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Villafane v. Spota

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 16, 2017

ANTHONY VILLAFANE, #04-A-6846, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS J. SPOTA, III, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          JOAN M. AZRACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On September 19, 2016, incarcerated pro se plaintiff Anthony Villafane filed a complaint in this Court against the Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota, III pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a deprivation of his constitutional rights. Accompanying the complaint is an application to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court grants plaintiffs request to proceed in forma pauperis and sua sponte dismisses the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), 1915A(b)(1) for the reasons that follow.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff seeks to challenge his 2004 criminal conviction, claiming that he is actually innocent of murder in the first degree.[2] (Compl. at 4(a), ECF No. 1.) According to the complaint, “plaintiff is serving a life without parole sentence” even though “there is DNA evidence that has never been tested and could prove plaintiff’s innocence.” (Id.) Plaintiff seeks to compel the defendant to provide him “access to that evidence for purposes of forensic DNA testing.” (Id.) More specifically, plaintiff seeks “access to the gun recovered from the scene of the murders and never before tested” because plaintiff contends the results of DNA testing “might be exculpatory.” (Id.) Plaintiff has annexed to his complaint a copy of a June 3, 2015 Decision and Order from the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department wherein the denial of the plaintiff’s request for DNA testing of certain evidence by the Supreme Court, Suffolk County was affirmed. (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff has also annexed a copy of the August 14, 2015 Order from the New York State Court of Appeals denying leave to appeal the June 3, 2015 Order. (Id. at 10.)

         For relief, plaintiff seeks, among other things, to compel DNA testing “on the smudged prints found on the gun,” as well as copies of laboratory reports, phone records, autopsy photographs of the victim, and the grand jury testimony of several witnesses. (Id. ¶ III.)

         II.DISCUSSION

         A. In Forma Pauperis Application

         Upon review of plaintiff’s declaration in support of his application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court finds that plaintiff is qualified to commence this action without prepayment of the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Therefore, plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.

         B. Standard for Dismissal

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires a district court to screen a civil complaint brought by a prisoner against a governmental entity or its agents and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). Similarly, pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute, a court must dismiss an action if it determines that it “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court must dismiss the action as soon as it makes such a determination. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         Pro se submissions are afforded wide interpretational latitude and should be held “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers . . . .” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); see also Boddie v. Schnieder, 105 F.3d 857, 860 (2d Cir. 1997). A court is required to read the plaintiff's pro se complaint liberally and interpret it as raising the strongest arguments it suggests. United States v. Akinrosotu, 637 F.3d 165, 167 (2d Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (citation omitted); Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009).

         The Supreme Court has held that pro se complaints need not even plead specific facts; rather the complainant “need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); cf. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice.”). However, a pro se plaintiff must still 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) (citation omitted). The plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. While “‘detailed factual allegations’” are not required, “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         C. Standard for ...


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