WALKER v. DICKSON

3:02cv1015(CFD).

2004 | Cited 0 times | D. Connecticut | September 21, 2004

RULING AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Keon Walker, an inmate confined at the State ofConnecticut Enfield Correctional Institution, commenced thiscivil rights action against defendant "Counselor Dickson," who isa Connecticut Corrections Counselor at the State of ConnecticutHartford Corrections Center ("HCC"). Walker alleges thatCounselor Dickson denied him access to the courts when he andanother HCC counselor would not leave their office to permit himto speak to his attorney in private on the telephone. Walker alsoalleges that Dickson placed a collect call on his behalf to hisattorney the following day, but the attorney would not accept thecall. Dickson has filed a motion for summary judgment. By orderfiled October 22, 2003, the court informed Walker of hisobligation to respond to Dickson's motion for summary judgment.Walker was cautioned that failure to respond to the order withintwenty-one days would result in the dismissal of this case. Todate, Walker has not responded to the order or communicated withthe court in any way. For the reasons that follow, Dickson'smotion is granted.

I. Standard of Review

In a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the movingparty to establish that there are no genuine issues of materialfact in dispute and that it is entitled to judgment as a matterof law. See Rule 56(c), Fed.R. Civ. P.; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); White v. ABCO Engineering Corp.,221 F.3d 293, 300 (2d Cir. 2000). A court must grant summary judgment"`if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, andadmissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show thatthere is no genuine issue as to any material fact. . . .'" Minerv. Glen Falls, 999 F.2d 655, 661 (2d Cir. 1993) (citationomitted). A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine "`if theevidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdictfor the nonmoving party.'" Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch.Dist., 963 F.2d 520, 523 (2d Cir.) (quoting Anderson,477 U.S. at 248), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 965 (1992). After discovery, ifthe nonmoving party "has failed to make a sufficient showing onan essential element of [its] case with respect to which [it] hasthe burden of proof," then summary judgment is appropriate.Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

To defeat a motion for summary judgment that is supported bydocumentary evidence and sworn affidavits, a plaintiff "must domore than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as tothe material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. ZenithRadio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). He "must come forwardwith enough evidence to support a jury verdict in [his] favor,and the motion will not be defeated merely . . . on the basis ofconjecture or surmise." Trans Sport, Inc. v. Starter Sportswear,Inc., 964 F.2d 186, 188 (2d Cir. 1992) (citation and internalquotation marks omitted). The court resolves "all ambiguities anddraw[s] all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party in orderto determine how a reasonable jury would decide." Aldrich,963 F.2d at 523. Thus, "[o]nly when reasonable minds could not differas to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper."Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.), cert.denied, 502 U.S. 849 (1991). See also Suburban Propane v.Proctor Gas, Inc., 953 F.2d 780, 788 (2d Cir. 1992). Where one party is proceeding pro se, the court reads thepro se party's papers liberally and interprets them to raisethe strongest arguments suggested therein. See Burgos v.Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). Despite this liberalinterpretation, however, a "bald assertion," unsupported byevidence, cannot overcome a properly supported motion for summaryjudgment. Carey v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d Cir. 1991).

II. Facts1

In November 2000, Walker filed a petition for writ of habeascorpus in the Connecticut Superior Court challenging the amountof time credited to his state sentence for time spent in jailawaiting sentencing. Walker was represented by counsel in thathabeas action.

On July 26, 2001, Walker was discharged from the custody of theConnecticut Department of Correction for time served in the casehe was challenging in his state habeas petition. On August 16,2001, the respondent in that habeas action moved to dismiss thecase on the ground that Walker's discharge rendered the casemoot. At the October 11, 2001 hearing on respondent's motion, thecourt learned that Walker's attorney had been trying for twoweeks to contact Walker, but had been unsuccessful and was notpresent for the hearing. The court granted the motion to dismissbut, at Walker's counsel's request (which was communicated to theCourt by respondent's counsel), gave Walker the opportunity toreopen the case by November 1, 2001. The court stated that if nomotion to reopen were filed, the dismissal would become final onNovember 1, 2001. On October 24, 2001, Walker was readmitted to the custody ofthe Department of Correction on unrelated charges. On October 31,2001, Walker's counsel filed a motion to reopen the dismissal ofthe state habeas action. The Superior Court denied the motion onNovember 19, 2001, on the ground that Walker's discharge hadrendered the petition moot. Although Walker filed an appeal ofthe dismissal of the habeas action, he failed to submit amemorandum in accordance with the Connecticut Appellate Court'sorder and the appeal was dismissed.

