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Gillums v. Scott Semple Commissioner Connecticut Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 3, 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.

         On July 12, 2018, the Court issued an Initial Review Order, dismissing Gillums' complaint, Doc. 1, with leave to file an amended complaint by a date certain. See Id. at 14. On July 23, 2018, Gillums filed an Amended Complaint. Doc. 11. The Court now reviews Gillums' Amended 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' Amended Complaint, in part, and permits Gillums' claim for denial of access to the courts to proceed to service.


         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)). "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' original complaint and his Amended Complaint.[1]

         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 pretrial detainees at other DOC correctional institutions such as Garner, Cheshire, and MacDougall-Walker, where high-bail, mental health or security risk group pretrial detainees are housed with level 2-5 sentenced inmates. Amended Complaint, Doc. 11 ¶ 1.

         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.

         Gillums is a defendant in two pending criminal cases in Connecticut; one in Norwalk, and one in Derby. Doc. 11 ¶ 2. Gillums has had counsel appointed to him by the Division of Public Defender Services to defend him against the charges brought in those cases. Id. However, Gillums has not had adequate access to his counsel. Id. In five months, Gillums has met with the counsel assigned to his Norwalk case once at the Norwalk Superior Court, for a total of seven minutes; and with the counsel assigned to his Derby case once at the Derby Superior Court, for a total of five minutes. Id. Gillums has never received written correspondence from counsel, nor has he communicated with counsel by telephone. Id. When Gillums is produced at Court, "each occurrence has resulted in an allocution for adjournment." Id.

         During Gillums brief discussions with counsel, he was informed that he "was not permitted to peruse or receive copies of his criminal case file, Connecticut procedural statutory rules or any other information" that pertains to Gillums' pending criminal cases. Id. As a result, Gillums is "essentially proceeding to trial by ambush." Id. Counsel are non-communicative and have not disclosed to Gillums the nature of the charges against him. Id. at 6. Counsel have not inquired as to Gillums' version of the events underlying his ...

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