review of pro se in forma pauperis complaints before defendants have an opportunity to respond to the claims. The magistrate judge may direct service of the complaint, or, as appropriate, recommend to the district judge that one or more claims be dismissed if: the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, a defendant is immune from the relief sought, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the allegation of poverty is untrue, or the action is frivolous or malicious. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); LR 4.3(d)(2).

In determining whether a pro se complaint states a claim, the court must construe the complaint liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). To survive preliminary review, the complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" See Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Sep§lveda-Villarini v. Dep't of Educ. , 628 F.3d 25, 29 (1st Cir. 2010). To determine plausibility, the court treats as true all well-pleaded factual allegations, and construes all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the plaintiff's favor. See Ocasio-Hern§ndez v. Fortu§o-Burset , 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011).


Lisasuain, while he was in HCDC custody in 2006, attempted suicide by slicing himself, while in court, with a razor that he had obtained at the HCDC. When Lisasuain was reincarcerated at the HCDC in December 2010, he was placed on suicide watch, at least in part because of his suicidal actions in 2006. On May 9, 2012, Lisasuain, while still on suicide watch at the HCDC, again attempted suicide, using a razor blade. For these reasons, Lisasuain was retained on suicide watch from December 2010 until February or early March 2013, the duration of his pretrial detention at the HCDC.[3]

Between December 2011 and February 2013, the period relevant to the allegations in the instant complaint, Lisasuain was consistently housed on suicide watch status on the HCDC's maximum security unit, and was thus not allowed to have anything in his cell except two pieces of clothing (a pair of pants and a shirt), two hygiene items (a bar of soap and a roll of toilet paper), and bedding (a mattress, a pillow, and one blanket). While on suicide watch, Lisasuain had one hour of out-of-cell time ("OOCT") daily, during which he had access to certain property that HCDC policy forbids inmates on suicide watch to keep in their cells. These items included a Bible, rosary beads, books, legal materials, and pen and paper. During OOCT, Lisasuain was also given access to the phone and the shower. When Lisasuain complained to HCDC officials that his OOCT was insufficient to do both his legal work and everything else he was only allowed to do during OOCT, he was granted an additional hour, daily, to access his legal materials and do legal work outside of his cell.

Lisasauain alleges that while on suicide watch: he received cold "bag" meals three times a day, every day, with no day-to-day variation in the contents; he was not given extra blankets, thermal clothing, or socks when his cell was very cold; and he was not allowed to keep his glasses, legal material, pens, paper, a Bible, or rosary beads in his cell. Lisasuain alleges that the duration of his placement on suicide watch exceeded what was necessary to keep him safe, and that HCDC mental health staff members refused to release him from that status, which subjected him to unduly restrictive conditions of confinement. Lisasuain believes that prison officials subjected him to excessively long, restrictive suicide watch conditions to punish him for his previous suicide attempts.

Lisasuain states that other inmates who are white (which, impliedly, Lisasuain is not), were released from maximum security suicide watch within weeks, while Lisasuain spent fourteen months on that unit, and twenty-six months on suicide watch. Lisasuain further claims that the refusal of any HCDC employee to release him from suicide watch status or to allow him to have certain items in his cell were acts taken in retaliation for his filing of this lawsuit, as well as a prior lawsuit, Lisasuain v. Hillsborough Cnty. Dep't of Corrs., 12-cv-224-PB ("Lisasuain I"), [4] against HCDC officials. Lisasuain concludes, therefore, that the HCDC mental health staff decision to retain his watch status was punitive, retaliatory, and racially motivated.

Based on the allegations in the complaint (doc. nos. 1, 3, and 8-10), Lisasuain asserts the following claims for relief, arising between December 2011 and February 2013:

1. Lisasuain's Fourteenth Amendment right not to be placed in punitive conditions of confinement during his pretrial detention was violated by:
a. His inappropriate retention on suicide watch and the restrictive living conditions ...

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