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Tucker v. Bailey

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

February 8, 2018

DEAVEN E. TUCKER, SR., Plaintiff,
NANCY BAILEY, individually and in her official capacity as Assistant Director of Prison Operations of RIDOC, et al., Defendants.


          WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief Judge.

         Before the Court is Magistrate Judge Sullivan's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (ECF No. 6) recommending that the Court (1) dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1) with prejudice because it is barred by the applicable statute of limitations; and (2) deny as moot Plaintiff's Motion To Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 2).

         In his Objection to the R&R (ECF No. 10), while acknowledging that the Court may sua sponte dismiss a complaint for an “apparent and insurmountable” “temporal hurdle, ” Plaintiff faults Magistrate Judge Sullivan for “not consider[ing] or provid[ing] any equitable tolling exception analysis.” (Br. in Supp. of Pl.'s Obj. to R. & R. 3-4, ECF No. 10 (quoting Johnson v. Rodriguez, 943 F.2d 104, 108 (1st Cir. 2001)). Plaintiff suggests that Magistrate Judge Sullivan should have applied equitable-tolling principles because a liberal reading of his Complaint, which describes his conditions of confinement, “support[s] [a] strong argument of an inescapable disability, irremediable lack of information, and/or other circumstances beyond his control that prevented him to sue, which made him loathe to bring suit against his adversaries.” (Id. at 4-6.) Plaintiff further avers that Magistrate Judge Sullivan's R&R should be rejected and the Court should equitably toll the limitations period, or alternatively provide Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his Complaint, because he “was [not] at all times capable of protecting [his] legal rights” based on his conditions of confinement, including daily supervision and control by Defendants. (Id. at 6-7 (quoting Rivers v. Am. Commerce Ins. Co., 836 A.2d 200, 204 (R.I. 2003)).

         This Court reviews de novo a properly objected to R&R on a dispositive matter. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Jasty v. Wright Med. Tech., Inc., 528 F.3d 28, 33 (1st Cir. 2008).

         As an initial matter, Plaintiff is simply incorrect when he surmises that Magistrate Judge Sullivan did “not consider or provide any equitable tolling analysis.” (See Br. in Supp. of Pl.'s Obj. to R. & R. 4; see also R. & R. 13 (“And as far as the Court is able to divine, no other equitable exceptions arguably would apply to the circumstances of this Complaint.”)). In any event, it would be a fruitless academic exercise to scrutinize whether equitable-tolling principles apply here when the circumstances surrounding Plaintiff's Complaint leave no question they do not. In other words, the circumstances of Plaintiff's Complaint make clear that Plaintiff was anything but “loathe to bring suit against adversaries to whose daily supervision and control [he] remain[ed] subject.” See Hardin v. Straub, 490 U.S. 536, 544 (1989).

         A brief factual summation sheds light on why Plaintiff cannot take refuge in equitable-tolling principles to avoid statute-of-limitations-imposed defeat.[1] Importantly, and as Magistrate Judge Sullivan highlights in her R&R, on October 12, 2010, Plaintiff was transferred from the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institutions (“ACI”) to a prison in Connecticut. See Mem. of Law in Supp. of Pl's Mot. For Extension of Time 2-3, Tucker v. Wall, No. 07-406ML (D.R.I. Nov. 22, 2010), ECF No. 105. The final events set forth in the Complaint relevant to Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985 allegations occurred in June and March 2010, respectively. (See Compl. ¶¶ 91-94, 97.) Thus, at the latest, to toll the applicable three-year statute of limitations, Plaintiff must have filed his Complaint within three years from those events. Instead, Plaintiff filed his Complaint on May 12, 2017, nearly seven years later. (See Compl.) But he posits that his confinement conditions, presumably at the ACI, support a “strong argument of an inescapable disability, irremediable lack of information, and/or other circumstances beyond his control that prevented him to sue.” (Br. in Supp. of Pl.'s Obj. to R. & R. 5.) The Court disagrees.

