United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
A. Bolden United States District Judge
Brown (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at
Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”),
filed this Complaint pro se, bringing claims under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”). Mr.
Brown's Complaint was filed on April 24, 2017, ECF No. 1,
and his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was
granted on April 27, 2017, ECF No. 6. He brings claims
against First Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Suzanne Sutton,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Beth L. Baldwin, Investigator
James Bender, Chief Disciplinary Counsel Patricia A. King,
Reviewing Committee Attorney Joseph D. Fotti, Grievance
Attorney Gail S. Kotowski, Bar Counsel Member Christopher L.
Slack, Reviewing Committee Member John Doe, State Trooper
Fratellenico, and Sergeant Supervisor Gunsalus (collectively,
“Defendants”). Mr. Brown challenges the way
Defendants handled his grievance for attorney misconduct
relating to a charge of violation of probation.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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.
reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court must
“liberally construe [the] pleadings, ” and
interpret the complaint to “raise the strongest
arguments it suggests.” Abbas v. Dixon, 480
F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007); see also Tracy v.
Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-03 (2d Cir. 2010)
(discussing special solicitude that courts ought to show to
pro se litigants). Although detailed allegations are
not required, the complaint must still 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. See 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.
Brown alleges that he was charged with violation of
probation, which he alleges “never happen[ed].”
Compl. at 8, ECF No. 1. He alleges that he hired an attorney
to represent him on the violation charge and that the
attorney charged him $5, 000 as well as additional money to
hire a private investigator. Id. Mr. Brown alleges
that the attorney that he hired never actually retained a
private investigator despite charging Mr. Brown for the
expense. Id. Mr. Brown further alleges that
“[t]he investigation officer never got proper
documentation of [the violation of probation], ”
despite the attorney charging him the expense. Id.
2014, Mr. Brown alleges that he filed a grievance against
that attorney with the Bar Association, alleging misconduct
and a violation of ethics codes. Compl. at 8. He alleges that
the Disciplinary Counsel refused “[t]o properly
investigate” his allegations and improperly
“dismiss[ed] [his] complaint” against the
Brown further alleges that the “state trooper[s] also
closed the case without proper paperwork.” Compl at 8.
He further alleges that “[a]ll the people mention[ed]
in my case intentionally conspired to cover up a
review of Mr. Brown's Complaint and his allegations shows
that Mr. Brown's claims are a challenge to a state
disciplinary proceeding that he initiated against his
attorney and a challenge to the actions of state police
troopers in closing an underlying criminal case. See
Compl. at 8. For the reasons described below, even when the
Court construes Mr. Brown's Complaint
“liberally”, Abbas, 480 F.3d at 639, Mr.
Brown cannot state a claim on either of these grounds, and
the Court therefore dismisses his Complaint under 28 U.S.C.
Sutton, Baldwin, Bender, King, Fotti, Kotowski, Slack, and
Doe (collectively, the “Disciplinary Counsel
Defendants”) appear to have been involved in the
grievance complaint Mr. Brown filed against his attorney. Mr.
Brown's claim against them stems from his belief that his
grievance complaint was not handled properly. As explained
below, the Court concludes that Mr. Brown's claim against
the Disciplinary Counsel Defendants is barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See District of
Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462
(1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413
Rooker-Feldman doctrine . . . is confined to cases
of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases
brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries causes
by state-court judgments rendered before the district court
proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and
rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Basic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005).
The Second Circuit has “specifically determined that
federal courts are precluded by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine from reviewing a claim attacking a state court's
decision regarding the discipline of an attorney.”
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