United States District Court, E.D. New York
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
M. Coan, U.S.D.J.
Kevin Reaves, proceeding pro se and currently
incarcerated at Five Points Correctional Facility, filed this
42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on behalf of himself and others
similarly situated, alleging that defendants have deprived
him, as an indigent New York State prisoner, of his rights
under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the
Constitution's Guarantee Clause, arising from the manner
in which the judge-defendants have constructed the parameters
of collateral review under New York Criminal Procedure Law
§ 440.10 (“CPL §
440.10”). The Court grants plaintiff's request
to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915 for the purpose of this Order and dismisses the
complaint for the following reasons.
February 15, 2011, plaintiff was convicted of attempted
murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a
weapon in the second degree. The Appellate Division affirmed
plaintiff's conviction, and the New York Court of Appeals
denied leave to appeal, People v. Reaves, 112 A.D.3d
746, 976 N.Y.S.2d 228 (2nd Dep't 2013), leave to app.
denied, 22 N.Y.3d 1202, 986 N.Y.S.2d 422 (2014) (table).
Plaintiff also filed a post-conviction motion, pursuant to
CPL § 440.10, alleging, inter alia, ineffective
assistance of trial counsel. The CPL § 440.10 court held
that all but one of his arguments were procedurally barred
and the remaining argument was without merit. The Appellate
Division denied leave to appeal. Finally, plaintiff also
sought coram nobis relief from the Appellate
Division, contending that his appellate counsel was
ineffective. The Appellate Division denied his motion, and
the Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. People v.
Reaves, 134 A.D.3d 1133, 21 N.Y.S.3d 632 (2nd Dep't
2015), leave to app. denied, 27 N.Y.3d 1005, 38
N.Y.S.3d 114 (2016) (table).
also sought federal habeas review, having filed a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254
challenging this conviction. By Memorandum Decision and Order
dated June 15, 2016, I denied the petition, and subsequently
denied a motion for reconsideration. The United States Court
of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied a certificate of
appealability and dismissed the appeal. Reaves v.
Superintendent of Five Points Corr. Facility, No. 16
Civ. 2221, 2016 WL 3351008 (E.D.N.Y. June 15, 2016); 2016 WL
4742282, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 12, 2016) (reconsideration),
app. dismissed, Reaves v. Superintendent of Five
Points Corr. Facility, No. 16-2553 (2d Cir. Jan. 12.
complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendants deprived him -
and others like him - of his constitutional rights when they
denied to assign him counsel for his CPL § 440.10 motion
on his ineffective assistance of trial counsel arguments and
that they deny such rights prospectively through their
failure to appoint counsel to indigent prisoners litigating
their initial ineffective counsel claims. He seeks
“declaratory and prospective injunctive relief
directing defendants to assign counsel to indigent prisoners
raising initial-review claims under CPL §
Prison Litigation Reform Act (the “PLRA”)
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); see also Liner v. Goord,
196 F.3d 132, 134 & n.1 (2d Cir. 1999) (noting that,
under the PLRA, sua sponte dismissal of frivolous
prisoner complaints is not only permitted but in fact
mandatory). Similarly, pursuant to the in forma
pauperis statute, the 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).
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), and
“allow 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). “[A] pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted); see also Harris v.
Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009). Thus, pro
se complaints are “to be liberally construed,
” Ahlers v. Rabinowitz, 684 F.3d 53, 60 (2d
Cir. 2012), and interpreted “to raise the strongest
arguments that they suggest, ” Graham v.
Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1996).
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To
sustain a claim brought under § 1983, plaintiff must
allege that (1) “the conduct complained of . . . [was]
committed by a person acting under color of state law,
” and (2) “the conduct complained of must have
deprived . . . [him] of rights, privileges or immunities
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States.” Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 547
(2d Cir. 1994).
Pro Se Litigants Proceeding on Behalf of
is a non-attorney proceeding pro se purporting to
represent other similarly situated persons; however,
plaintiff may not bring these claims on behalf of others
without a lawyer. See 28 U.S.C. § 1654;
Berrios v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 564 F.3d 130, 132 (2d
Cir. 2009) (“[A]n individual generally has the right to
proceed pro se with respect to his own claims or
claims against him personally, [but] the statute does not
permit unlicensed laymen to represent anyone else other than
themselves.”); Iannaccone v. Law, 142 F.3d
553, 558 (2d Cir. 1998) (holding that an unlicensed
individual “may not appear on another person's
behalf in the other's cause”). Thus, any claims as
to other unnamed plaintiffs are dismissed without prejudice.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A, 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
Plaintiff's class action certification request, to the
degree he expresses one, is denied as moot.
Section 1983 Claims Against Judicial Officers.
also well-settled precedent that judges have absolute
immunity for their judicial acts performed in their judicial
capacities. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11
(1991); Rodriguez v. Weprin, 116 F.3d 62, 67 (2d
Cir. 1997). Although the Supreme Court previously held that
absolute judicial immunity did not bar claims for prospective
declaratory or injunctive relief, see Pulliam v.
Allen, 466 U.S. 522, 541-42 (1984), Congress effectively
reversed the Supreme Court with regard to injunctive relief
by enacting the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996, Pub.
L. No. 104-317, 110 Stat. 3847 (1996) (amending 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983). As amended, § 1983 now provides that
“in any action brought against a judicial officer for
an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial
capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a
declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was
unavailable.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because there is
no declaratory decree that the judges are violating or any
statement regarding the unavailability of declaratory relief,
prospective injunctive relief is ...