United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR., SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Gregory Viola, currently incarcerated at the Devens Federal
Medical Center in Ayer, Massachusetts, filed this complaint
pro se pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named
Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388
(1971), which permits suits against federal employees for
violations of federal constitutional rights. Viola is
challenging his sentence on certain federal criminal charges
from 2012. He also complains about the denial of his
subsequent habeas petition by the Honorable Vanessa Bryant,
United States District Judge, who had also imposed
Viola's sentence. Judge Bryant is the only Defendant in
STANDARD OF REVIEW
section 1915 A of title 28 of the United States Code, the
Court must review all prisoner civil complaints against
governmental actors, and dismiss any portion of the complaint
that "is frivolous, malicious, or 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(b)(1), (2). 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)
(citing Weixel v. Bd. of Educ. of N.Y., 287 F.3d
138, 146 (2d Cir. 2002)). Although detailed allegations are
not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to
afford the defendant fair notice of the claims and the
grounds upon which they are based. Bell Atlantic v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A plaintiff must
plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Id. at 570. Conclusory
allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Nevertheless, it is
well-established and worth repeating that " [p]ro 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)).
factual allegations contained in Viola's complaint are
recounted herein, recited in the light most favorable to
entered a guilty plea to federal charges of wire fraud. Doc.
1 ¶ 1. On October 4, 2012, Judge Bryant sentenced him
without taking into consideration his acceptance of
responsibility for the crimes as proscribed by the United
States Sentencing Guidelines. Id. ¶¶
While preparing a habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2255, Viola discovered evidence allegedly
showing that Judge Bryant was biased against him.
Id. ¶ 3. The evidence is attached to his
complaint as Exhibit A. Id. ¶ 4.
A is a copy of an affidavit from an inmate who had been
incarcerated with Plaintiffs criminal attorney, James
Pickerstein. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. The affidavit
recounts conversations between the inmate and Pickerstein.
See Ex. A. In those conversations, Pickerstein
claims to have been upset with his former client, Viola, for
a variety of reasons, deliberately set out to "screw
him, " and to have had a relationship with
"Vanessa"(referring to Judge Bryant by her first
name) whereby she would protect him and Viola would never be
able to establish an ineffective assistance of counsel claim
or win his appeal. Id. at 2-3; Doc. 1 ¶ 4.
alleges that the affidavit also "makes clear" that
Pickerstein promised Viola that Judge Bryant would sentence
him to 24 months just to get rid of Viola because he was a
"nightmare client." Doc. 1 ¶ 5. Viola alleges
that the affidavit shows Pickerstein intended Viola to
receive a long criminal sentence in an effort to reduce his
own potential criminal sentence. Id. Viola alleges
that Judge Bryant has been in a conspiracy with Pickerstein
to "frustrate every procedural attempt of the Plaintiff
to prove this illegal conduct of [Judge Bryant] and James
Pickerstein." Id. ¶ 6.
evidence of this "conspiracy, " Viola alleges that
Judge Bryant denied a "Motion of Discovery" that
Viola filed in order to "prove these allegations"
on April 26, 2016. Id. ¶ 7.According to
Viola, Judge Bryant "showed her biasness [sic]" in
the ruling by claiming that he had not held a job since the
late 1990s and that he was a habitual gambler with huge
losses. Id. Viola asserts that her actions show
"plain biasness [sic] and slander." Id.
Viola then filed a "Motion for Recusal, " which
Viola alleges Judge Bryant improperly denied because Judge
Bryant is a fact witness to his case, and thus, her recusal
was required. Id. ¶ 8. On March 15, 2017,
Viola's § 2255 habeas corpus petition was dismissed
by Judge Bryant, "without any legal precedent"
according to Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 9.
alleges that Judge Bryant's conduct shows "a clear
pattern and abuse of conduct" in order to harm Viola
because of her "outside relationship with James
Pickerstein." Doc. 1 ¶ 10. He believes that Judge
Bryant tried to frustrate and prevent his exoneration in a
court of law. Id. Viola claims that Judge
Bryant's behavior violated his constitutionally protected
civil rights. Id. Viola seeks the costs of this
lawsuit, attorney's fees and all other relief that the
Court feels is just and proper. Id. at 3.
brings claims pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of
Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388(1971).
Bivens is analogous to an action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 except that § 1983 applies to state actors,
rather than federal actors. See Mahoney v. Nat'l Org.
for Women, 681 F.Supp. 129, 132 (D. Conn. 1987).
Analysis of Bivens claims therefore parallel the
analysis used to evaluate state prisoners' § 1983
claims. See Tavarez v. Reno, 54 F.3d 109, 110 (2d
Cir. 1995) ("Because the two actions share the same
'practicalities of litigation', federal courts have
typically incorporated § 1983 law into Bivens
actions." (collecting cases) (citation omitted)). To
state a claim under Bivens, a claimant must show (1)
a deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws
of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation of the
right was caused by an official acting under color of federal
law. See Mahoney, 681 F.Supp. at 132 (citing
Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149,
required by § 1915 A, the Court must dismiss any portion
of Viola's Complaint that "is frivolous, malicious,
or 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(b)(1), (2). Viola clearly seeks relief from someone who
is immune from such relief and fails to state any claims to
which he is entitled to relief. ...