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Cooke v. Deschaine

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 28, 2016

IAN COOKE, Plaintiff,
KEITH DESCHAINE, et al., Defendants.


          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL, District Judge.

         The plaintiff, Ian Cooke, is currently confined at Garner Correctional Institution. He has filed an Amended Complaint pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 naming as defendants a former commissioner of correction, two directors of the Department of Correction security division, five employees of Cheshire Correctional Institution, legal counsel for the Department of Correction and the current Commissioner of Correction. Cooke has also filed a motion for an initial review order, a motion seeking disclosure of the full names of the defendants, a motion to amend to add the text of several State of Connecticut Administrative Directives as exhibits and a motion for order. For the reasons set forth below, the court will deny the motions and will direct Cooke to file an amended complaint.

         I. Motion for Order [Doc. No. 12]

         Cooke's application to proceed in forma pauperis included a section in which Cooke agreed to permit the Department of Correction to deduct money from his inmate account to pay the full filing fee of $350.00. Cooke contends that on one occasion in March 2016, the Department of Correction deducted too much money from his account towards the payment of the filing fee. Cooke does not assert that he made any prior efforts to resolve this issue with Department of Correction inmate accounts staff prior to filing this motion. He seeks a court order directing the Department of Correction to reimburse his account $58.05.

         The Department of Correction has not forwarded any money from Cooke's inmate account to the court towards the payment of the filing fee. It is my understanding that the Department of Correction waits to forward any money to the Clerk until the full amount of the filing fee has been collected from the inmate's account.

         Cooke has not alleged that he will suffer imminent harm if the relief requested is not granted. When he commenced this action, he agreed to have money deducted from his inmate account towards payment of the full $350.00 filing fee in this action. If he disagrees with the amount of money deducted by correctional staff working in the office handling inmate accounts, he should contact office staff to attempt to resolve the issue. The motion (doc. # 12) is denied.

         II. Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 8]

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that "[ p ] ro se complaints must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         A. Failure to Comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

         The first defect with the Amended Complaint is that it does not comply with Rule 8's pleading requirements. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 8(d)(1) provides that "[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise and direct." The purpose of Rule 8 is "to permit the defendant to have a fair understanding of what the plaintiff is complaining about and to know whether there is a legal basis for recovery." Ricciuti v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth., 941 F.2d 119, 123 (2d Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). In addition, "the rule serves to sharpen the issues to be litigated and to confine discovery and the presentation of evidence at trial within reasonable bounds." Powell v. Marine Midland Bank, 162 F.R.D. 15, 16 (N.D.N.Y. 1995) (citation and quotation omitted). The plaintiff's statement of his claim "should be short because "[u]nnecessary prolixity in a pleading places an unjustified burden on the court and the party who must respond to it because they are forced to select the relevant material from a mass of verbiage." Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988) (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1281, at 365 (1969)).

         When a litigant does not comply with Rule 8's requirements, the court may strike any portion of the complaint that is redundant or immaterial pursuant to Rule 12(f). Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Alternatively, it may dismiss the complaint in its entirety in those cases "in which the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised." Saluddin, 861 F.2d at 42. In Saluddin for example, the Second Circuit, found "no doubt" that plaintiff's complaint, which "span[ned] 15 single-spaced pages and contain[ed] explicit descriptions of 20-odd defendants, their official positions, and their roles in the alleged denials of Salahuddin's rights..., " failed to comply with Rule 8's requirement of a "short and plain statement." Id. at 43. Accordingly, the court stated that "the district court was within the bounds of discretion to strike or dismiss the complaint for noncompliance with Rule 8." Id.

         In the instant case, Cooke's Amended Complaint is neither "short and plain" nor "simple." The Amended Complaint consists of forty-two single-spaced, typed pages containing 178 paragraphs and refers to a time period from February 2013 to January 2016. It includes at least seven different claims that occurred at two different prison facilities.

         1. Cheshire Correctional Institution

         Cooke alleges that, in February 2013, Correctional Officer Deschaine unlawfully searched his cell for three hours and confiscated various pieces of his personal property, including paintings, art materials, art books, magazines, photographs, clothing and music CDs. Lieutenant Hogan then searched Cooke's property a second time. Cooke received two disciplinary reports, one for security tampering and one for possessing ...

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