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Johnson v. Harling

March 11, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge



Plaintiff Maurice J. Johnson is an inmate of the Monroe County Jail proceeding pro se. He was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis and directed to file an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff filed a motion for assignment of counsel and requested an extension of the time to respond. He has filed an Amended Complaint, and the Amended Complaint (Docket No. 5) is now the operative pleading for the action. For the reasons discussed below, the Amended Complaint is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A.


The Amended Complaint is the operative pleading for this action. Sections 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(a) of 28 U.S.C. require the Court to conduct an initial screening of this Amended Complaint. The Court shall dismiss a complaint if the action (I) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim upon 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) and 1915A(a); see also Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636 (2d Cir. 2007).

In evaluating the Amended Complaint, the Court must accept as true all of the factual allegations and must draw all inferences in plaintiff's favor. See Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003) (per curiam); King v. Simpson, 189 F.3d 284, 287 (2d Cir. 1999). "Specific facts are not necessary," and the plaintiff "need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson, v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,--, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, --, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Boykin v. Keycorp, 521 F.3d 202, 213 (2d Cir 2008) (discussing pleading standard in pro se cases after Twombly). "A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, ..., and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erikson, 127 S.Ct. at 2200 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "To state a valid claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege that the challenged conduct (1) was attributable to a person acting under color of state law, and (2) deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Whalen v. County of Fulton, 126 F.3d 400, 405 (2d. Cir. 1997) (citing Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 875-76 (2d Cir.1994)). Based on its evaluation of the complaint, the Court finds that plaintiff's claims must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b) because they fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

The Amended Complaint raises essentially the same claims that plaintiff alleged in his original complaint. Plaintiff alleges, first, that Superintendent Harling failed to provide an adequate law library and a certified trained legal advocate who is able to provide plaintiff with assistance in preparing and filing legal papers. Second, he claims that Supervisor DeMarco denied him physical access to the Monroe County Jail Law Library, which she purportedly said was her office and off limits to inmates, and thereby denied him the opportunity to prepare a Pro Se Omnibus motion. Third, plaintiff claims that Sergeant Kloner violated his constitutional rights by failing to properly process his grievance complaint at the Monroe County Jail.

Plaintiff states that he was planning to represent himself on a pending criminal charge. Although plaintiff had assigned counsel, he was dissatisfied and alleged ineffective assistance of counsel on July 19, 2007. He does not clarify whether he was permitted to represent himself in the criminal matter, continued with another assigned counsel, or was assigned an attorney to act as a legal advisor, but his papers indicate that he had access to an attorney or attorneys.*fn1

Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly requested to physically go to a law library located in the Monroe County Jail to do his research and writing. He wanted to be able to sit in a library room, do his work and to make his own copies. He objected to the Monroe County Jail's procedure that required requesting materials from the law library, which would then be delivered to an inmate, and required that inmates submit papers for copying. Plaintiff contends that this process violated his constitutional rights. Plaintiff does not allege that he was unable to conduct any legal research, that he was unable to prepare his legal papers, or that he missed any deadline as a result of the procedure. Further, plaintiff does not allege that he was denied or restricted in his access to his attorney. In fact, the attached exhibits suggest that defendants directed plaintiff either accept the procedures that Monroe County Jail had in place, or to request that his attorney make copies of papers for him or provide other clerical assistance to plaintiff.

Additionally, plaintiff alleges that his grievances were not properly addressed while he was housed at the Monroe County Jail.

B. Review of the Prior Pleading

Based on the review of the original complaint, the Court found that plaintiff's allegations did not set forth a cognizable constitutional claim. Plaintiff was afforded an opportunity to amend his Complaint. The Court advised plaintiff that although a correctional facility must provide an inmate with meaningful access to the courts, Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977), the mere limitation of access to legal materials, without more, does not state a constitutional claim, as "'the Constitution requires no more than reasonable access to ...

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