As mentioned, Walker has alleged here that he was not permittedby Counselor Dickson to receive a telephone call at HCC from hisattorney in the state habeas action in private in Dickson'soffice on October 30, 2001. However, the next day, Walkeralleges, Dickson placed a collect call to Walker's attorney forWalker, but the attorney would not accept it.

III. Discussion

Dickson argues that Walker has not shown an actual injury tosupport his access to the court's claim.

In Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996), the Supreme Courtclarified what is encompassed in an inmate's right of access tothe courts and what constitutes standing to bring a claim for theviolation of that right. The Court held that to show that thedefendants violated his right of access to the courts, an inmatemust allege facts demonstrating an actual injury stemming fromthe defendants' unconstitutional conduct. See id. at 349. Asan illustration, the Court noted that if an inmate were able toshow that, as a result of the defendant's action, he was unableto file an initial complaint or petition, or that the complainthe filed was so technically deficient that it was dismissedwithout a consideration of the merits of the claim, he couldstate a claim for denial of access to the courts. See id. at351. The Court, however, specifically disclaimed any requirement thatprison officials ensure that inmates have sufficient resources todiscover grievances or litigate effectively once their claims arebrought before the court. See id. at 355.

Dickson has filed a copy of the state court records indicatingthat Walker's attorney filed a timely motion to reopen thedismissal of the state habeas action on October 31, 2001. Despitespecific notice from the court, Walker has not presented anycontrary evidence. That Walker's motion to reopen was ultimatelyunsuccessful, without more, does not support a claim of denial ofaccess to the courts. Because Walker has presented no evidence inopposition to Dickson's evidence, he fails to meet his burden.Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.

IV. Conclusion

Defendant's motion for summary judgment [doc. #21] isGRANTED. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment in defendant'sfavor and close this case.

SO ORDERED.

1. The facts are taken from Defendant's Local Rule 56(a)1Statement [doc. #22] and exhibits attached to defendant'smemorandum [doc. #23]. Because the statement is unopposed, thefacts are deemed admitted. See D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 56(a)1.

RULING AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Keon Walker, an inmate confined at the State ofConnecticut Enfield Correctional Institution, commenced thiscivil rights action against defendant "Counselor Dickson," who isa Connecticut Corrections Counselor at the State of ConnecticutHartford Corrections Center ("HCC"). Walker alleges thatCounselor Dickson denied him access to the courts when he andanother HCC counselor would not leave their office to permit himto speak to his attorney in private on the telephone. Walker alsoalleges that Dickson placed a collect call on his behalf to hisattorney the following day, but the attorney would not accept thecall. Dickson has filed a motion for summary judgment. By orderfiled October 22, 2003, the court informed Walker of hisobligation to respond to Dickson's motion for summary judgment.Walker was cautioned that failure to respond to the order withintwenty-one days would result in the dismissal of this case. Todate, Walker has not responded to the order or communicated withthe court in any way. For the reasons that follow, Dickson'smotion is granted.

I. Standard of Review

In a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the movingparty to establish that there are no genuine issues of materialfact in dispute and that it is entitled to judgment as a matterof law. See Rule 56(c), Fed.R. Civ. P.; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); White v. ABCO Engineering Corp.,221 F.3d 293, 300 (2d Cir. 2000). A court must grant summary judgment"`if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, andadmissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show thatthere is no genuine issue as to any material fact. . . .'" Minerv. Glen Falls, 999 F.2d 655, 661 (2d Cir. 1993) (citationomitted). A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine "`if theevidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdictfor the nonmoving party.'" Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch.Dist., 963 F.2d 520, 523 (2d Cir.) (quoting Anderson,477 U.S. at 248), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 965 (1992). After discovery, ifthe nonmoving party "has failed to make a sufficient showing onan essential element of [its] case with respect to which [it] hasthe burden of proof," then summary judgment is appropriate.Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

