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Nelson v. Spitzer

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


January 29, 2008

DENNIS NELSON, PLAINTIFF,
V. ELIOT SPITZER; DAVID ROCK, SUPERINTENDENT, GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; P. BRADY, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, BRIAN FISCHER; RICHARD POTTER; J. GUMLAW; M. CLEVELAND; ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. Mcavoy, Senior United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

I. Background

Presently before the Court is complaint, together with an in forma pauperis application, filed by plaintiff Dennis Nelson, who is presently incarcerated at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility. Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff also requests injunctive relief. Dkt. No. 4.

As is more fully discussed below, plaintiff must pay the $350.00 filing fee in full, and submit an amended complaint, before this action may be permitted to proceed.

II. Discussion.

A. In Forma Pauperis Application

Section 1915(e) directs that, when a plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, "(2) . . . the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that -- . . . (B) the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).*fn2

Thus, the court has a responsibility to determine that a complaint may be properly maintained in this district before it may permit a plaintiff to proceed with an action in forma pauperis.*fn3 See id.

Although the court has the duty to show liberality towards pro se litigants, Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990) (per curiam), and extreme caution should be exercised in ordering sua sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint before the adverse party has been served and the parties have had an opportunity to respond, Anderson v. Coughlin, 700 F.2d 37, 41 (2d Cir. 1983), there is a responsibility on the court to determine that a claim is not frivolous before permitting a plaintiff to proceed with an action in forma pauperis. See e.g. Thomas v. Scully, 943 F.2d 259, 260 (2d Cir. 1991) (per curiam) (holding that a district court has the power to dismiss a complaint sua sponte if the complaint is frivolous).

In the present case, the Court finds that plaintiff's financial status would qualify him to file or "commence" this action without prepaying in full the filing fee. However, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), as amended, provides:

In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.*fn4

28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) (emphasis added). Accordingly, the Court has a responsibility to determine that a plaintiff has not brought actions, on three or more occasions, which have been dismissed as frivolous, malicious or for failure to state a claim before permitting that plaintiff to proceed with an action in forma pauperis. Id.

A review of plaintiff's prior proceedings reveals that plaintiff does have three "strikes" and, thus, should not be permitted to proceed with this action in forma pauperis. See Nelson v. Lee, 9:05-CV-1096 (DEP)(NAM), Dkt. Nos. 44 and 47; Nelson v. Hamel, 9:07-CV-540 (GLS)(RFT), Dkt. No. 4; and Nelson v. Conway, No. 04-CV-6163CJS(Fe) (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 21, 2004) (Defendants' Motion (Dkt. No. 40) Ex. B). This Court has reviewed, and concurs with, the findings of Chief District Judge Mordue, District Judges Sharpe and Siragusa, and Magistrate Judge Peebles, with respect to the prior actions filed by this plaintiff and dismissed by the federal courts, as detailed in the aforesaid cases.*fn5

Further, the Court has reviewed the complaint to determine whether plaintiff is under an imminent danger of serious physical injury. In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that staff at Great Meadow Correctional Facility are threatening to harm plaintiff if he tries to leave his cell for medical appointments to treat gangrene in his lower left leg.*fn6 Dkt. No. 1 at 5-6. Plaintiff has previously filed allegations regarding this injury, claiming denial of adequate medical treatment and alleging potential amputation of his left leg. See Nelson v. Lee, 9:05-CV- 1096; Nelson v. Nesmith, 9:06-CV-1177;*fn7 Nelson v. Conway, No. 04-CV-6163CJS(Fe) (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 21, 2004).

After reviewing the allegations contained in plaintiff's present complaint, the court concludes that plaintiff's claims do not fall within the "imminent danger" exception.

B. Complaint

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. Section 1983 establishes a cause of action for "the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States. German v. Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp., 885 F. Supp. 537, 573 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (citing Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983)) (footnote omitted); see also Myers v. Wollowitz, No. 95-CV-0272, 1995 WL 236245, *2 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 1995) (McAvoy, C.J.) (§ 1983 "is the vehicle by which individuals may seek redress for alleged violations of their constitutional rights.") (citation omitted). Parties may not be held liable under § 1983 unless it can be established that they have acted under the color of state law. See, e.g., Rounseville v. Zahl, 13 F.3d 625, 628 (2d Cir. 1994) (noting state action requirement under § 1983); Wise v. Battistoni, No. 92-CV-4288, 1992 WL 380914 (S.D.N.Y., Dec. 10, 1992) (same) (citations omitted). State action is an essential element of any § 1983 claim. See Gentile v. Republic Tobacco Co., No. 95-CV-1500, 1995 WL 743719, *2 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 6, 1995) (Pooler, J.) (citing Velaire v. City of Schenectady, 862 F.Supp. 774, 776 (N.D.N.Y. 1994)) (McAvoy, C.J.) (citation omitted)). "It is well settled in this Circuit that 'personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under § 1983.'" Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Moffitt v. Town of Brookfield, 950 F.2d 880, 885 (2d Cir. 1991)) (other citations omitted).

