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Caswell v. Green

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 6, 2013



MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Pro se plaintiff Reggie Caswell ("Caswell" or "Plaintiff"), an inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility, is incarcerated pursuant to a judgment of conviction against him entered on April 11, 2006. He instituted the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants denied him due process on his state direct appeal by failing to provide him with copies of certain exhibits from his trial and sentencing proceeding. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt #31), which Plaintiff has opposed (Dkt ##33, 34, 36, 37).

II. Background

Caswell was convicted following a jury trial in on charges of Robbery in the Second Degree, Attempted Robbery in the Third Degree, and two counts of Burglary in the Second Degree. Caswell's conviction was upheld on direct appeal. People v. Caswell , 56 A.D.3d 1300 (4th Dept. 2008), lv. denied, 11 N.Y.3d 923 (N.Y.), recons. denied, 12 N.Y.3d 781 (N.Y.), cert. denied, 129 S.Ct. 2775 (2009). During Caswell's direct appeal, he made a motion for a subpoena duces tecum compelling the Monroe County District Attorney's Office to produce certain exhibits he wished to use for his appeal. That motion was denied. See People v. Caswell, Motion No. KA 06-01104 (4th Dept. Jan. 16, 2008), attached to Defendants' Discovery Response ("Defs' Resp.") (Dkt #24).

After his conviction was affirmed, Caswell filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this Court, asserting, inter alia, that his due process rights were violated on direct appeal because the prosecutor refused to provide him copies of the exhibits he sought in his subpoena duces tecum on direct appeal. This Court denied Caswell's request for a writ and dismissed the petition, finding unpersuasive his argument that he was denied a meaningful appeal since he received copies of all the exhibits he claimed to have been denied. See Caswell v. Racetti, No. 11-CV-0153(MAT), 2012 WL 1029457, at *16-17, *18 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2012).

Caswell filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 2, 2010, raising variations on the same argument contained in his habeas petition-namely, that Defendants deprived him of a constitutionally adequate appeal record by failing to provide him with copies of trial exhibits #9 and #22, and sentencing exhibits ##4-7 ("the Exhibits").

On initial screening, this case was dismissed without prejudice on the basis that Caswell's claims were barred by Heck v. Humphrey , 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed, finding that Caswell's § 1983 action did not itself challenge any conduct that occurred at trial or at sentencing; instead, Caswell sought access to certain exhibits at his trial and sentencing for his use in future proceedings. The Second Circuit concluded that Caswell's § 1983 suit, "if successful, would not necessarily invalidate his conviction or sentence, " and thus it was not barred by Heck. Caswell v. Green, No. 10-1259-cv, 424 F.Appx. 44, 46 (2d Cir. 2011) (summary order) (emphasis in original). Accordingly, the matter was remanded to this Court for proceedings consistent with the Second Circuit's opinion.

On June 13, 2012, Defendants responded to Caswell's discovery demands by providing copies of Trial Exhibits #9 (Surveillance Videotape) and #22 (Surveillance Videotape), Sentencing Exhibits #4, #5, and #7, and the Persistent Violent Felony Offender Information dated March 28, 2006. See Defs' Resp., Exhibits C, D, E, F & G. Defendants explained that Sentencing Exhibit #6 was not provided because, upon information and belief, it was never received into evidence during Caswell's criminal proceeding and therefore was not relevant to Plaintiff's current claims. See Defs' Resp. at 3, ¶ 3.

Defendants have now moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("F.R.C.P.") 56 arguing that Caswell's complaint has been rendered moot by their disclosure of the Exhibits during discovery. Plaintiff has opposed the motion, asserting in conclusory fashion that one of the exhibits, a videotape from a convenience store surveillance system, is incomplete.

The motion is now fully submitted and ready for decision. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motion is granted, and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

III. Summary Judgment Standard

A motion for summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The movant has the initial burden of showing entitlement to summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). If the movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to identify evidence in the record that creates ...

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