United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.
Larry Rafiq Samuels, a prisoner at the Montgomery County
Correctional Facility, brings this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 based on allegations that he was denied
access to legal materials. For the following reasons, Mr.
Samuels's Amended Complaint is dismissed, without
prejudice, to amendment.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Samuels initiated this lawsuit against Warden Julio Algarin,
Deputy Warden Sean McGee, Keely DeAngelis, Lt. Zerr, and
Brandon Craig. In his Complaint, Mr. Samuels alleged that
between June of 2017 and the beginning of August 2017, he
received legal material via the Lexis Advance System on the
jail's computer. He claims he was thereafter denied
access to those materials, which was the primary basis for
the instant civil action.
DeAngelis operates the law library at the Montgomery County
Correctional Facility. Mr. Samuels alleged, inter
alia, that Ms. DeAngelis:
continues to give [him] copies of legal material that [he]
personally furnish[es], such as Motions[, ] letters, and
information to the courts and to [his] attorney of record,
but now refuses to give [him] copies of the Lexis Advance
legal material from the computer that has information that
[he] cannot receive from the legal books provided in the Law
Library, such as case laws, and criminal/civil strategies and
techniques that [he] can obtain and utilize to apply to both
[his] civil and criminal cases that [he] currently [has]
ongoing to this day.
(Compl. at 10.)
complaint further alleges that Ms. DeAngelis allegedly
informed Mr. Samuels that he could not access the legal
materials he sought because he has no money in his account.
Mr. Samuels made several requests to Ms. DeAngelis for the
materials from Lexis Advance, but she did not provide him
with those materials and informed him that she had not
received several of his requests. She also told Mr. Samuels
that he can write down what he needs from the computer since
he goes to the law library every day. Mr. Samuels informed
Ms. DeAngelis that he did not have time to write everything
down from the computer because he was "stretched too
thin on everything, " but she responded that it was not
her problem and that she was acting in accordance with the
instructions of Deputy Warden McGee and Warden Algarin.
(Id. at 11.) On the occasions when Ms. DeAngelis
provided Mr. Samuels with legal material, it was allegedly
not the correct material and, when Mr. Samuels complained,
she told him that she did not care because she will be
October 26, 2017, Mr. Samuels sent Mr. Craig, one of the
social workers/counselors at the jail, a request for a
grievance. Mr. Craig referred Mr. Samuels to Lt. Zerr, who
allegedly threatened Mr. Samuels by "telling [him] to
stop sending multiple request slips to Ms. Keely DeAngelis or
[Lt. Zerr] will reprimand him for harassment."
(Id.) Mr. Samuels alleged that he is now afraid to
send additional requests for legal material because he does
not want to go to the "hole." (Id.). He
alleged that the Defendants' actions have caused "a
continuous legal hindrance to [his] ongoing civil and
criminal cases." (Id.) He sought damages and
"copies of all Lexis Advance legal materials off of the
computer to have in his possession." (Id.)
Memorandum and Order dated February 9, 2018 and entered
February 12, 2018, the Court granted Mr. Samuels leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his
Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), primarily because Mr. Samuels
failed to state a claim for denial of access to the courts.
[ECF No. 3 at 4.] The Court also concluded, at this screening
stage, that Mr. Samuels could proceed on a retaliation claim
against Lt. Zerr.
light of the liberal standards governing cases filed by
pro se litigants, the Court also gave Mr. Samuels an
opportunity to file an amended complaint. Mr. Samuels was
instructed that, if he filed an amended complaint, he should
"name all defendants in the caption of the amended
complaint and state how each defendant was involved in the
violations of his rights." (ECF No. 4 at 2, ¶ 5.)
Mr. Samuels was also advised that if he did not file an
amended complaint, the Court would direct service on Lt. Zerr
Samuels returned a one-and-a-half page an Amended Complaint
with an exhibit. He alleges that he "has not only
ongoing criminal cases, but also a civil action lawsuit that
is ongoing." [ECF No. 6 at 1.] He attached a copy of his
complaint in the underlying civil action as an exhibit to his
Amended Complaint. The referenced complaint was filed in the
Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and raises legal
malpractice claims against his public defender. The Amended
Complaint appears to be claiming that Mr. Samuels has
satisfied the pleading elements because he has identified a
civil case upon which he is proceeding. On that basis, Mr.
Samuels asks to "Amend [his] original claim of Kelly
DeAngelis, Warden Julio Algarin, Deputy Warden Sean McGee,
and Lt. Zerr for denying [his] Access to the Courts and
Government Interference." [ECF No. 6 at 1-2.] He asks to
"sever Brandon Craig from the Civil Action suit."
(Id. at 2.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Samuels is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(n) applies. This statute requires the
Court to dismiss the Amended Complaint if it fails to state a
claim. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard
applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184
F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to
determine whether the complaint contains "sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v.
Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted).
Conclusory allegations do ...