The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERIC BLOCK, District Judge
Plaintiff, Jabbar Collins ("Collins"), proceeding pro se,
brings this § 1983 action and alleges that the defendants have
violated his rights under the First, Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments by denying him access to docket sheets and other court
records. The defendants move to dismiss the complaint. For the
following reasons, the defendant's motion is granted in part and
denied in part. I. BACKGROUND
Collins is a prisoner at Green Haven Correctional Facility.
Defendant Jonathan P. Lippman ("Lippman") is the Chief
Administrative Judge for the New York City Office of Court
Administration. Defendant James Imperatrice ("Imperatrice") is
the Clerk of the Criminal Term of the Supreme Court of the State
of New York, Kings County. Defendants John Does 1-3 ("Does 1-3")
are unidentified justices of the same court.
Collins alleges that, on July 13, 2004, he requested that
Imperatrice provide him with copies of the docket sheet and
certain documents filed in People v. Adrian Diaz, a criminal
case pending before the State court. Collins is not a party to
Diaz and his interest in the case is unclear.
Many of the documents that Collins requested were not listed on
the docket sheet or contained in the court file. Collins alleges
that those documents were filed under seal and entered on a
separate docket sheet that was also filed under seal. He further
alleges that Imperatrice sealed the documents and docket sheet
"by administrative fiat," Compl. ¶ 62, and not pursuant to
statutory authority or court order. In the alternative, Collins
alleges that Does 1-3 ordered the documents and docket sheet
sealed, but did so without adequate justification or prior
Collins alleges that, on July 19, 2004, he wrote to Lippman to
complain about the allegedly improper sealings. In the letter, he
asked Lippman "to direct Imperatrice to disclose the sealed
records." Compl. ¶ 77.
Collins alleges that the defendants' actions violated his
federal constitutional rights. He seeks a declaratory judgment
that all the documents he requested are "open for public inspection," Compl. at 20, and an injunction requiring
Imperatrice and Lippman to provide him with copies of the
documents. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages from
Imperatrice and Lippman.
The defendants contend that the reason Collins has not received
copies of all the documents he requested is that the allegedly
sealed documents and docket sheet simply do not exist. In support
of this contention, they have submitted an affidavit from
Imperatrice attesting that "[t]he Supreme Court has willingly
provided all of the documents maintained by the Court in Diaz,"
Imperatrice Aff. ¶ 20.*fn1
Under the First Amendment, the public generally enjoys a right
of access "to both judicial proceedings and judicial documents."
See United States v. Gotti, 322 F.Supp. 2d 230, 239 (E.D.N.Y.
2004) (citing In re New York Times, 828 F.2d 110 (2d Cir.
1987)). As the Second Circuit recently held, that right includes
the right to inspect docket sheets. See Hartford Courant Co. v.
Pellegrino, 380 F.3d 83, 96 (2d Cir. 2004). The right is not
absolute, however, and may be overcome "upon demonstration that
suppression `is essential to preserve higher values and is
narrowly tailored to serve that interest.'" Id. (quoting
Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 464 U.S. 501 (1984)).
While conceding the existence of a First Amendment right of
access, the defendants argue that the complaint must nevertheless be
dismissed. In essence, they argue (1) that the Court lacks
jurisdiction over Collins' claims, (2) that the defendants are
immune from suit, and (3) that the complaint fails to state a
The defendants' argument that this Court lacks jurisdiction
over the case relies on three legal theories: (1) mootness, (2)
the Eleventh ...