United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Winston Riley, currently incarcerated at Carl Robinson
Correctional Institution, filed this Complaint pro
se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Riley’s
Complaint was received on January 9, 2017, and his motion to
proceed in forma pauperis was granted on January 17,
2017. Defendants are Commissioner Scott Semple, Warden
Kimberly Weir, Mailroom Officer Miller, Mailroom Officer Jane
Doe and Warden Erfe. Mr. Riley alleges that Defendants violated
his constitutional rights by opening his legal mail outside
of his presence.
Standard of Review
§ 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, the Court
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. Id. In reviewing a pro se
complaint, the Court must assume the truth of the
allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the
strongest arguments [they] suggest.” Abbas v.
Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). 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 “pro 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).
Riley alleges that, before the dates referenced in the
complaint, he was transferred from Cheshire Correctional
Institution (“Cheshire”) to Carl Robinson
Correctional Institution (“Robinson”). He states
that Defendants Weir and Miller are assigned to Robinson, Mr.
Riley’s current place of incarceration, and Defendants
Erfe and Doe are assigned to Cheshire.
October 6, 2015, Mr. Riley allegedly received legal mail that
had been opened without his signature and outside of his
presence. He claims that he brought the issue to the
attention of Lieutenant Alexander. The next day, while
speaking to his lawyer, Mr. Riley allegedly discovered that a
piece of his legal mail was missing. He states that this fact
also was brought to Lieutenant Alexander’s attention.
Riley alleges that he wrote to Warden Erfe about the missing
mail because it had originally been sent to Cheshire. Warden
Erfe allegedly responded that there was no record of any
legal mail being opened at his facility.
27, 2016, Mr. Riley allegedly received another piece of legal
mail that had been opened without his signature and outside
his presence. Mr. Riley alleges that he informed Lieutenant
Keaton, who allegedly failed to respond to his initial
Riley alleges that, on August 4, 2016, he again received
legal mail that had been opened outside his presence and
without his signature. Mr. Riley allegedly informed
Lieutenant Oneil. Mr. Riley alleges that, when he asked
Lieutenant Oneil to complete an incident report, Lieutenant
Oneil took the letter. Later that day, Lieutenant Oneil
allegedly informed Mr. Riley that he would not complete an
incident report. Mr. Riley alleges that, after Lieutenant
Oneil saw who had sent the letter, Lieutenant Oneil stated
that the letter was not legal mail.
Riley contends that Defendants Semple and Weir should have
known that opening inmate legal mail is a common
practice. He alleges that Defendants Miller and Doe
violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights by opening his
legal mail on October 6, 2015 and removing pieces of the
correspondence. He contends that this action deprived him of
his right to free speech, denied him access to the courts,
and violated attorney-client privilege. He alleges that
Defendant Miller again violated Mr. Riley’s First and
Fourth Amendment rights by opening his legal mail on May 27,
2016, and August 4, 2016. Mr. Riley also characterizes these
actions as Eighth Amendment violations.
Official Capacity Claims
Riley has named all Defendants in personal (individual) and
professional (official) capacities. However, he seeks only
damages for relief. The Eleventh Amendment divests the
district court of subject matter jurisdiction over claims for
money damages against state officials acting in their
official capacities unless the state has waived this immunity
or Congress has abrogated it. See Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985). Section 1983 does not
abrogate state sovereign immunity, see Quern v.
Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 343 (1979), and Mr. Riley has
provided no evidence that the ...