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Collin v. State of Connecticut Judicial Branch

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 26, 2016

HENRY T. COLLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT JUDICIAL BRANCH, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge.

         Henry T. Collin, currently incarcerated at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, filed this case pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, Judge Christine Keller, Assistant State's Attorney Russell C. Zentner, Attorney William Henry Paetzold and Attorney Jeffrey Kestenband. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.

         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. 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, ' ‘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).

         Collin alleges that, on July 12, 2010, officers falsely arrested him. Collin provided exculpatory evidence to Attorney Paetzold to support his innocence with regard to the crimes for which he was arrested. Collin claims that the evidence showed that Steven Pelletier was the individual who committed the crimes. Collin asserts that the attorneys who represented him were ineffective, the assistant state's attorney engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, and the judge who presided at trial was inexperienced. At the conclusion of the trial, a jury found Collin guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault in the second degree and risk of injury to a minor. See State v. Collin, 154 Conn.App. 102, 109 (2014), cert. denied, 315 Conn. 924 (2015). On September 17, 2012, a judge sentenced Collin to a total effective sentence of twenty years of imprisonment, execution suspended after eight years and ten years of probation.[1] See Id. For relief, Collin seeks monetary damages.

         I. Connecticut Judicial Branch

         Collin names the Judicial District of Middlesex within the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch as a defendant. To state a claim under section 1983, Collin must allege facts showing that the defendant, a person acting under color of state law, deprived him of a federally protected right. See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 930 (1982).

         There are no specific facts asserted with regard to the Judicial Branch of Connecticut or the Judicial District of Middlesex. Thus, Collin has not alleged that either entity violated his federally or constitutionally protected rights. Furthermore, there are no facts to suggest that the Connecticut Judicial Branch or the Judicial District of Fairfield is a person for purposes of section 1983. See Zuckerman v. Appellate Division, 421 F.2d 625, 626 (2d Cir. 1970) (holding that, state court, as part of judicial arm of the state, is not a person within meaning of section 1983). Accordingly, all claims against the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch - Judicial District of Middlesex are dismissed as lacking an arguable legal basis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         II. False Arrest

         Collin claims that officers falsely arrested him on July 12, 2010. The Fourth Amendment's protections include the right to be free from arrests without probable cause. See Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996). “Claims for false arrest . . ., brought under [Section] 1983 to vindicate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures, are ‘substantially the same' as claims for false arrest . . . under state law.” Jocks v. Tavernier, 316 F.3d 128, 134 (2d Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). In a section 1983 action, the elements of a claim for false arrest are controlled by state law. See Davis v. Rodriguez, 364 F.3d 424, 433 (2d Cir. 2004).

         Connecticut law defines false arrest or false imprisonment as “the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another.'” Russo v. City of Bridgeport, 479 F.3d 196, 204 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 818 (2007). Under both Connecticut law and section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the prosecution terminated in his or her favor to state a claim of false arrest. See Miles v. City of Hartford, 445 F.App'x 379, 383 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Roesch v. Otarola, 980 F.2d 850, 853-54 (2d Cir. 1992) (holding district court did not err in granting summary judgment on false arrest claim because “the Court [has] expressly held, invoking Connecticut law, that favorable termination is an element of ‘a section 1983 sounding in false imprisonment and false arrest'”)).

         A jury convicted Collin of sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor stemming from his arrest on July 12, 2010. See Collin, 154 Conn.App. at 109. Collin does not allege that his conviction has been overturned or vacated. Because the criminal matter did not terminate in Collin's favor, as a matter of law, Collin cannot prevail on a claim of false arrest[2] and those claims are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         III. Judicial Immunity

         Collin names Judge Christine Keller, who presided over his state criminal case, as a defendant. It is well-established that judges are immune from damages for civil liability for acts taken in their judicial capacity. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978). This immunity applies “however erroneous the act may have been, and however injurious in its consequences it may have proved to the plaintiff.” Young v. Selsky, 41 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1102 (1995). Judicial immunity is overcome in only two situations. A judge is not immune from suit for actions not taken ...


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