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Victor v. State

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 14, 2019

RICHARDSON VICTOR, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT & ROBERT E. BYRON, Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Richardson Victor is currently incarcerated at Brooklyn Correctional Institution and has filed a pro se Complaint, presumably pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants Robert E. Byron and the state of Connecticut.[1] Doc. 1 ("Compl."). Plaintiff alleges that Byron, who is either a public defender or an appointed attorney in the state of Connecticut, violated his due process rights by withdrawing the appeal in Plaintiff's criminal case without Plaintiff's knowledge or consent. Id. ¶¶ 3, 7; id. at 18, 27. For the following reasons, his Complaint is dismissed in full.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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." See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2) (2012). 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)).[2] "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 the 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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. 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) (quoting Rolon v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal 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) (declaring that 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 assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to "raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].").

         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). Therefore, even in a pro se case, "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Nor may the Court "invent factual allegations" that the plaintiff has not pleaded. Id.

         II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         These factual allegations, accepted as true only for the purposes of this Order, are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and its exhibits.

         On November 22, 2013, a Connecticut state court sentenced Plaintiff in a criminal proceeding. Compl. ¶ 2. Defendant Robert E. Byron presumably represented Plaintiff on appeal, for which a motion was filed on February 28, 2014. Id. ¶ 2; id. at 18. Plaintiff identifies Byron as a "special public defender," id. at 27, but the Office of the Chief Public Defender in Connecticut calls Byron "the lawyer who was appointed to represent [Plaintiff] on direct appeal," id. at 18.

         A reply brief was due to the appellate court on September 12, 2014, and oral arguments had been scheduled for May 8, 2015. Id. ¶¶ 4, 5. However, on May 8, 2015, Plaintiff received a letter from Byron indicating that Byron did not file a reply brief because he did not believe he had "a good faith basis to continue to prosecute the appeal." Id. at 14. Moreover, he had withdrawn Plaintiff's appeal. Id. ¶ 6; id. at 14.

         Byron appears to have acted without Plaintiff's knowledge or consent. Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiff was also never informed whether the appellate court had granted Byron's request to withdraw the appeal until he received a letter from the Office of the Chief State's Attorney in Connecticut on April 28, 2016, stating that the appellate court had accepted Byron's withdrawal and closed the case on May 8, 2015. Id. ¶¶ 7, 9; id. at 12. Byron's withdrawal appears to have stymied Plaintiff's other pro se attempts to file other motions to challenge his criminal conviction as well. See Id. at 37-41.

         Plaintiff alleges that Byron's actions constitute a violation of his due process rights. Id. ΒΆ 10. In addition, Plaintiff implicates the state of Connecticut on the basis that "[s]ince Robert E. Byron, a special public defender, is an extension of the State of Connecticut, the state is liable for his ...


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