United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER RE: AMENDED COMPLAINT
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. He asserted First
Amendment claims for denial of access to the courts and
interference with legal mail, a Fourth Amendment claim for
interception of legal mail, and a general Eighth Amendment
claim. On February 7, 2017, the Court filed an Initial Review
Order. The Court dismissed all claims against Defendants Erfe
and Doe, all claims against Defendants in official capacity,
and Mr. Riley's Fourth and Eighth Amendment claims.
Court afforded Mr. Riley the opportunity to file an Amended
Complaint asserting his First Amendment claims provided he
could allege fact supporting those claims. See
Initial Review Order at 8, ECF. No. 7. In response to the
Order, Mr. Riley has filed an Amended Complaint, naming as
Defendants Scott Semple, Kimberly Weir, Mailroom Officer
Miller, Correctional Officer Miller and Lieutenant
Oneil. He alleges that Defendants violated his
First Amendment right of access to the courts by opening his
legal mail outside of his presence, and he also references
claims for retaliation and denial of due process. The Court
now reviews the merit of the claim in the Amended Complaint.
Standard of Review
Section 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
Semple is the Commissioner of Correction. Defendants Weir,
both Millers, and Oneil are assigned to Carl Robinson
Correctional Institution (“Robinson”), Mr.
Riley's current place of incarceration.
27, 2016, Mr. Riley allegedly received legal mail that had
been opened by Correctional Officer Miller without his
signature and outside of his presence. Mr. Riley claims that
he brought the matter to the attention of Lieutenant Keaton,
who allegedly failed to respond to Mr. Riley's grievance.
Mr. Riley assumes that his mail was opened in retaliation for
previous complaints he made against Mailroom Officer Miller.
Mr. Riley alleges that, following this incident, he
“lost faith in the DOC's policy regarding legal
mail, ” became fearful of further retaliation and was
discouraged and intimidated from exercising his right of
access to the courts. Am. Compl. at 4, ECF No. 8.
August 4, 2016, Mr. Riley allegedly received legal mail that
had been opened without his signature and outside of his
presence by Mailroom Officer Miller. He brought the issue to
the attention of Defendant Lieutenant Oneil. A few minutes
later, Defendant Oneil allegedly called Mr. Riley to the
officer's desk and stated that he would not prepare an
incident report because the letter was not legal mail.
Riley alleges that Defendant Warden Weir was aware of the
practice of opening legal mail outside of his presence
because Mr. Riley had brought this issue to her attention in
late October 2015. Defendant Weir allegedly told Mr. Riley to
submit an Inmate Request to her. Mr. Riley claims that he did
so, but he never received a response. Mr. Riley alleges that
Defendants Weir and Semple should have known that Defendant
Weir's failure to respond would cause him irreparable
damage to his right of access to the courts.
First Amendment Claim for Interference with Legal
amended complaint completely replaces the original complaint.
See Arce v. Walker, 139 F.3d 329, 332 n.4 (2d Cir.
1998) (“It is well established that an amended
complaint ordinarily supersedes the original complaint and
renders it of no legal effect.” (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted)). In the Initial Review Order,
the Court specifically described two First Amendment claims,
denial of access to the courts and interference with legal
mail. Although he was permitted leave to amend his Complaint
with regard to both First Amendment claims, Mr. Riley has
chosen to assert only the claim for denial of access to the
courts in his Amended Complaint. Thus, the claim for
interference with legal mail is considered abandoned.
the claim were not abandoned, it should be dismissed. As the
Court previously explained, to establish a violation of his
right to free speech, Mr. Riley must show that Defendants
“regularly and unjustifiably interfered” with his
legal mail. McFadden v. Fischer, Nos. 13-CV-559-FPG
& 16-CV-6105-FPG, 2016 WL 5661824, at *12 (W.D.N.Y. Sept.
30, 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing
Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 351 (2d Cir. 2003)).
Where, as here, the incidents of mail tampering are few in
number, Mr. Riley must ...