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Anctil v. Joseph

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 27, 2017

STEVE ANCTIL, JR. Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISIONER JOSEPH, FITZPATRICK, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER AFFIRMING IN PART AND REJECTING IN PART THE RECOMMENDED DECISIONS OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The Court affirms the recommended decisions in this case, except it vacates the recommended decisions insofar as the inmate claims that state officials violated his constitutional right to access to the courts by repeatedly opening his legal mail outside his presence and refusing to allow him to send outgoing legal mail.[1]

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On February 24, 2016, Steve Anctil, Jr., an inmate in the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections, acting pro se, filed a complaint against Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick and a number of subordinate officers, alleging that they wrongfully dismissed, denied, failed to investigate, and failed to respond to his grievances.[2] Compl. (ECF No. 1). On March 8, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a recommended decision, screening the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A, and recommending that the Complaint be dismissed. Recommended Decision After Screening Compl. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e), 1915A (ECF No. 9). The Magistrate Judge concluded that Mr. Anctil's Complaint was “comprised of a series of conclusory allegations, which are insufficient to sustain a claim.” Id. at 3. He also observed that even if Mr. Anctil had alleged sufficient facts that the Defendant failed to follow its grievance procedure, Mr. Anctil had not stated a constitutional claim. Id. He had only alleged that he had been held in “punitive segregation” for a period of time, and the Magistrate Judge concluded that the mere assignment to segregation does not “constitute an atypical and significant hardship.” Id. at 5. Mr. Anctil did not make a timely objection to the recommended decision, and on April 5, 2016, the Court issued an order affirming the recommended decision and entered judgment against Mr. Anctil. Order Affirming the Recommended Decision of the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 14); J. (ECF No. 15).

         However, on the next day, April 6, 2016, Mr. Anctil filed a motion to amend the Complaint. Mot. to Amend Compl. (ECF No. 16). The Court granted Mr. Anctil's motion and entered an order vacating the judgment, based on a mail delivery issue that prevented Mr. Anctil from filing on time. Order Vacating J. and Vacating Order Affirming Recommended Decision and Ordering Pl. to File Proposed Am. Compl. (ECF No. 17).

         On April 21, 2016, Mr. Anctil submitted a proposed amended complaint. Am. Compl. (ECF No. 18). On May 31, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a recommended decision regarding the amended complaint. Recommended Decision After Screening Am. Compl. (ECF No. 25) (Rec. Dec. Screening). In the May 31, 2016 recommended decision, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant Mr. Anctil another opportunity to amend his complaint, but if Mr. Anctil failed to state an actionable claim in the second amended complaint, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court dismiss his claim. Id. at 1. Mr. Anctil filed his second Amended Complaint on July 7, 2016.[3] Second Am. Compl. (ECF No. 31).

         On October 24, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a recommended decision on Mr. Anctil's Second Amended Complaint. Recommended Decision After Screening Compl. Pursuant to U.S.C. §§ 1915(e), 1915A (ECF No. 36) (Rec. Dec. 1915). In the October 24, 2016 recommended decision, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court dismiss all claims asserted against all Defendants, except for one claim against Deputy Warden Troy Ross. Id. at 1.

         Mr. Anctil failed to object in a timely manner to the October 24, 2016 recommended decision, and on December 5, 2016, the Court issued an order affirming the October 24, 2016 recommended decision. Order Affirming the Recommended Decision of the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 39). However, on January 9, 2017, Mr. Anctil moved for relief from the December 5, 2016 Order, and on January 10, 2017, the Court granted his motion and vacated the December 5, 2016 order affirming the recommended decision. Mot. for Relief from Ct. Order (ECF No. 43); Order Vacating Order Affirming the Recommended Decision of the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 45).

         On January 20, 2017, Mr. Anctil moved for leave to supplement his pleadings. Mot. to Req. Leave to Suppl. Pleadings (ECF No. 46). On February 23, 2017, after Mr. Anctil filed a motion to extend time, the Magistrate Judge issued another recommended decision, recommending that the Court deny Mr. Anctil's motion to supplement pleadings on the ground that to do so would be futile. Mot. to Extend Time to Object to Report and Recommended Decision (ECF No. 49); Recommended Decision on Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to Amend (ECF No. 53) at 2 (Rec. Dec. Leave Amend).[4]

         On February 28, 2017, Mr. Anctil objected to the Magistrate Judge's recommended decision dated October 24, 2016. Pl.'s Obj. to Recommended Decision (ECF No. 54) (Pl.'s Obj.). On May 15, 2017, Mr. Anctil filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge's February 23, 2017 recommended decision on Mr. Anctil's motion for leave to amend his Second Amended Complaint. Pl.'s Obj. to Recommended Decision (ECF No. 65) (Pl.'s Leave Obj.).

         The upshot of all of these motions, orders, and objections is that there are two objections to recommended decisions before the Court. The first is Mr. Anctil's objection to the October 24, 2016 recommended decision in which the Magistrate Judge recommended that all his claims be dismissed except for the failure to protect (based on failure to train) claim against Defendant Troy Ross. Pl.'s Obj. at 1-20. The second is Mr. Anctil's objection to the February 23, 2017 recommended decision in which the Magistrate Judge recommended against allowing Mr. Anctil to file a third amended complaint on the ground that to do so would be futile. Pl.'s Leave Obj. at 1-10.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. October 24, 2016 Recommended Decision

         In the October 24, 2016 recommended decision, the Magistrate Judge extensively reviewed in detail each of the allegations in Mr. Anctil's Second Amended Complaint and, except for the failure to protect (based on failure to train) claim against Defendant Ross, concluded that they did not contain sufficient facts to state viable claims. Rec. Dec. 1915 at 1-20. In his objection, Mr. Anctil attempted to fill in the blanks in his Second Amended Complaint by adding a plethora of detail. Pl.'s Obj. at 1-20. In ruling on the sufficiency of the Second Amended Complaint, however, the Magistrate Judge was required to analyze the actual allegations in the Second Amended Complaint, not the allegations Mr. Anctil added in his objection after the Magistrate Judge made his recommendation. Moreover, as Mr. Anctil's objection comes to the Court through the recommended decision process, it has long been the rule in this Circuit that litigants “must take before the magistrate, ‘not only their best shot, but all of their shots.'” Bordon v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 836 F.2d 4, 6 (1st Cir. 2002) (per curiam) (quoting Singh v. Superintending Sch. Comm., 593 F.Supp. 1315, 1318 (D. Me. 1984)). Here, Mr. Anctil framed the allegations in his Second Amended Complaint having been given a third opportunity to state viable claims, and the Magistrate Judge must consider what Mr. Anctil alleged in his Second Amended Complaint, not what he could have alleged. Upon conducting a review of ...


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