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John Nevarez v. Superintendent C. Hunt

March 16, 2011

JOHN NEVAREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT C. HUNT, CORR. OFFICER WALKER, CORR. OFFICER TORRENS, CORR. OFFICER BURGER, CORR. OFFICER MARTINEZ, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, John Nevarez, appearing pro se, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), has sued five individual defendants, all of whom were at all relevant times employed by DOCS. Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his constitutional rights in connection with certain events that transpired in 2007 and 2008, while plaintiff was confined at Groveland Correctional Facility.

Defendants have moved to dismiss some of plaintiff's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted.

DISCUSSION

I. Motions to Dismiss: General Standards

The standards applied to a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) are well established. In deciding a motion brought under that rule, the "court must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant." Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994).

Nonetheless, "a plaintiff's obligation ... requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

Thus, where a plaintiff "ha[s] not nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [his] complaint must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A "plausible" entitlement to relief exists when the allegations in the complaint move the plaintiff's claims across the line separating the "conclusory" from the "factual," and the "factually neutral" from the "factually suggestive." Id. at 557 n.5.

"[T]his plausibility standard governs claims brought even by pro se litigants." Robles v. Bleau, No. 9:07-CV-0464, 2008 WL 4693153, at *5 (N.D.N.Y. Oct. 22, 2008) (citing Jacobs v. Mostow, 271 Fed.Appx. 85, 87 (2d Cir. 2008), and Boykin v. KeyCorp, 521 F.3d 202, 215-16 (2d Cir. 2008)). At the same time, however, the Court is mindful that even 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." Boykin, 521 F.3d at 214. Nevertheless, all pleadings, pro se or otherwise, must contain enough factual allegations to "give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 1081 (2007)) (additional internal quotation marks omitted).

II. Application to this Case

A. Access to Law Library

In his first claim, plaintiff alleges that, apparently as a result of restrictions on his movement that were imposed after he was charged with certain disciplinary infractions, he was not allowed to use the prison law library. There is no freestanding right of prisoners to use a law library, however, and restrictions on an inmate's access to a law library will generally not give rise to a constitutional claim, unless those restrictions have the effect of denying the inmate meaningful access to the courts. See Cafferky v. Pallito, No. 09-CV-193, 2010 WL 3025567, at *4 (D.Vt. July 1, 2010), Report and Recommendation adopted, 2010 WL 3025566 (D.Vt. July 29, 2010); Shell v. Brun, 585 F.Supp.2d 465, 468 (W.D.N.Y. 2008). "[T]o succeed on an access to the courts claim a prisoner must first demonstrate that an actual injury was suffered in order to have standing." Melendez v. Haase, No. 04 Civ. 00073, 2010 WL 5248627, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 15, 2010) (citing Benjamin v. Fraser, 264 F.3d 175, 185 (2d Cir. 2001)). "A plaintiff can demonstrate that a defendant caused actual injury by showing that the defendant 'took or was responsible for actions that hindered a plaintiff's efforts to pursue a legal claim.'" Id. (quoting Montanez v. Cuoco, 361 Fed.Appx. 291, 294 (2d Cir. 2010)). See also Benjamin, 264 F.3d at 184 (to establish a claim of inadequate access to the courts, an inmate must show that defendants' acts or omissions "'hindered his efforts to pursue a legal claim'--for example, by demonstrating that he has been unable to file a complaint or has had a complaint dismissed for failure to observe a technicality." (quoting Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996)).

Plaintiff has alleged no such facts here. He simply alleges that he was not allowed "to attend the law library ... ." Dkt. #1 at 6. In the absence of any allegations that he was prejudiced as a result, this claim must be dismissed. See Benjamin v. Kelly, No. 11-CV-855, 2011 WL 809838, at * 2 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 1, 2011) (dismissing complaint that did "not explain whether plaintiff was litigating, or attempting to litigate, an actual claim in a court when ...


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