To defeat a motion for summary judgment that is supported bydocumentary evidence and sworn affidavits, a plaintiff "must domore than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as tothe material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. ZenithRadio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). He "must come forwardwith enough evidence to support a jury verdict in [his] favor,and the motion will not be defeated merely . . . on the basis ofconjecture or surmise." Trans Sport, Inc. v. Starter Sportswear,Inc., 964 F.2d 186, 188 (2d Cir. 1992) (citation and internalquotation marks omitted). The court resolves "all ambiguities anddraw[s] all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party in orderto determine how a reasonable jury would decide." Aldrich,963 F.2d at 523. Thus, "[o]nly when reasonable minds could not differas to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper."Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.), cert.denied, 502 U.S. 849 (1991). See also Suburban Propane v.Proctor Gas, Inc., 953 F.2d 780, 788 (2d Cir. 1992). Where one party is proceeding pro se, the court reads thepro se party's papers liberally and interprets them to raisethe strongest arguments suggested therein. See Burgos v.Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). Despite this liberalinterpretation, however, a "bald assertion," unsupported byevidence, cannot overcome a properly supported motion for summaryjudgment. Carey v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d Cir. 1991).

II. Facts1

In November 2000, Walker filed a petition for writ of habeascorpus in the Connecticut Superior Court challenging the amountof time credited to his state sentence for time spent in jailawaiting sentencing. Walker was represented by counsel in thathabeas action.

On July 26, 2001, Walker was discharged from the custody of theConnecticut Department of Correction for time served in the casehe was challenging in his state habeas petition. On August 16,2001, the respondent in that habeas action moved to dismiss thecase on the ground that Walker's discharge rendered the casemoot. At the October 11, 2001 hearing on respondent's motion, thecourt learned that Walker's attorney had been trying for twoweeks to contact Walker, but had been unsuccessful and was notpresent for the hearing. The court granted the motion to dismissbut, at Walker's counsel's request (which was communicated to theCourt by respondent's counsel), gave Walker the opportunity toreopen the case by November 1, 2001. The court stated that if nomotion to reopen were filed, the dismissal would become final onNovember 1, 2001. On October 24, 2001, Walker was readmitted to the custody ofthe Department of Correction on unrelated charges. On October 31,2001, Walker's counsel filed a motion to reopen the dismissal ofthe state habeas action. The Superior Court denied the motion onNovember 19, 2001, on the ground that Walker's discharge hadrendered the petition moot. Although Walker filed an appeal ofthe dismissal of the habeas action, he failed to submit amemorandum in accordance with the Connecticut Appellate Court'sorder and the appeal was dismissed.

As mentioned, Walker has alleged here that he was not permittedby Counselor Dickson to receive a telephone call at HCC from hisattorney in the state habeas action in private in Dickson'soffice on October 30, 2001. However, the next day, Walkeralleges, Dickson placed a collect call to Walker's attorney forWalker, but the attorney would not accept it.

III. Discussion

Dickson argues that Walker has not shown an actual injury tosupport his access to the court's claim.

In Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996), the Supreme Courtclarified what is encompassed in an inmate's right of access tothe courts and what constitutes standing to bring a claim for theviolation of that right. The Court held that to show that thedefendants violated his right of access to the courts, an inmatemust allege facts demonstrating an actual injury stemming fromthe defendants' unconstitutional conduct. See id. at 349. Asan illustration, the Court noted that if an inmate were able toshow that, as a result of the defendant's action, he was unableto file an initial complaint or petition, or that the complainthe filed was so technically deficient that it was dismissedwithout a consideration of the merits of the claim, he couldstate a claim for denial of access to the courts. See id. at351. The Court, however, specifically disclaimed any requirement thatprison officials ensure that inmates have sufficient resources todiscover grievances or litigate effectively once their claims arebrought before the court. See id. at 355.

Dickson has filed a copy of the state court records indicatingthat Walker's attorney filed a timely motion to reopen thedismissal of the state habeas action on October 31, 2001. Despitespecific notice from the court, Walker has not presented anycontrary evidence. That Walker's motion to reopen was ultimatelyunsuccessful, without more, does not support a claim of denial ofaccess to the courts. Because Walker has presented no evidence inopposition to Dickson's evidence, he fails to meet his burden.Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.

IV. Conclusion

Defendant's motion for summary judgment [doc. #21] isGRANTED. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment in defendant'sfavor and close this case.

SO ORDERED.

1. The facts are taken from Defendant's Local Rule 56(a)1Statement [doc. #22] and exhibits attached to defendant'smemorandum [doc. #23]. Because the statement is unopposed, thefacts are deemed admitted. See D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 56(a)1.

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