United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INIITAL REVIEW ORDER
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Darby (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at
MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield,
Connecticut, filed this Complaint pro se under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Darby's Complaint was received on
April 20, 2017, and his motion to proceed in forma
pauperis was granted on April 19, 2017. Mr. Darby has
sued Attorney Robert J. Meredith (“Defendant”),
the Special Public Defender appointed to represent Mr. Darby
in a state criminal matter and challenges the representation
he was provided in the state criminal proceeding.
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. 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
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)). “[A] pro se
complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers
and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it
appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of
facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to
relief.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106
(1976) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
with several criminal counts in state court, Mr. Darby
alleges that he initially was to be charged with a federal
count bank robbery. That charge allegedly became a state
charge of robbery in the second degree and then was increased
to robbery in the first degree. Ultimately, the State of
Connecticut (“State”) charged Mr. Darby with
robbery in the first degree, threatening in the first degree,
larceny in the second degree, and breach of peace in the
second degree. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1. Mr. Meredith served as
his Special Public Defender. Id. at 2.
allegedly meeting with Mr. Darby only once, Mr. Meredith
tried to persuade Mr. Darby to accept a plea offer.
Id. Mr. Darby alleges that Mr. Meredith provided
inadequate representation and seeks to have him sanctioned.
Id. (“I would like to file charges against
said attorney counts of legal fraud and/or
malpractice”). Because Mr. Meredith is paid by the
State, Mr. Darby argues, he is working to advance the
State's objectives and not Mr. Darby's. Id.
at 2-3 (“Ninety percent or more of [Mr. Meredith's]
pay grade is coming from the state of Connecticut to
represent indigent prisoners[.] … He is protecting his
bread and butter by doing what the courts want him to do and
not what's lawful to do.”).
Darby also filed a copy of a Pro Se Prisoner Civil Rights
Complaint Form, titled “Amended Complaint, ” in
which he alleges claims of “legal malpractice, legal
fraud, and violat[ions of his] U.S. Amendment Rights”
against Mr. Meredith, citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983, §
1985, and § 1986. See Pro Se Prisoner Civil
Rights Complaint Form, ECF No. 7, 2. Mr. Darby does not
include specific allegations against Mr. Meredith in this
Complaint Form. He does note, on the portion of the form that
asks him to sign a Declaration on page 8, that “there
isn't a page 8 … can you inform me why it said one
and it was not one.” Id.
state a claim under section 1983, Mr. Darby must allege that
his constitutional or federally protected rights were
violated by a person acting under color of state law. A
person acts under color of state law when he exercises
“some right or privilege created by the State …
or by a person for whom the State is responsible, ” and
is “a person who may fairly be said to be a state
actor.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S.
922, 937 (1982).
Meredith, however, is a Special Public Defender. A
“public defender does not act under color of state law
when performing a lawyer's traditional functions as
counsel to a defendant in a criminal proceeding.”
Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981).
Although paid by the State, Mr. Meredith is not a state actor
under Section 1983. See Rodriguez v. Weprin, 116
F.3d 62, 65-66 (2d Cir. 1997) (“[I]t is
well-established that court-appointed attorneys performing a
lawyer's traditional functions as counsel to defendant do
not act “under color of state law” and therefore
are not subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983”)
(citing Housand v. Heiman, 594 F.2d 923, 924-25 (2d
Cir.1979) (per curiam)); see also Polk County v.
Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981) (public defenders do
not act under color of state law).
otherwise private person, however, including a private
attorney, can act under color of state law if he conspired
with state officials to deprive a plaintiff of his
constitutional rights. Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S.
914, 920 (1984) (“Although appointed counsel in a state
criminal prosecution does not act ‘under color of'
state law in the normal course of conducting the defense, an
otherwise private person acts ‘under color of'
state law when engaged in a conspiracy with state officials
to deprive another of federal rights.”) (internal
conspiracy claim must be pleaded with specificity. See
Ciambriello v. Cty. of Nassau, 292 F.3d 307, 325 (2d
Cir. 2002) (dismissing conspiracy allegations as
“inadequate” because they were “strictly
conclusory” and did not provide “details of time
and place, ” or “specify in detail the factual
basis necessary to enable [the defendants] intelligently to
prepare their defense.”) (internal citations omitted);
Dwares v. City of N.Y.,985 F.2d 94, 100 (2d
Cir.1993) (“[C]onclusory, vague, or general allegations
that the defendants have engaged in a conspiracy to deprive
the plaintiff of his constitutional rights are properly