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Gillums v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 12, 2018




         Plaintiff Kirk Kapeace Gillums, a pretrial detainee currently detained at Bridgeport Correctional Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has brought this civil rights action pro se against the warden of the Bridgeport Correctional Center, Hannah, and the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Corrections ("DOC"), Scott Semple, requesting injunctive relief.

         Magistrate Judge Garfinkel granted Gillums' motion to proceed in forma pauperis on June 22, 2018. See Doc. 8. The Court now reviews Gillums' Complaint to determine whether his claims are "frivolous" or may proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the following reasons, the Court dismisses Gillums' Complaint.


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint and dismiss any portion that "(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). Although highly detailed allegations are not required, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).[1] "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint must provide "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         "[W]hether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will [ultimately] . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 663-64. When "well-pleaded factual allegations" are present, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679. Factual disputes do not factor into a plausibility analysis under Iqbal and its progeny.

         "Although all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is 'inapplicable to legal conclusions.'" LaMagna v. Brown, 474 Fed.Appx. 788, 789 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). See also Amaker v. New York State Dept. of Corr. Servs., 435 Fed.Appx. 52, 54 (2d Cir. 2011) (same). Accordingly, the Court is not "bound to accept conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions." Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Consequently, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         With respect to pro se litigants, it is well-established that "[p]ro se submissions are reviewed with special solicitude, and 'must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Matheson v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., 706 Fed.Appx. 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam)). See also Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (same); Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants); Boykin v. KeyCorp., 521 F.3d 202, 214 (2d Cir. 2008) ("A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007))); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (where the plaintiff proceeds pro se, a court is "obliged to construe his pleadings liberally" (quoting McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004))); Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007) (in reviewing a pro se complaint, the court "must liberally construe [the] pleadings, and must interpret [the] complaint to raise the strongest arguments it suggests").

         However, despite being subject to liberal interpretation, a pro se plaintiff's complaint still must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.Appx. 60, 61 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).


         The following factual allegations are derived from Gillums' Complaint.

         Gillums is a pretrial detainee at the Bridgeport Correctional Center ("BCC"). Complaint, Doc. 1 ¶ 2. The Connecticut DOC does not operate a legal program for pretrial detainees at BCC. Id. ¶ 5. DOC has a policy to refer prisoners to the Inmate's Legal Assistance Program ("ILAP"); however, ILAP only assists pretrial detainees at BCC with 'constructive custody' or civil rights issues. Id. ¶ 4. ILAP does not offer meaningful assistance with criminal cases. Id. Further, while the DOC does not provide pretrial detainees at BCC with legal materials, it does operate a legal program and provides access to law books and research materials for sentenced prisoners at other DOC prison facilities. Id. ¶ 5.

         Since February 21, 2018, to date, Gillums has requested access to law books, a law library, or trained legal personnel. Id. ¶ 1. On March 14, 2018, Gillums filed a formal grievance with the BCC grievance office. Id. ¶ 3. Despite such requests and the lodging of a grievance, Gillums has not been provided access to legal research materials. Id. ¶ 2. Since he is unable to learn the law and participate in his own defense, Gillums "is compelled to negotiate a plea agreement" in his criminal cases pending in Connecticut state court with "no cognizance of the rules or procedures of law or current case developments which may benefit [him] or mitigate [his] circumstances in consequences of trial proceedings." Id. ¶ 6.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Gillums seeks injunctive relief against Defendants Semple and Hannah pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Gillums does not specify any legal claims against Defendants, however, his prayer for relief requests that the Court "issue a Temporary Restraining Order and injoin the Connecticut Department of Corrections to allow me and all other similarly situated pretrial detainees in the State of Connecticut immediate access to lawbooks, research materials and trained correctional personnel to assist with legal research." Doc. 1 at 6 (sic). Construing Gillums' Complaint liberally, and interpreting it to raise the strongest claims it presents, the Court finds that Gillums advances a Fourteenth Amendment claim for denial of access to the courts; a ...

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