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Williams v. City of Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 10, 2020

CITY OF HARTFORD et al., Defendants.


          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Charles C. Williams is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”). He has filed this lawsuit pro se and in forma pauperis against the City of Hartford and thirteen persons employed by either the City or the DOC. The complaint alleges multiple causes of action, mostly arising from defendants' alleged tampering with Williams' legal mail.

         Although Williams was previously granted in forma pauperis status, I now conclude that he is not eligible for the benefits of this status because of his prior litigation history. Unless a prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury, federal law does not allow a prisoner to proceed in forma pauperis if he has accumulated three or more “strikes” by reason of previously filing actions or appeals that were dismissed because they were frivolous, malicious, or otherwise failed to state a claim. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Because I conclude that Williams has at least four strikes, I will vacate the Court's prior order granting in forma pauperis status. Williams must promptly pay the full court filing fee if he wishes to proceed with this action.


         Prior to filing the action now before me, Williams filed a series of three federal lawsuits while imprisoned. I will refer to these actions respectively as the “Williams I, ” “Williams II, ” and “Williams III” actions.

         The Williams I district court action

         The complaint in Williams v. Hartford Police Dep't, No. 15-cv-933-AWT (D. Conn.) (“Williams I”) was filed in June 2015. It alleged misconduct by the City of Hartford and various employees of the Hartford Police Department that led to Williams' conviction in Connecticut state court for first degree unlawful restraint. See Williams I, Doc. #1; see also State v. Williams, 172 Conn.App. 820, cert. denied, 326 Conn. 913 (2017).

         Over the course of three years, Judge Thompson dismissed certain counts of the complaint in Williams I for failure to state a claim. See Williams I, Doc. #8 (initial review order dismissing claims made under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and 42 U.S.C. § 1986); Doc. #75 (dismissing all claims against Hartford Police Department on the ground that police department is not entity subject to suit); Docs. #186, #187 (dismissing false arrest and conspiracy to arrest claims). Still other counts of the complaint were resolved in favor of the defendants on summary judgment. See Williams I, 2017 WL 11448086 (D. Conn. 2017) (Doc. #412, granting summary judgment for defendant City of Hartford and defendant Taylor); Williams I, 2017 WL 11448157 (D. Conn. 2017) (Doc. #413, granting summary judgment in the entirety to defendants Hightower and Waller, and for defendant Gogins in part).

         The litigation took a new turn, however, when the defendants jointly moved to dismiss the action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 on grounds that Williams had fabricated a document that he used to try to defend against a motion for summary judgment.[1] After conducting a hearing, Judge Thompson granted the motion and dismissed the action with prejudice by order dated August 14, 2018. Williams I, 2018 WL 8731546 (D. Conn. 2018) (Doc. #456). Judge Thompson concluded in relevant part that Williams had “falsified” an exhibit, then “compounded the fraud on the court by means of the sworn verifications he submitted along with the exhibits evidence, ” and then “after his fraud was challenged, he lied in court and continued to insist in filings that the defendants or the Hartford Police Department submitted the doctored exhibit as part of the defendants' document production.” Id. at *3.

         The Williams I appeals

         On August 20, 2018, Williams appealed from Judge Thompson's dismissal order.[2] On the same day, he also filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment. Williams I, Doc. #462. On October 24, 2018, Judge Thompson denied this motion. Williams I, Doc. #480. Williams followed with a separate notice of appeal from this ruling on November 19, 2018. Williams I, Doc. #481.

         The Second Circuit consolidated both appeals and then issued an order dismissing the appeals on February 28, 2019 that read, in its entirety, as follows:

Appellant, pro se, moves for appointment of counsel and leave to file an oversized brief. Upon due consideration, it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is DENIED and the appeals are DISMISSED because they “lack[] an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

Williams v. Hartford Police Dep't, No. 18-2465-cv, Doc. #91 (2d Cir.); Williams v. Hartford Police Dep't, 18-3523-cv, Doc. #29 (2d Cir.).[3]

         The Williams II district court action

         In December 2017, while Williams I was pending, Williams filed Williams v. Hartford, No. 3:17-cv-2098-KAD (D. Conn.) (“Williams II”). This suit sought $31 million in damages from four defendants—the City of Hartford, Detective Gogins, Corrections Officer Quiros, and whatever insurance companies may be covering them—principally for tampering with Williams' legal mail. See Williams II, Doc. #1. Judge Dooley dismissed most of the Williams II action in a series of orders. Two of the orders dismissed various counts for failure to state a claim. See Williams II, Doc. #17 (initial review order dismissing all but four claims); Williams II, 2019 WL 79427 (D. Conn. 2019) (Doc. #63, dismissing remaining claims except for one official-capacity claim for injunctive relief). Although Judge Dooley allowed one of the claims to proceed, Judge Dooley indicated that—if defendants transmitted certain assurances to the Court—she would dismiss the remaining ...

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