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Bester v. Taylor

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 21, 2018

ANTHONY BESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT TAYLOR, Correctional Officer, Great Meadow Correctional Facility, STAN LAVERGNE, Correctional Officer, Great Meadow Correctional Facility, SCOTT HALL, Correctional Officer, Great Meadow Correctional Facility, JAMES WALKER, Correctional Officer, Great Meadow Correctional Facility, JOHN DOE A, Correctional Officer, Great Meadow Correctional Facility, and JOHN DOE B, Correctional Officer, Great Meadow Correctional Facility, Defendants.

          ANTHONY BESTER Plaintiff, pro se.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID N. HURD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is an initial review of a complaint filed pro se by plaintiff Anthony Bester ("Bester" or "plaintiff"). Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl."). Plaintiff, who is confined in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") at Attica Correctional Facility, asserts claims arising out of his confinement at Great Meadow Correctional Facility ("Great Meadow C.F.").

         II. DISCUSSION

         A civil action is commenced in federal district court "by filing a complaint." Fed.R.Civ.P. 3. The filing fees must be paid at the time an action is commenced, unless an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") is submitted to the Court. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(a).

         The federal statute governing applications to proceed IFP in federal court, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1915, provides in pertinent part that an application for IFP status must be accompanied by "a certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the prisoner for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint or notice of appeal, obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at which the prisoner is or was confined." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). In accordance with Local Rule 5.4 of the Local Rules of Practice for the Northern District of New York ("N.D.N.Y.L.R."), a prisoner seeking IFP status in a civil action subject to the PLRA may satisfy this requirement by submitting a completed, signed, and certified IFP application. N.D.N.Y.L.R. 5.4(b)(1)(A).[1]

         Before this action can proceed, the sufficiency of the allegations set forth in Bester's complaint must also be considered. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review any "complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity" and must "identify cognizable claims or 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; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Thus, although the court has the duty to show liberality toward pro se litigants, see Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990) (per curiam), and should exercise "extreme caution . . . in ordering sua sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint before the adverse party has been served and both parties (but particularly the plaintiff) have had an opportunity to respond, " Anderson v. Coughlin, 700 F.2d 37, 41 (2d Cir. 1983) (internal citations omitted), the court has a responsibility to determine whether plaintiff may properly proceed with this action.

         In reviewing a complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a court may consider whether the claims asserted by the plaintiff are duplicative of claims asserted in another action against the same defendants.[2] It is well-settled that "[a]s part of its general power to administer its docket, a district court may stay or dismiss a suit that is duplicative of another federal court suit." Curtis v. Citibank, N.A., 226 F.3d 133, 138 (2d Cir. 2000); see also Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976) ("As between federal district courts, . . . though no precise rule has evolved, the general principle is to avoid duplicative litigation.").

         The power to dismiss a duplicative lawsuit is meant to foster judicial economy and the "comprehensive disposition of litigation." Kerotest Mfg. Co. v. C-O-Two Fire Equip. Co., 342 U.S. 180, 183 (1952). The doctrine is also meant to protect parties from "the vexation of concurrent litigation over the same subject matter." Adam v. Jacob, 950 F.2d 89, 93 (2d Cir. 1991).

         The district court has broad discretion in determining whether an action should be dismissed as duplicative, and the exercise of this power is reviewed by the Court of Appeals for abuse of discretion. Curtis, 226 F.3d at 138. As the Second Circuit recognized in Curtis, "simple dismissal of the second suit is [a] common disposition because plaintiffs have no right to maintain two actions on the same subject in the same court, against the same defendant at the same time." Id. at 138-39.

         Although no precise test has been articulated for determining whether actions are duplicative, see, e.g., Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817, the general rule which has emerged is that a suit is duplicative of another suit if the parties, issues and available relief do not differ significantly between the two actions. Thus, "[c]ourts generally look to the identity of the parties, legal claims, factual allegations including temporal circumstances, and the relief sought to determine if the complaint is repetitive or malicious." Hahn v. Tarnow, No. 06-CV-12814, 2006 WL 2160934, at *3 (E.D. Mich. July 31, 2006).

         Upon review, this complaint is repetitive and duplicative of the complaint in Bester v. Taylor, No. 9:18-CV-0449 (DNH/TWD) ("Bester I"), an action filed by ...


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