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Antrobus v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 27, 2014

CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendant.


RONNIE ABRAMS, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Andre Antrobus, brings this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant, the City of New York. He alleges that officers at two city correctional facilities interfered with his mail. The City moves to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The City's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

For purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true all facts alleged by Plaintiff. See Kassner v. 2nd Ave. Delicatessen Inc., 496 F.3d 229, 237 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court will also consider the supporting allegations contained in signed witness statements of fellow inmates which Plaintiff has attached to his Amended Complaint. See Brass v. Am. Film Technologies, Inc., 987 F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir. 1993) (noting that, when deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may consider "documents attached to the complaint as an exhibit or incorporated in it by reference").

The gravamen of the Amended Complaint is that Plaintiff's mail has been interfered with at two New York City correctional facilities, the George R. Vierno Center ("GRVC") and the Anna M. Kross Center ("AMKC"). (Am. Compl. 1-3.)[1] Plaintiff alleges that correction officers have withheld his mail, stolen it, and failed to send it altogether. He further alleges that they have admitted to regularly opening and reading his legal mail. (Id. at 3, 5, 22, 33.) In particular, he states that officers have "been throwing away, [r]eading and thie[v]ing [his] mail" and that they "stole and thr[e]w [away] garbage [b]ags of mail[, ] some stamped." (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff also asserts that he would "put something in the mail [and] get no response..." and that he has "no communication with [his] [a]ttorney [be]cause... mail do[es]n't go out or [it is] held and return[ed] read or takes 3 to 4 weeks." (Id. at 5.) The witness statements further allege that an officer in the mail room said she was not sending out Plaintiff's mail on instructions from her supervisors, that his mail was thrown away "many times, " and that his mail has been held for a period of time and then returned to him without being sent. (Id. at 22, 29, 32, 35-37.)

One witness statement asserts that there is "a [l]imit on legal mail and when you hit your max you can't send mail to courts, [l]egal agencies and witnesses." (Id. at 23.) Another states that Plaintiff and other inmates have been told that they could not "send mail for several months" or "for 12 months." (Id. at 23, 26.) The Amended Complaint also appears to assert that Plaintiff has been improperly denied the right to send mail because he has no money to pay for postage. (See id. at 3, 22, 28, 30.)

Plaintiff alleges that, as a result, the City was responsible for "hampering and stopping [Plaintiff's] defense [and] not allowing [his] motions to [b]e adopted [be]cause of untimely fashion with courts...." (Id. at 4.) He also accuses the City of "stopping access to legal agencies witnesses [l]awyers [l]osing cases civil and criminal... and tactics to be unlawfully convicted." (Id. at 7.)

According to Plaintiff, these events were "ongoing for 26½ months" or "24 months, " starting when he was in custody at GRVC in 2011 and continuing through his 2013 detention at AMKC. (Id. at 2-3, 5.) He contends that he complained to numerous correction officers and attempted to file grievances, but that his complaints and grievances were ignored. (Id. at 3, 6.) Plaintiff also seems to indicate that he initiated Article 78 proceedings. (Id. at 6, 12.) Since filing his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has been transferred to Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville, NY. (Dkt. 65.)

Plaintiff requests a court investigation and "a ruling about indigent persons and legal mail [and] legal mail in general." (Am. Compl. 4.) He also seeks $10 million in compensatory damages "for pain suffering, ... health issues and mental stress disorders...." and $20 million in punitive damages. (Id. at 4, 7.)

II. Applicable Legal Standard

"In considering a motion to dismiss... the court is to accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint.... [and] draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Kassner, 496 F.3d at 237 (citation omitted). "This rule applies with particular force where the plaintiff alleges civil rights violations or where the complaint is submitted pro se. " Thompson v. Carter, 284 F.3d 411, 416 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 701 (2d Cir. 1998)). A pro se complaint "must be construed liberally with special solicitude and interpreted to raise the strongest claims that it suggests. Nonetheless, a pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief." Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

III. Discussion

The Second Circuit has explained that tampering with a prisoner's mail may constitute an actionable violation of § 1983 "(1) if the incidents suggested an ongoing practice of censorship unjustified by a substantial government interest, or (2) if the tampering unjustifiably chilled the prisoner's right of access to the courts or impaired the legal representation received." Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 351 (2d Cir. 2003). Interference with a prisoner's mail thus may implicate ...

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