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Tatum v. Ladd-Smith

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 25, 2018

EDGAR TATUM, Plaintiff,
v.
IVAN LADD-SMITH, Defendant.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Edgar Tatum (“Mr. Tatum”), currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, and proceeding pro se, has sued Ivan Ladd-Smith under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which permits suits against federal employees for violations of federal constitutional rights. Mr. Tatum alleges that Mr. Ladd-Smith (“Mr. Ladd-Smith”) has deprived him of his right of access to the courts.

         For the reasons that follow, the Complaint is DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Mr. Ivan Ladd-Smith works for the Honorable Warren W. Eginton, Senior United States District Judge in the District of Connecticut. Mr. Tatum alleges that Mr. Ladd-Smith interfered with Mr. Tatum's access to the courts by failing to mail Mr. Tatum a copy of a ruling Mr. Ladd-Smith entered on the Court's docket.

         On February 13, 2015, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a mandate ordering that Mr. Tatum's motion for leave to file a second or successive habeas petition be transferred to the District of Connecticut.[1] On May 5, 2015, Judge Eginton issued an order to show cause, directing Mr. Tatum to file a response addressing whether the limitations period on his state habeas petition should be equitably tolled based on two date stamps that preceded the filing date on the state court docket. Mr. Ladd-Smith docketed the order in the matter of Tatum v. Murphy, No. 3:12-cv-01193 (WWE).

         On June 10, 2015, recognizing that Judge Eginton had already once denied Mr. Tatum's state habeas petition as untimely in Tatum v. Murphy, No. 3:12-cv-01193 (WWE), the Honorable Vanessa L. Bryant, United States District Judge in the District of Connecticut, entered an order transferring Mr. Tatum's case to the Second Circuit to determine whether Mr. Tatum should be permitted to file a second or successive habeas case.[2] Although Mr. Tatum alleges that this order was entered in Tatum v. Murphy, a review of court records shows that the Order was entered in Tatum v. Chapdelaine, No. 3:15-cv-00330 (VLB).

         On July 20, 2015, in Tatum v. Murphy, Judge Eginton determined Mr. Tatum's habeas petition was untimely and declined to reopen the case. On July 20, 2015, Judge Eginton denied Mr. Tatum's motion for reconsideration. Mr. Tatum alleges that the Court never responded to Mr. Tatum's response to the Court's Order to show cause.

         In February 2016, Mr. Tatum allegedly filed a grievance against Assistant Connecticut State Attorney General Tammara Grosso, alleging negligence.[3] The Grievance Panel allegedly sent Mr. Tatum a copy of Judge Eginton's July 8, 2015, Order dismissing his habeas petition as time-barred, a ruling docketed by Mr. Ladd-Smith.

         Mr. Tatum allegedly wrote to the District of Connecticut about not receiving the ruling and allegedly received no response. Mr. Tatum then filed an appeal with the Second Circuit explaining his reasons for the delay in filing. The Court of Appeals allegedly dismissed the appeal as untimely. Mr. Tatum sought reconsideration en banc, which was denied.

         Mr. Tatum then filed this lawsuit alleging that Mr. Ladd-Smith has deprived him of his right to access the courts. See Morello v. James, 810 F.2d 344, 346 (2d Cir. 1987) (recognizing sources of the right of access to include the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, section 2). He seeks injunctive relief, money damages, and attorney fees and costs.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review 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.” Id. 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).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford a defendant 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. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, ...


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