United States District Court, D. Delaware
Szubielski, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna,
Delaware; Pro Se Plaintiff.
Patrick Connell, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department
of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware; Counsel for Defendant.
ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Gerard Szubielski, an inmate at the James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center, in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds pro
se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Defendant former VCC Warden David Pierce has
filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary
judgment. (D.I. 37, 42). Plaintiff opposes the
motion to dismiss but, despite being given additional time,
did not file a response to the motion for summary judgment.
(D.I. 41, 46). Plaintiff has filed a request for counsel.
March 2, 2007, Plaintiff was sentenced as a habitual offender
to life in prison. See Szubielski v. State, 82 A.3d
730 (Del. 2013). The complaint (D.I. 3) and amended complaint
(D.I. 7) (the Court considers them together as the operative
pleading) allege that in early 2007, Plaintiff was
transferred to the VCC and housed in maximum security
solitary confinement ("SHU"). (D.I. 3 at p.5; D.I.
7 at ¶ 3). Once a year, Plaintiff is classified by the
Institutional Based Classification Committee
("IBCC"). When he commenced this action, Plaintiff
had been classified to SHU since 2007. (D.I. 3 at p.5; D.I. 7
at ¶ 2). Defendant became the warden at the VCC in
August 2013 when he replaced Perry Phelps. See
visited Jan. 2, 2018).
IBCC conducted Plaintiff's annual classification review
in August 2012, 2013, and 2014. (D.I. 35-1 at pp.1-3). The
Delaware Department of Correction institutional
classification system instructional handbook, dated April 11,
2011, provides that offenders assigned to maximum security
will be reviewed every twelve months. (D.I. 15 at p.14).
After each review, the IBCC recommended Plaintiff's
housing in maximum security. (Id.)
early 2015, Plaintiff wrote to Pierce and requested a
transfer from SHU. Pierce replied that he would consider the
transfer shortly after the August 2015 classification review.
On August 6, 2015, the ACLU and Community Legal Aid Society,
Inc. filed a § 1983 lawsuit against the Delaware DOC
over the mental health treatment provided inmates in SHU and
the length of time they are housed there. See Community
Legal Aid Society, Inc. v. Coupe, Civ. No. 15-688-GMS
(D. Del.). The inmates were not specifically named in the
lawsuit, but Plaintiff was one of the inmates described in
the lawsuit. On May 11, 2015, Plaintiff was notified by
counsel for Community Legal Aid that he would be identified
to the attorney for Delaware DOC even though Plaintiff would
not be identified in the lawsuit. (D.I. 41 at p.6).
IBCC conducted its annual review in 2015 and, on September 1,
2015, classified Plaintiff to medium security, medium high
programs, and inmate worker. (Id. at p.4).
Thereafter, Plaintiff was notified that Pierce "did an
over-ride and stopped" Plaintiff's transfer from
SHU. (D.I. 3 at p.5; D.I. 7 at ¶ 5). On October 14,
2015, Pierce vetoed the IBCC medium security level
classification and ordered Plaintiff's continued housing
in maximum security. (D.I. 35-1 at pp.4-5).
alleges that he met the requirements for a transfer from SHU,
and was retaliated against following the filing of the ACLU
lawsuit through excessive shakedowns and by Pierce ordering
Plaintiff's continued housing in SHU despite his medium
security classification. Plaintiff also alleges he was not
afforded his procedural due process rights because his
solitary confinement reviews occurred only once a year, he
was not given an opportunity to meet with the review
committee or speak for himself, and he only saw a DOC
counselor once a year for no more than five minutes and then
was usually told he was staying in maximum security. (D.I. 7
was transferred out of SHU on June 15, 2016. (D.I. 43, Ex.
B). Plaintiff's annual review took place in August 2016.
(Id. at Ex. A at DOC6). On September 1, 2016, an
order was entered in the ACLU/Community Legal Aid case and
the case was closed. See Community Legal Aid Society,
Inc. Civ. No. 15-688-GMS at D.I. 40. On September 15,
2016, the IBCC classified Plaintiff to medium security and
academic programs. (Id.). Plaintiff was transferred
out of maximum security housing altogether on October 11,
2016. (Id. at Ex. B).
alleges unlawful conditions of confinement resulting from
extreme isolation and inadequate medical care over an
extended period of time from January 2007 up to the date he
commenced this action. Plaintiff alleges Defendant
"knows and is deliberately indifferent to the harm that
solitary confinement imposes on Plaintiff." (D.I. 7 at
pp.9-10). Plaintiff complains of 24-hour cell confinement,
limited recreation, extreme social isolation, environmental
deprivation, limited telephone calls, and limited visits.
suffers from schizophrenia, severe manic depression, and an
anxiety disorder. He alleges his conditions were under
control until early 2012 when his medications were taken from
him because they were no longer on the "DOC approval
list." (D.I. 7 at p.9). Plaintiff states that he is not
on any medication at the present time because side effects do
not allow him to be properly treated. His mental health
treatment is limited and/or non-existent. Plaintiff seeks
injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive
moves for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1)
Plaintiff's claims for prospective injunctive relief are
moot; (2) Defendant is shielded from suit by reason of
qualified immunity; and (3) Defendant lacks personal
knowledge or involvement as to the Eighth Amendment claim.