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Smith v. Donaher

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 10, 2013

SHEAWN SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY DONAHER, et al., Defendants.

Sheawn Smith, Altona Correctional Facility, Altona New York, For Plaintiff.

Brian E. Marianetti, Esq. Deputy County Attorney, Rochester New York, For Defendants.

Hillel Deutsch, A.A.G. New York State Attorney General's Office, Rochester New York.

DECISION & ORDER

CHARLES J. SIRAGUSA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Now before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, ECF No. 15, appointment of counsel, ECF No. 18, Reconsideration, ECF No. 29, and summary judgment, ECF No. 30, and Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, ECF Nos. 14 & 16, pursuant to the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motions are denied, and Defendants' motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleged several constitutional claims against government officials who were involved in his underlying criminal case, including judges, prosecutors, public defenders and jail superintendents, for malicious prosecution, denial of due process, and denial of access to the courts. On March 26, 2012, The Honorable Michael A. Telesca of this Court issued an Order dismissing, with prejudice, the claims against every judge, prosecutor, and public defender; and dismissing without prejudice, as premature, the claims for denial of due process and malicious prosecution. Further, Judge Telesca granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint addressing his claims concerning access to the courts.

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on April 26, 2012, against New York State's commissioner of correction, Thomas Beilein ("State Defendant") and three municipal employees: Monroe County Sherriff Patrick O'Flynn ("O'Flynn"), Monroe County Jail Superintendent Ronald Harling ("Harling"), and Monroe County Jail Captain John Lapira ("LiPari"[1]) (collectively, "County Defendants"). In this pleading, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants denied him his right of access to the courts, free speech, and due process. In accordance with Judge Telesca's Order, the Court will only consider whether Plaintiff's right to court access was violated. See Order 14, Mar. 26, 2012, ECF No. 8.

Plaintiff was represented by a Public Defender during his underlying criminal proceedings, but chose to file a habeas corpus petition pro se. On November 29, 2011, December 20, 2011, and December 26, 2011, Plaintiff requested[2] that the Monroe County Jail ("MCJ") provide him with photocopies of various documents to be attached to his habeas corpus petition, and that the petition then be mailed. See Am. Compl. Exs. B, C, & E, ECF No. 10-1. Since he was represented by an attorney during his underlying criminal proceedings, the first time that Plaintiff requested free photocopying, LiPari responded that he should contact his attorney. See Am. Compl. Ex. B, ECF No. 10-1. However, Plaintiff did not have an attorney at that time and was acting pro se. Subsequently, Plaintiff unintentionally happened to come face-to-face with LiPari and explained to him how he no longer had an attorney and needed the copies for his habeas petition. LiPari responded by telling Plaintiff to file another request, which Plaintiff did that same day. The following day, LiPari responded to Plaintiff's second request and told Plaintiff that he needed to contact the Public Defender's Office for further assistance. Am. Compl. Ex. C, ECF No. 10-1. Six days later, Plaintiff filed his third request, which was again denied-this time by Harling. See Am. Compl. Ex. E, ECF No. 10-1. In his response, Harling explained that MCJ provided inmates with stationary, writing utensils, and typewriters to make copies. Id.

On January 9, 2012, the MCJ received a grievance from Plaintiff regarding his request for free photocopying and mailing of his habeas corpus petition. See Am. Compl. Ex. F, ECF No. 10-1. On January 13, 2012, the Grievance Coordinator determined that Plaintiff had received the supplies mandated by Title 9 of New York State's Codes, Rules, and Regulations, N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. Tit. 9 §§ 7004.2, 7031.4(m), (n) (2012), that it was not MCJ's responsibility to provide copying services to inmates, and that Plaintiff was provided with the materials to make his own copies. See Am. Compl. Ex. F, ECF. No. 10-1. Further, the Grievance Coordinator determined that envelopes and postage for Smith's legal mailings involving criminal matters on which he was unrepresented would be provided by MCJ, and that included his habeas corpus petition. See Am. Compl. Ex. F, ECF No. 10-1.

On January 16, 2012, Plaintiff appealed the Grievance Coordinator's decision to the Chief Administrative Officer. His appeal was denied on January 23, 2012. See Am. Compl. Ex. F, ECF No. 10-1. Plaintiff appealed this denial as well, and on January 24, 2012, his appeal was forwarded to the Citizen's Policy and Complaint Review Council. See Am. Compl. Ex. F, EFC No. 10-1.

Plaintiff commenced this present action on January 18, 2012. Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment on August 10, 2012. Mot. For Default J., ECF. No. 15. On October 22, this Court issued an Order denying Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment against the County Defendants. Order, ECF. No. 27. Further, the Order directed the State Defendant to provide evidence that his Motion to Dismiss, which was filed on August 3, 2012, was filed timely. Id. State Defendant's Attorney responded to the Court's Order on October 23, 2012. See Deutsch Affirmation, ECF No. 28. Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Reconsideration of his Motion for Default Judgment on November 5, 2012. See Mot. For Default J., ECF No. 15; Mot. For Recons., ECF No. 29.

STANDARDS OF LAW

Standard under 12(b)(6) Motion

In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court clarified the standard to be applied to a 12(b)(6) motion:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a Plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief 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 ...

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