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MATHIS v. BESS

March 28, 1991

HOMER AKI MATHIS ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS J. BESS, AS SUPERVISING COURT STENOGRAPHER, CRIMINAL COURT, NEW YORK CITY, HAROLD J. REYNOLDS, AS CLERK OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT OF NEW YORK; PHILLIP L. WEINSTEIN, AS ATTORNEY-IN-CHARGE, THE CRIMINAL APPEALS BUREAU OF THE LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF NEW YORK; GEOFFREY Q. RALLS, AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ASSIGNED COUNSEL PLAN; THOMAS COUGHLIN, III AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES; ALBERT M. ROSENBLATT, AS THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; DONALD OSHINSKY; LINDA PAZZANI; ANNA L. BOLGIER; JOEL MACHLIS; ROSE DUNN; ANTHONY MOSCATO; SANFORD ARANOW; MICHAEL FRANKEL; PETER F. ANDERSON; AND RUBEN S. SCHOFIELD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert P. Patterson, Jr., District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant moves for judgment on the pleadings and plaintiff moves to file a second amended complaint in this § 1983 class action, commenced by plaintiff pro se on June 10, 1985, seeking injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief from defendants who he alleges were responsible for the six-year delay in his state criminal appeal.*fn1 The facts underlying plaintiff's claims and the procedural history of this action are summarized in the Court's earlier opinions. See Mathis v. Bess, No. 85 Civ. 4426, 1989 WL 74409 (S.D.N.Y. June 29, 1989) (ordering that an evidentiary hearing be held on the issue of prejudice to plaintiff as a result of the delay); Mathis v. Bess, 692 F. Supp. 248 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (Goettel, J.) (denying class certification and dismissing certain claims); Mathis v. Clerk of the First Dep't, Appellate Div., 631 F. Supp. 232 (S.D.N.Y. 1986) (Sweet, J.) (denying defendant's motion to dismiss and plaintiff's motion to amend complaint).*fn2

Plaintiff's first amended complaint, filed with assistance of counsel on October 8, 1987 and which is the subject of defendants' motion, named the following defendants: (1) Thomas J. Bess ("Bess") in his official capacity as Supervising Court Reporter, Criminal Court, New York City; (2) Geoffrey Q. Ralls ("Ralls") in his official capacity as administrator of the Assigned Counsel Plan for the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division ("the Appellate Division"); (3) Phillip L. Weinstein ("Weinstein") in his official capacity as Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Appeals Bureau of the Legal Aid Society of New York City which represented plaintiff from the date of his conviction for armed robbery until May 17, 1983;*fn3 (4) Thomas Coughlin, III ("Coughlin") in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services of the State of New York; (5) Harold J. Reynolds ("Reynolds") in his official capacity as Clerk of the Appellate Division; (6) Albert M. Rosenblatt ("Rosenblatt") in his official capacity as Chief Administrative Judge of the State of New York; (7) Donald Oshinsky, Linda Pazzani, Anna L. Bolgier, Joel Machlis, Rose Dunn, Anthony Moscato, Sanford Aranow and Michael Frankel (collectively "the individual stenographers") in their individual capacities as stenographers employed in the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court of New York County; (8) Peter F. Anderson ("Anderson"), a New York attorney assigned by the Appellate Division who represented plaintiff on appeal of his criminal conviction between May 17, 1983 and July 5, 1984; and (9) Ruben S. Schofield ("Schofield"), a New York attorney assigned by the Appellate Division who represented plaintiff on the same criminal appeal from July 5, 1984 to October 2, 1986. Amended Complaint ¶¶ 17-25. Plaintiff's first amended complaint asserts jurisdiction directly under the fourteenth amendment as well as under § 1983. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5-6; see Pl. Reply Mem. filed Oct. 5, 1990 at 10. The individual counts in the complaint, however, are not specifically delineated as either statutory or constitutional claims.

