United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §
Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.
Omar Awad was a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut
Department of Correction at the time of the filing of his
complaint. He has filed a complaint pro se and
in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging in substance that he was denied access to a prison
law library and to legal resources. For the reasons stated
below, I will dismiss his complaint without prejudice.
Awad is no longer in the custody of the Department of
Correction, he was a prisoner at the time of his filing of
this complaint at Garner Correctional Institution. His
complaint names the following five defendants: Commissioner
of Correction Scott Semple, Warden Anthony Corcella, Deputy
Warden Daniell Borges, Deputy Warden David Egan, and Deputy
Commissioner Seplack. Doc. #1 at 1, 4-5 (¶¶ 4-8).
following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted
as true only for purposes of this ruling. Awad was confined
at Garner from May 10, 2018. Doc. #1 at 7 (¶ 1). From
June 2 to September 19, 2018, and then again from October 13
to November 26, 2018, Awad was confined in the F-Block Unit,
which is the restrictive housing unit (“RHU”) at
Garner. Ibid. (¶ 2). He “ha[d] reason to
believe that the defendants. . . [were] den[y]ing him access
to [a] law library . . . .” Ibid. (¶ 3).
Awad had civil and criminal cases pending and was unable to
research the issues raised therein, which would help him
succeed in court. Ibid. (¶ 4).
wrote several requests to his unit manager, counselor, and
other DOC officials regarding his inability to access legal
resources at Garner. Id. at 7-8 (¶ 5). The
officials responded that Garner does not have a law library.
Id. at 8 (¶ 5). Awad also filed an
administrative grievance and wrote a letter to the defendants
claiming that his inability to access a law library violates
his due process rights, and that the Inmate Legal Aid Program
(“ILAP”) is unreliable because it takes at least
two weeks to schedule a legal call with its attorneys and at
least thirty days for them to respond by mail, thereby making
it difficult for Awad to meet deadlines imposed by the
courts. Ibid. (¶¶ 6-7). Moreover, ILAP
does not assist inmates with criminal matters and has misled
Awad on two occasions in a civil case. Ibid. (¶
8). Awad was released from custody on January 11, 2019. Doc.
#10 at 1.
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 complaint, 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).
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 Atl. Corp. 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).
claims that defendants deprived him of his rights under the
First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments by impeding his right
to access the courts. See Doc. #1 at 9 (¶¶
9-10), id. at 10-12 (¶¶ 2-6). Because Awad
is no longer confined at Garner, his claims for declaratory
and injunctive relief are now moot, and I will dismiss them.
See Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 272 (2d Cir.
2006) (“In this circuit, an inmate's transfer from
a prison facility generally moots claims for declaratory and
injunctive relief against officials of that
of access to courts
of his lack of access to a prison library or other legal
assistance, Awad claims that he was denied his constitutional
right of access to the courts. The Supreme Court has long
recognized a constitutional right of access to the courts,
notwithstanding that the right's precise source in the
Constitution remains uncertain. See Christopher v.
Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 414-15 & n.12 (2002); see
also Blake v. Dowe, 36 F.Supp.3d 271, 276-77 (D. Conn.
2014). The Supreme Court has also ruled that the right of
access to the courts “requires prison authorities to
assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful
legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law
libraries or adequate assistance form persons trained in the
law.” Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828
(1977). But “[b]ecause Bounds did not create
an abstract, freestanding right to a law library or legal
assistance, an inmate cannot establish relevant actual injury
simply by establishing that his prison's law library or
legal assistance program is subpar in some theoretical
sense.” Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351
(1996). Instead, a prisoner “must go one step further
and demonstrate that the alleged shortcomings in the library
or legal assistance program hindered his efforts to pursue a
legal claim.” Ibid.
means a plaintiff like Awad must describe the underlying
cause of action he alleges to have been stymied, how
defendants' official acts caused the frustration of his
suit, and that the underlying cause of action is
nonfrivolous. See Christopher, 536 U.S. at 416-18.
Awad does not do that here. First, rather than describe the
cases he alleges to have been blocked, he only states that he
“ha[s] civil and criminal cases in court” and
that ILAP has “mislead me not once but twice in a civil
matter.” Doc. #1 at 7-8 (¶¶ 4, 8). Second,
Awad has not alleged any facts about these cases to provide
defendants with notice that they are meritorious. And third,
although Awad alleges defendants have made him unable to keep
up with court deadlines, id. at 8 (¶ 7), he has
not identified any action or claim that has been dismissed
for that reason. Accordingly, Awad has failed to plead any
specific harm resulting from his lack of library access or
the alleged inadequacy of ILAP, and so he has failed to state
a claim for a denial of his right to access the courts.
Consequently, I will dismiss his access to the courts claim.
See Fowler v. Dep't of Corr., 2017 WL 3401252,
at *7 (D. Conn. 2017) (dismissing
denial-of-right-of-access-to-courts claim for lack of
sufficiently detailed description of underlying court case
and how it was impeded by denial of access to prison law