         First, Plaintiff's argument that his confinement conditions at the ACI suggest that the “irremediable lack of information” or that “other circumstances beyond his control” blocked his ability to bring suit, (see id.), is belied by, among other things, the fact that he initiated a separate suit against many of these same defendants on November 1, 2007, during the very period of confinement that he challenges under § 1983. That is, the “numerous unannounced segregation placements, transfers, retaliation, depriv[ation] of legal work [and] property, access to paper [and] pens, planting evidence, [and] denied legal calls” did not impede Plaintiff's ability to bring suit in that case. (Id. at 5.) Moreover, even assuming without this context that Plaintiff's ACI conditions were so burdensome and obstructive as to strip him of his ability to sue, those conditions lapsed when Plaintiff departed the ACI for an out-of-state prison on October 12, 2010, at which point Plaintiff could have filed his Complaint and tolled the statute of limitations for more than two years. If there was any doubt that Plaintiff's circumstances do not warrant equitable tolling, on February 1, 2012, Plaintiff filed a second lawsuit while confined in Connecticut that factually mirrors his present Complaint. See Compl., Tucker v. Bailey, No. 12-62S (D.R.I. Feb. 1, 2012), ECF No. 1. Thus, Plaintiff's suggestion that Magistrate Judge Sullivan erred in failing to recommend that Plaintiff's claims be equitably tolled because he was impeded from protecting his legal rights is belied by the facts. Plaintiff's own conduct in related proceedings, of which the Court takes judicial notice, leaves no question that this case does not fit within the “‘narrowly circumscribed factual situations' in which the applicable statute of limitations will be tolled.” Rivers, 836 A.2d at 204 (quoting Renaud v. Sigma-Aldrich Corp., 662 A.2d 711, 714-15 (R.I. 1995)).

         Accordingly, the Court ACCEPTS the R&R (ECF No. 6) in its entirety and adopts the recommendations and reasoning set forth therein. Thus, Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1) is DISMISSED with prejudice. Plaintiff's Motion To Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 2) is DENIED as moot.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.


          PATRICIA A. SULLIVAN, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Since October 12, 2010, Plaintiff Deaven E. Tucker, Sr., has been incarcerated in Connecticut, where he is serving multiple life sentences imposed by the State of Rhode Island. On May 12, 2017, he filed a pro se Sections 1983/1985 civil rights Complaint (“Complaint”) pertaining to events that occurred when he was incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institutions (“ACI”), together with a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). ECF Nos. 1, 2. Based on my review of the application and supporting documents, including the prisoner trust fund account statement filed on July 14, 2017 (ECF No. 4), I conclude that Plaintiff has satisfied the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). Accordingly, his IFP motion will be granted if the case survives screening. However, because of the IFP application and Plaintiff's status as a prisoner, this case is subject to preliminary screening under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b).

         Based on my review of the operative pleading, [1] I find that various of the claims are tainted by an array of legal deficiencies, including the preclusive effect of the doctrine of res judicata, as well as the principles articulated in Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989), and Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 478, 486-87 (1994). However, this report and recommendation is focused on the overarching and fatal flaw that requires the defenestration of all of the claims - that they are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Because the allegations leave no doubt that every claim accrued six or more years prior to the filing of the Complaint and that the “temporal hurdle [is] both apparent and insurmountable, ” Johnson v. Rodriguez, 943 F.2d 104, 108 (1st Cir. 1991), I recommend that the Complaint be dismissed as frivolous and for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) & (ii). Because I find the Complaint to be frivolous, I do not recommend that Plaintiff be afforded leave to amend.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's handwritten, seventy-three page, one-hundred paragraph pleading arises under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. It is based on alleged violations of the First, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. ECF No. 1 at 70 & ¶¶ 98-100. As defendants, the caption names twenty-four officials of Rhode Island Department of Corrections (“RIDOC”), two state prosecutors, a Pawtucket police detective, an official of the Rhode Island Department of Special Investigations Unit, and a United States Marshal; in all, twenty-nine defendants are listed. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 4-35. In the section of the pleading entitled “Parties, ” thirty-two defendants are identified. All individual defendants are named in both their individual and official capacities.[2]

         The Complaint's § 1983 allegations are focused on lost good time credit resulting from trumped-up drug charges in 2001 and 2005; on pretrial and pre-sentencing conditions of confinement at the ACI, including the allegedly unconstitutional infliction of retaliatory administrative and psychiatric segregation during Plaintiff's detention from December 2006 until May 2010; and on administrative segregation and the loss of property in the immediate aftermath of sentencing during the period from 2007 until June 2010. Plaintiff's § 1985 claim is based on the factual allegation that RIDOC officials conspired with police and a prosecutor to steal his legal materials and notes to use in connection with the prosecution that culminated in the trial at which Plaintiff was found guilty by a jury on March 16, 2010. See State v. Tucker, 111 A.3d 376, 378 (R.I. 2015). The Complaint asserts that this conspiracy was for the purpose of depriving him of access to the courts and to retaliate for the filing of grievances. Without explaining the factual basis for the allegation, he claims that the conspirators were motivated by “gender-based” ...

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