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Lee v. Kitchen

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 11, 2017

MELVIN LEE, Plaintiff,


          ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD United States District Judge


         Plaintiff Melvin Lee ("Plaintiff) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff was previously granted in forma pauperis status (Dkt. 4 at 2), and has now timely submitted an amended complaint (Dkt. 5), as permitted by the Court. (Dkt. 4). The Court is required to screen Plaintiffs amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).


         I. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Joel Kitchen ("Kitchen"), a student at Canisius College during the time period at issue, lied to Defendant Canisius College ("Canisius") public safety officers regarding a robbery allegedly perpetrated by Plaintiff on February 13, 2006. (Dkt. 5 at 4-5). Plaintiff asserts that a Canisius public safety officer, Defendant Dominic J. Barone ("Barone"), failed to sufficiently investigate Kitchen's allegation because Barone failed to interview any witnesses to the incident beyond Kitchen. (Id. at 7). Plaintiff claims that Barone forwarded his incident investigation report to Defendant Gary Everett ("Everett"), the public safety captain at Canisius, and the Erie County District Attorney's office. (Id. at 8-9). Plaintiff was thereafter prosecuted for and convicted by a jury in Erie County Court of "one count of Robbery in the First Degree in violation of [New York] Penal Law section 160.15(3) and one count of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree in violation [New York Penal Law] § 265.02(1)." (Id. at 34). Plaintiff was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 5 years of post-release supervision. (Id.). Plaintiffs conviction was upheld on direct appeal. (Id. at 16-17; see, e.g., Id. at 40-41).

         Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by withholding favorable evidence and by disallowing him from obtaining witnesses to testify on his behalf. (Id. at 5, 13). Plaintiff also raises a Sixth Amendment claim for violations of his right to confront his accuser, (id. at 16-18), and claims for false arrest and malicious prosecution. (Id. at 18-19). He requests damages of $25, 000, 000.00. (Id. at 5).

         II. Standard of Review

         Under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct an initial screening of Plaintiffs amended complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court must dismiss the complaint if it is "frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. "An action is 'frivolous' for § 1915(e) purposes if it has no arguable basis in law or fact." Montero v. Travis, 171 F.3d 757, 759 (2d Cir. 1999).

         In evaluating the complaint, a court must accept as true all of the plaintiffs factual allegations, and must draw all inferences in the plaintiffs favor. See, e.g., Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003). Although "a court is obliged to construe [pro se] pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations, " McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004), even pro se pleadings must meet the notice requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Wynder v. McMahon, 360 F.3d 73, 79 n.11 (2d Cir. 2004) ("[T]he basic requirements of Rule 8 apply to self-represented and counseled plaintiffs alike.").

         "[A] district court should look with a far more forgiving eye in examining whether a complaint rests on a meritless legal theory for purposes of section [§ 1915(e)] than it does in testing the complaint against a Rule 12(b)(6) motion." Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990). In determining whether a complaint survives a Rule 8 notice inquiry, the plaintiff 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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "So long as the [in forma pauperis] plaintiff raises a cognizable claim, dismissal on the basis of factual deficiencies in the complaint must wait until the defendant attacks the lack of such details on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion." Nance, 912 F.2d at 607.

         III. Screening Plaintiffs Complaint A. Defendant Buffalo State College Must Be Dismissed

         Plaintiff names Buffalo State College ("BSC") as a Defendant in this action. (Dkt. 5 at 1). A prerequisite for liability under § 1983 is personal involvement by the defendant accused of the constitutional deprivation. See Sealey v. Giltner, 116 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1997). The amended complaint is completely devoid of any facts establishing BSC's involvement in Plaintiffs claims. (See Dkt. 5). Therefore, Plaintiff fails to state a claim as to BSC, and BSC must be dismissed.

         B. ...

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