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Galarza v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 16, 2018

LUIS GALARZA, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT SEMPLE, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Luis Galarza has filed this complaint pro se and in forma pauperis against employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his constitutional rights arising from alleged tampering with his legal mail on one occasion. Because plaintiff has not alleged facts that give rise to plausible grounds for relief, the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice.

         Background

         Plaintiff has filed this lawsuit against officials of the Connecticut Department of Correction including Commissioner Scott Semple, Warden Scott Erfe, Deputy Warden Hannah, Mail Handlers Wislocki, Ramirez and Rivera, Correctional Officer McMahon, Captain Torres, and Lieutenant McMahon (collectively, “defendants”) in their individual and official capacities. He claims that prison officials improperly opened and delayed his receipt of a letter from his attorney.

         The following facts are assumed to be true solely for purposes of my initial evaluation of the adequacy of the allegations in the complaint. On June 6, 2017, plaintiff was called to the Lieutenant's office to get his legal mail. Lieutenant McMahon notified plaintiff that the mail room staff had opened his mail and that he would be filing an incident report. At that point, plaintiff noted that his opened letter was postmarked May 19, 2017. The letter was from plaintiff's attorney and informed plaintiff that he had 90 days to file for relief in the United States Supreme Court.

         The Court takes judicial notice that the Connecticut Supreme Court denied certification for appeal from the Connecticut Appellate Court in plaintiff's state habeas matter on May 17, 2017. See Galarza v. Comm'r of Correction, 325 Conn. 928 (2017). This was two days before the alleged postmark date for the legal correspondence that was sent from plaintiff's attorney to plaintiff.

         Due to the mail being withheld for three weeks, plaintiff alleges that he had less time to prepare for his case. Plaintiff submitted an Inmate Request to Captain Torres addressing the problems that he had been having with the mail room staff for a few years and the lack of corrective action. In response, Captain Torres gave plaintiff the defendants' names. Doc. #1 at 7 (¶ 1).

         On June 8, 2017, plaintiff contacted Deputy Warden Hannah regarding the incident with his mail, specifically that his legal mail had been improperly withheld and opened outside of his presence. He also informed Hannah that he had complained before about staff behavior at the mail room. Plaintiff then requested that Hannah remove the defendant mail handlers from the mail room. Hannah responded on June 29, 2017, explaining that the mail room reported that the mail was delivered on the day it was received, that the letter had been opened inadvertently and, per policy, an incident report had been filed. Id. at 7-8 (¶ 2), 17.

         On June 18, 2017, plaintiff submitted a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request seeking a copy of the incident report. Id. at 8 (¶ 4). FOIA Officer McMahon responded that once his documents were ready, he would be notified. Id. at 23. On June 26, 2017, plaintiff submitted an Inmate Request to Warden Erfe, seeking removal of the mail handlers, but he did not receive a response. Id. at 8-9 (¶ 5).

         On July 5, 2017, plaintiff filed a grievance, again requesting that the defendant mail handlers be removed. The grievance was denied on the basis that “inmates do not dictate staff discipline.” Id. at 27. Subsequently, plaintiff filed to appeal his Level 1 decision to Level 2 based on his disagreement with the decision from Level 1. In denying plaintiff's request, the Level 2 reviewer remarked that plaintiff had exhausted his administrative remedies. Id. at 30.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the compliant, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(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.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).

         In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of allegations in federal court complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint, a pro se complaint may not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).

         Constitutional Right of ...


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