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Chinloy v. Seabrook

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 3, 2014

CHRISTOPHER CHINLOY, Plaintiff,
v.
NORMAN SEABROOK, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

MARGO K. BRODIE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Christopher Chinloy, currently incarcerated at Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island, commenced this action, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges violations of his "fundamental right to swift justice" and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in addition to humiliation, discrimination, abuse of power and emotional and mental distress. Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is granted. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff is granted thirty (30) days leave from the date of this Memorandum and Order to file an amended complaint.

I. Background

According to the Complaint, on November 18, 2013, Plaintiff had a court appearance but was never transported to court. (Compl. 8.) Defendant Norman Seabrook, President of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, was responsible for halting buses meant to transport inmates to court appearances on November 18, 2013. ( Id. ) Seabrook and other officers did so to prevent a particular inmate from testifying against a correction officer in a matter unrelated to Plaintiff's action. ( Id. ) Plaintiff requests that Seabrook be discharged from his position and seeks a total of $33, 000, 000 in damages. ( Id. at 10.)

II. Discussion

a. Standard of Review

A complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is "inapplicable to legal conclusions." Id. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court must be mindful that the plaintiff's pleadings should be held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (internal quotation marks omitted); Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (noting that even after Twombly, the court "remain[s] obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally"). Nevertheless, the court must screen "a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity" and, thereafter, "dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, " if it is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; see Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). Similarly, the court is required to dismiss sua sponte an in forma pauperis action, if the court determines that it "(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on 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); Abbas, 480 F.3d at 639.

b. Failure to Allege State Action

In order to sustain a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) that the challenged conduct was "committed by a person acting under color of state law, " and (2) that such conduct "deprived [the plaintiff] of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Cornejo v. Bell, 592 F.3d 121, 127 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 547 (2d Cir. 1994)). "[T]he under-color-of-state-law element of § 1983 excludes from its reach merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory or wrongful." American Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The actions of a private entity may be deemed state action only if "there is a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the challenged action of the... entity so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State itself." Id. at 52 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 406 (2d Cir. 2013) (same). "Whether such a close nexus' exists... depends on whether the State has exercised coercive power or has provided such significant encouragement, either overt or covert, that the [action] must in law be deemed to be that of the State." Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 52 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

Here, Plaintiff has not alleged that Seabrook is a state actor nor has Plaintiff alleged any facts that show a close-nexus between Seabrook and the State such that the Court can reasonably infer that Seabrook acted under color of state law. See Durant v. Union Local 237, No. 12-CV-1166, 2013 WL 1232555, at *9 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2013) ("Labor unions are generally not state actors."), report and recommendation adopted, 2013 WL 1247520 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2013); Boyle v. DeWolf, No. 13-CV-104, 2013 WL 1751145, at *5 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2013) ("To the extent that plaintiff is attempting to name [New York State United Teachers] itself, the union is not a state actor, regardless of whether the union represents public employees."), report and recommendation adopted, 2013 WL 1749933 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 23, 2013). Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to show that he suffered a constitutional violation by a person acting under color of state law.

c. Failure to Allege a Constitutional Violation

i. Fundamental Right to Swift Justice

Liberally construed, the Complaint asserts a claim for denial of access to the courts. It is well established that prisoners have a constitutional right to "adequate, effective, and meaningful" access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 822 (1977); see also Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346 (1996); Bourdon v. Loughren, 386 F.3d 88, 92-93 (2d Cir. 2004). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must show actual injury, that is, that the defendant "took or was responsible for actions that hindered [a plaintiff's] efforts to pursue a legal claim[.]'" Monsky v. Moraghan, 127 F.3d 243, 247 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Lewis, 518 U.S. at 343). Here, Plaintiff has failed to articulate any cognizable injury that he suffered as a result of not being taken to court on the date in question. Plaintiff only alleges that he suffered "emotional and mental distress." (Compl. 10.) Such emotional distress is insufficient to state a claim for denial of access to the courts. See Monsky, 127 F.3d at 247 ("emotional distress and humiliation... might be consequential damages components of a section 1983 claim in which actual injury to court access was sufficiently alleged, they are not the type of actual injury that gives rise to a constitutional claim of denial of access to the courts"). Although failing to take Plaintiff to his court appearance did deny Plaintiff access to the courts in a very literal way, to rise to the level of a constitutional violation Plaintiff must allege facts that show that his missed court appearance actually hindered his pursuit of a legal claim or resulted in some form of actual harm. See Dotson v. Farrugia, No. 11-CV-1126, 2012 WL 996997, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2012) (dismissing an access to court claim where plaintiff alleged a missed housing court date yet did not provide "any information about the underlying claim at housing court" or allege that the underlying relief was denied to him); see ...


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