On January 17, 1989 plaintiff filed his motion seeking leave under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to file a second amended complaint.*fn4 Plaintiff's "Revised Proposed Second Amended Complaint Class" [sic] asserts claims against: (1) Bess, Ralls, Coughlin, Reynolds, Rosenblatt, the individual stenographers, Anderson and Schofield, all named in plaintiff's first amended complaint;*fn5 (2) John Doe and Jane Roe in their official capacities as Supervising Court Stenographers for the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York and Bronx Counties, respectively; (3) the Central Screening Committee of the Assigned Counsel Plan for the Appellate Division of the First Department ("the Central Screening Committee" or "the Committee"); (4) Matthew T. Crosson ("Crosson") in his official capacity as Chief Administrator of the Office of Court Administration for the State of New York; and (5) the State of New York. Millard Aff. filed Oct. 5, 1990, Exh. 1 at ¶¶ 17-29. Like the first amended complaint, the Revised Proposed Second Amended Complaint contains both class claims and individual claims and seeks injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief.

On February 17, 1989 named and proposed defendants Bess, Ralls, Coughlin, Reynolds, Rosenblatt, the individual stenographers, John Doe, Jane Roe, the Central Screening Committee, Crosson and the State of New York (collectively "the state defendants") moved for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) on the first amended complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint under Rule 56(b). On July 26, 1989 at a joint pretrial conference in this action and plaintiff's habeas corpus action, the parties agreed to conduct joint discovery for the two actions, Mathis v. Bess and Mathis v. Hood. Discovery motions were filed in this action in and after August 1989, although other discovery proceeded relating to both actions. The Court heard oral argument on the instant motions on December 3, 1990, reserving decision, and on December 18, 1990 ordered additional briefing.

For the reasons set forth below, the state defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint is granted in part and denied in part. Shamel Atkins is joined as a plaintiff by the Court sua sponte pursuant to Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

DISCUSSION

Because the parties have submitted matters outside the pleadings not excluded by the Court, the Court will treat defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings as one for summary judgment. See Fed.R. Civ.P. 12(c). Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence offered demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The burden rests on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970), and the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962).

1. Joinder of Shamel Atkins as a Plaintiff

On February 28, 1991 the Court received an unsolicited letter from an inmate named Shamel Atkins serving a 4.5 to 9-year term at the Clinton Correctional Facility. Atkins has not received substitute counsel since his assigned counsel was dismissed in early March 1990. Atkins pleaded for assistance from this Court, noting that even if counsel were appointed immediately, it would be unlikely that his appeal would be heard before his October 15, 1991 release date. See Letter stamped Feb. 28, 1991 (attached as Exhibit A to this opinion).*fn6

The Atkins letter demonstrates that the problems Mathis sought to rectify by commencing this action in 1985 are real and persistent. Six years later, indigent criminal defendants still have no practical or meaningful way of obtaining the direct appeal belonging to them as of right. See Mathis v. Hood, 851 F.2d 612, 614 (2d Cir. 1988); Ralls v. Manson, 503 F.2d 491, 494 (2d Cir. 1974) (Lumbard, J., concurring). Although Mathis' claims for injunctive relief appear moot and any injunctive award would not benefit him directly, the Court is convinced that joining Atkins as a plaintiff in this action sua sponte for the purpose of pursuing injunctive relief will serve the interests of judicial economy and substantial justice for all parties.

Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

  Parties may be dropped or added by order of the court
  on motion of any party or of its own initiative at
  any stage of the action and on such terms as are
  just.

See also Mullaney v. Anderson, 342 U.S. 415, 72 S.Ct. 428, 96 L.Ed. 458 (1952); Andujar v. Rogowski, 113 F.R.D. 151, 154 (S.D.N.Y. 1986); In re Osage Exploration Co., 104 F.R.D. 45, 49 (S.D.N.Y. 1984) (granting motion to add new plaintiffs); Savoia Film S.A.I. v. Vanguard Films, Inc., 10 F.R.D. 64 (S.D.N Y 1950). Courts may join new parties as plaintiffs sua sponte in order to prevent defendants from being subjected to a multiple lawsuit over the same issues. See Reichenberg v. Nelson, 310 F. Supp. 248, 251 (D.Neb. 1970); Rekeweg v. Federal Mut. Ins. Co., 27 F.R.D. 431 (N.D.Ind. 1961). Although Rule 25 provides for substitution of parties in limited circumstances, parties may be substituted under Rule 21 in the discretion of the court in situations not covered by Rule 25. Hackner v. Guaranty Trust Co., 117 F.2d 95, 98 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 313 U.S. 559, 61 S.Ct. 835, 85 L.Ed. 1520 (1941) (invoking Rule 21 to substitute a new plaintiff who met amount in ...


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