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Saunders v. Bonstrom

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


December 13, 2006

BILL SAUNDERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KIM P. BONSTROM, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

This lawsuit is another in a long line of meritless lawsuits filed by Plaintiff in the Southern District of New York. Plaintiff's record in the Southern District of New York demonstrates that he has abused the litigation process in order to advance fruitless claims against scores of defendants for more than 16 years.*fn1 See Saunders v. Edwards, No. 03 Civ. 1087, 2003 WL 22871912, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 4, 2003) (identifying eleven previously dismissed lawsuits filed by Plaintiff in the S.D.N.Y.); Saunders v. City of New York, No. 99 Civ. 2257 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 25, 1999); Saunders v. Div. of Parole, No. 97 Civ. 5751 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 15, 1997); Saunders v. Edwards, No. 96 Civ. 9574 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 20, 1996); Saunders v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. 96 Civ. 6919 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 3, 1996); Saunders v. State & County of New York, No. 93 Civ. 5518 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 6, 1993); Saunders v. The Justice of & the Supreme Court, No. 93 Civ. 0199 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 1993); Saunders v. Clerk of the Court, No. 91 Civ. 3588 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 1991); Saunders v. State of New York, No. 91 Civ. 2833 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 25, 1991); Saunders v. Pro Se Office of U.S. District Court, No. 90 Civ. 2574 (S.D.N.Y. May 29, 1990).

Plaintiff's lawsuits share a common theme: they target various state and federal officials, as well as private citizens, who were in any way connected, however tangentially, to Plaintiff's arrest, criminal prosecution, or incarceration in New York state. Some of Plaintiff's lawsuits name the same individuals as defendants in successive lawsuits for essentially the same underlying conduct, as he has done in this case with respect to Defendants Morgenthau, Keller, and Miller. See, e.g., Saunders v. City & County of New York, 2000 WL 1336174, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 15, 2000) (naming Morgenthau and Keller as defendants); Saunders v. City of New York, 99 Civ. 9206 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 1999) (naming Keller, Morgenthau, and Miller as defendants); Saunders v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. 96 Civ. 6919 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 3, 1996) (naming Morgenthau as a defendant). Despite repeated dismissals of his numerous lawsuits, Plaintiff remains undeterred.

Plaintiff's insatiable appetite for frivolous and vexatious litigation led then-Chief Judge Griesa to twice enjoin Plaintiff "from filing any future action in this Court without seeking prior leave of the Court."*fn2 Saunders v. City of New York, No. 99 Civ. 9206, slip op. at 3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 1999); see also Saunders v. City of New York, No. 00-0014 (2d Cir. May 11, 2000) (dismissing Plaintiff's appeal of Judge Grisea's Order enjoining Plaintiff); Saunders v. City & County of New York, 2000 WL 1336174 (enjoining Plaintiff for a second time from filing any further actions without seeking prior leave of the court). Judge Griesa imposed that restriction on Plaintiff, because he continued to advance "many of the same frivolous and malicious allegations contained in a long series of frivolous actions brought in this Court dating back to 1990." Saunders v. City of New York, No. 99 Civ. 9206, slip op. at 2. Unfortunately, that trend has continued, largely unabated.

Plaintiff failed to comply with Judge Griesa's Order when he filed the Complaint in this action without seeking prior leave of this Court, and it is therefore dismissed.*fn3 To be sure, even if Plaintiff had sought this Court's permission to file his Complaint, it would not have been granted, because Plaintiff's claims are baseless. See Fitzgerald v. First East Seventh Street Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 364 (2d Cir. 2000) ("[D]istrict courts may dismiss a frivolous complaint sua sponte even when the plaintiff has paid the required filing fee, just as the Court of Appeals may dismiss frivolous matters in like circumstances.").*fn4

The injunction imposed on Plaintiff by Judge Griesa was intended, inter alia, to preserve scarce judicial resources that ought not be wasted upon the consideration of arguments put forth by serial litigants who consistently advance unmeritorious claims. It is therefore appropriate for the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's case without a lengthy opinion in which the Court lays out a detailed explanation of its decision. It is clear, however, that Plaintiff's claims in this action are baseless on the merits. In keeping with the purpose of the injunction, the Court will discuss concisely only some of the deficiencies that plague Plaintiff's Complaint, if for no other reason, than in the hope that Plaintiff will one day tame his instinct to bring meritless lawsuits.

The claims against Defendant Bonstrom are dismissed, because Bonstrom is not a state actor, which means that he cannot be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 318 (1981) (holding that appointed counsel does not act "under color of" state law). Nor can Plaintiff sue Bonstrom for not advancing his claim under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), because the certificate of appealability from the Second Circuit did not include a Brady issue, which bars Plaintiff's counsel from raising that issue. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)-(3). Furthermore, the relief Plaintiff seeks against Bonstrom exceeds this Court's jurisdiction, because this Court cannot enjoin an order by the Second Circuit appointing amicus counsel.

Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Morgenthau, Keller and Miller are dismissed pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata, because Plaintiff has already litigated and lost three prior civil actions against these Defendants involving the same claims. See Saunders v. City & County of New York, 2000 WL 1336174, at *1; Saunders v. City of New York, No. 99 Civ. 9206; Saunders v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. 96 Civ. 6919. In addition, the applicable statute of limitations in this case is three years. See Patterson v. County of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 225 (2d Cir. 2004) ("The statute of limitations applicable to claims brought under §§ 1981 and 1983 in New York is three years."); Mian v. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Sec. Corp., 7 F.3d 1085, 1087 (2d Cir. 1993). At best, Plaintiff's claims accrued in October 1992, when Plaintiff's criminal trial commenced. See Connolly v. McCall, 254 F.3d 36, 41 (2d Cir. 2001) (noting that a claim accrues when "plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the harm") (quoting Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 871 (2d Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). Thus, the Complaint was filed more than twelve years after the accrual date, and is barred by the statute of limitations.

Finally, Plaintiff's claims against the Division of Parole are dismissed because they are barred by the statute of limitations, as discussed above. Plaintiff's claims against this Defendant accrued when he was denied parole, which was in 1995. This claim far exceeds the three-year statute of limitations. The lawsuit is also barred by the doctrine of res judicata, because Plaintiff has already unsuccessfully sued the Division of Parole for the same underlying conduct. See Saunders v. Div. of Parole, No. 97 Civ. 5751. In addition, the Division of Parole is immune to suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution. See Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996); Nat'l Foods, Inc. v. Rubin, 936 F.2d 656 (2d Cir. 1991).

For all of the aforementioned reasons, Plaintiff's case is dismissed. The Clerk of the Court is directed to terminate the motions and close the case.

SO ORDERED.


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