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Smurphat v. Hobb

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 27, 2019

KEVIN C. SMURPHAT, II, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL HOBB, Parole Officer, et al. Defendants.

          Kevin C. Smurphat, II 10-A-2976 Franklin County Correctional Facility Plaintiff pro se

          REPORT-RECOMMENDATION & ORDER

          CHRISTIAN F. HUMMEL U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. In Forma Pauperis

         Plaintiff pro se Kenneth C. Smurphat, II, commenced this action on July 8, 2019, with the filing of a complaint and an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Dkt. No. 1 (“Compl.”), Dkt. No. 2. After reviewing plaintiff's application, the undersigned concludes that plaintiff may properly proceed IFP for purposes of filing.[1] The undersigned must now assess plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         II. Initial Review

         A. Legal Standard

         Section 1915(e) of Title 28 of the United States Code directs that, when a plaintiff seeks to proceed IFP, "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal (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). Thus, it is a court's responsibility to determine that a plaintiff may properly maintain his complaint before permitting him to proceed with his action.

         Pleading guidelines are set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Specifically, Rule 8 provides that a pleading which sets forth a claim for relief shall contain, inter alia, "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (a)(2). "The purpose . . . is to give fair notice of the claim being asserted so as to permit the adverse party the opportunity to file a responsive answer, prepare an adequate defense and determine whether the doctrine of res judicata is applicable." Flores v. Graphtex, 189 F.R.D. 54, 54 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Rule 8 also requires the pleading to include:

(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . .;
(2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and
(3) a demand for the relief sought . . . .

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Although "[n]o technical form is required," the Federal Rules make clear that each allegation contained in the pleading "must be simple, concise, and direct." Id. at 8(d).

         Further, Rule 10 of the Federal Rules provides in pertinent part that:

[a] party must state its claims or defenses in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances. A later pleading may refer by number to a paragraph in an earlier pleading. If doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence - and each defense other than a denial - must be stated in a separate count or defense.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b). This serves the purpose of "provid[ing] an easy mode of identification for referring to a particular paragraph in a prior pleading[.]" Flores, 189 F.R.D. at 54 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         In deciding whether a complaint states a colorable claim, a court must extend a measure of deference to pro se litigants, Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir.1990) (per curiam), also referred to as “special solicitude.” Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006). However, the court also has an obligation to determine that a claim is not legally frivolous before permitting a pro se plaintiff's complaint to proceed. See, e.g., Fitzgerald v. First E. Seventh St. Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 363 (2d Cir. 2000). A complaint that fails to comply with the pleading requirements "presents far too a heavy burden in terms of defendants' duty to shape a comprehensive defense and provides no meaningful basis for the Court to assess the sufficiency of their claims." Gonzales v. Wing, 167 F.R.D. 352, 355 (N.D.N.Y. 1996). As the Second Circuit has held, "[w]hen a complaint does not comply with the requirement that it be short and plain, the court has the power, on its own initiative . . . to dismiss the complaint." Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988) (citations omitted). However, "[d]ismissal . . . is usually reserved for those cases in which the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised." Id. (citations omitted). In such cases of dismissal, particularly when reviewing a pro se complaint, the court generally affords the plaintiff an opportunity amend the complaint as long as there is a possibility that an amendment would be able to cure the identified defects. See Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 86-87 (2d Cir. 1995). A court should not dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff has stated "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. 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).

         B. ...


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