Plaintiff's present complaint fails to allege specific acts by specific defendants, and thus fails to show personal involvement for most of the defendants in the alleged violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. In fact, the only defendants mentioned in the body of the complaint are Brady and Gumlaw.*fn8 Dkt. No. 1 at 5-6.

Plaintiff's complaint is not sufficient to state a claim for the violation of plaintiff's constitutional or statutory rights by the named defendants. Accordingly, plaintiff's complaint is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e). In light of plaintiff's pro se status, upon payment of the full filing fee of $350.00 for this action, the Court will allow plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff's amended complaint must allege specific facts demonstrating that a case or controversy exists between plaintiff and the named defendants which plaintiff has a legal right to pursue and over which this Court has jurisdiction.

Any such amended complaint, which shall replace in its entirety the previous complaint filed by plaintiff, must contain a caption that clearly identifies, by name, each individual that plaintiff is suing in the present lawsuit and must bear the case number assigned to this action. The body of plaintiff's complaint must contain a short and plain statement of facts in support of plaintiff's claims, set forth in sequentially numbered paragraphs. Each paragraph shall set forth one act of misconduct or wrongdoing about which plaintiff complains, and shall include (i) the alleged act of misconduct; (ii) the date on which such misconduct occurred; (iii) the names of each and every individual who participated in such misconduct; (iv) where appropriate, the location where the alleged misconduct occurred and (v) the nexus between such misconduct and plaintiff's civil and/or constitutional rights.

C. Injunctive Relief

Plaintiff has requested that this Court issue a preliminary injunction against the defendants. Dkt. No. 4. However, as the Second Circuit noted in Covino v. Patrissi, 967 F.2d 73 (2d Cir. 1992), in order to be granted a preliminary injunction, the movant must show: (a) irreparable harm and (b) either (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of the claim or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward the party seeking injunctive relief. Id. at 77 (affirming district Court's denial of inmate's request for preliminary injunction); see also Roucchio v. LeFevre, 850 F.Supp. 143, 144 (N.D.N.Y. 1994) (McAvoy, C.J.) (adopting Report-Recommendation of Magistrate Judge that denied inmate's request for injunctive relief).

The Court has found that the complaint filed by plaintiff is insufficient and that an amended complaint must be filed for this action to proceed. Without a valid complaint, plaintiff can not possibly establish that his claim has a likelihood of success on the merits of the claim or sufficiently serious questions going to the merits and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward the party seeking injunctive relief. Therefore, the Court denies plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief without prejudice to file a new motion after plaintiff has filed an amended complaint and it has been accepted by Order of this Court.*fn9

III. Conclusion.

Plaintiff is advised that his failure to (1) prepay the $350.00 filing fee in full and (2) file an amended complaint, within thirty (30) days of the filing date of this Decision and Order, may result in the dismissal of this action, with prejudice. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b).

WHEREFORE, it is hereby

ORDERED, that plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis is DENIED, and it further

ORDERED, that should plaintiff wish to proceed with this action, he must, within thirty (30) days of the filing date of this Decision and Order, (1) prepay the $350.00 filing fee in full and (2) file an amended complaint which complies with the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the terms of this Decision and Order, and it is further

ORDERED, that should plaintiff fail to comply with the terms of this Decision and Order, the Clerk return the file to this Court for further consideration, including whether this action should be dismissed, with prejudice, pursuant to Rule 41(b), and it is further

ORDERED, that upon plaintiff's prepayment of the $350.00 filing fee in full and the filing of an amended complaint, this matter be returned to the Court for further review, and it further,

ORDERED, that plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief (Dkt. No. 4) is denied without prejudice for the reasons stated above, and it is further

ORDERED, that the Clerk serve a copy of this Order on the plaintiff.


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