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Ruffin v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 4, 2016

JOHN RUFFIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SEMPLE, et al., Defendants.

RULING AND ORDER

VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff, John Ruffin, is currently incarcerated at Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution. He has filed a civil rights complaint against Commissioner Scott Semple, District Administrator Angel Quiros, Warden Carol Chapdelaine, Deputy Warden/Warden William Faneuff, Deputy Warden Brian Bradway, Property Officer Melendez and Grievance Coordinators John/Jane Doe. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint is dismissed.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and “dismiss . . . any portion of [a] complaint [that] is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or that “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action’” or “‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement’” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). Although courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

On September 26, 2013, Plaintiff arrived at MacDougall Correctional Institution. Property Officer Melendez allegedly confiscated Plaintiff’s legal materials and placed them in storage. Plaintiff allegedly informed Officer Melendez that he needed access to his legal materials because he was litigating several cases, including a habeas petition. Correctional staff allegedly refused to provide Plaintiff with access to the materials.

Shortly after his arrival at MacDougall, Plaintiff allegedly informed the judge who was presiding over a civil matter that he had filed in state court that he was not prepared to file any motions because correctional staff had denied him access to his legal materials. The judge allegedly issued an order directing an assistant attorney general to ensure that correctional staff at MacDougall provided the plaintiff with the opportunity to review and use his legal materials. On October 11, 2013, pursuant to an order from Warden Chapdelaine, officers allegedly returned Plaintiff’s legal materials to him.

Plaintiff generally asserts that during the remainder of his confinement at MacDougall, staff subjected him to reprisals and harassment. He claims that Officer Melendez harassed him in retaliation for his filing of grievances. He asserts that there was an attempt by administrators to cover up the acts of harassment and reprisal.

I. Official Capacity Claims

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. To the extent he seeks damages against the defendants in their official capacities, the claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979). All such claims are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2), which states that “the court shall . . . dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.”

II. Access to Courts Claims

It is well settled that inmates have a First Amendment right of access to the courts. See Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). To state a claim for denial of access to the courts, Plaintiff is required to demonstrate that he suffered an actual injury as a result of the conduct of the defendants. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 353 (1996). To establish an actual injury, Plaintiff must allege facts showing that a defendant took or was responsible for actions that hindered Plaintiff’s efforts to pursue a legal claim, prejudiced one of his existing actions, or otherwise actually interfered with his access to the courts. See Monsky v. Moraghan, 127 F.3d 243, 247 (2d Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 823 (1998).

Plaintiff claims that he did not have access to his legal materials after his transfer to MacDougall on September 26, 2013. When he brought this fact to the attention of a superior court judge, the judge directed an assistant attorney general to ensure that correctional staff provided the plaintiff with access to his legal materials. Plaintiff concedes that correctional staff returned his legal documents to him on October 11, 2013.

Plaintiff does not allege that any cases that he had filed were delayed or dismissed or prejudiced in any way because he did not have access to his legal documents for fifteen days. Accordingly, Plaintiff does not meet the injury requirement set forth in Lewis. His claim regarding ...


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