Bradshaw v. The City Of New York , et al
OPINION AND ORDER re: 19 MOTION to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. filed by John Doe, The City Of New York,, Tony Durante, 13 MOTION to Dismiss the Complaint. filed by Warden Duarnte, The City Of New York. Bradshaw first filed suit on November 17, 2015. (See Dkt. No. 2.) Defendants then filed a motion to dismiss (see Dkt. No. 13), and in response Bradshaw filed the operative amended complaint in this action (see Dkt. No. 15 ("Compl.")). Defendants, in turn, filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 19.) For the reasons discussed below, the motion to dismiss the amended complaint is granted in part and denied in part. If Bradshaw wishes to file a second amended complaint, he must do so on or before February 24, 2017. The Clerk of Court is directed to close the motions at Docket Number 13 and Docket Number 19. (As further set forth in this Order.) ( Amended Pleadings due by 2/24/2017.) (Signed by Judge J. Paul Oetken on 1/23/2017) Copies Mailed By Chambers. (cf)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER
J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge:
Plaintiff Jay Bradshaw, currently incarcerated at the Green Haven Correctional Facility,
brings this action pro se, under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1988, as well as under state law.
Bradshaw alleges that, when he was incarcerated at the Anna M. Kross Center, Defendants
denied him postage to mail his Notice of Intention to File a Claim by certified mail to the New
York Office of the Comptroller, violating his right of access to the courts, access to mail, and
other rights. Bradshaw first filed suit on November 17, 2015. (See Dkt. No. 2.) Defendants then
filed a motion to dismiss (see Dkt. No. 13), and in response Bradshaw filed the operative
amended complaint in this action (see Dkt. No. 15 (“Compl.”)). 1 Defendants, in turn, filed a
motion to dismiss the amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 19.) For the reasons discussed below, the
motion to dismiss the amended complaint is granted in part and denied in part.
The facts described herein are, unless otherwise noted, taken from the operative
complaint, papers appended to the complaint, or, consistent with the Court’s responsibility to
The pending motion to dismiss the initial complaint in this action is denied as
moot. (See Dkt. No. 13.) This Opinion and Order addresses Defendants’ motion to dismiss the
operative amended complaint.
liberally construe a pro se plaintiff’s papers, from Bradshaw’s opposition to the motion to
dismiss. See Escoffier v. City of N.Y., No. 13 Civ. 3918, 2016 WL 590229, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb.
11, 2016). Bradshaw’s allegations are presumed true for the purposes of this motion.
The windows in the “dayroom area” at Anna M. Kross Center (“AMKC”), in the Quad
Lower 6 housing unit—where Bradshaw was housed—would not close. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Even in
the “bitterly cold months of January and February,” the windows stayed open, prompting
“several” inmate complaints regarding the temperature. (Id.) On February 15, 2015,
maintenance “sealed all the windows” in the unit using plastic bags. (Id. ¶ 13.) But the unit now
suffered from “insufficient air circulation” and lacked any ventilation, producing very hot
temperatures that reached “above 100 degrees.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Several inmate complaints were
made as a result. (Id.)
About a week after the windows were sealed up, on February 22, 2015, Bradshaw
suffered difficulty breathing, along with “throat and chest congestion, nausea and a headache.”
(Id. ¶ 15.) Bradshaw alleges that these symptoms were caused by the hot temperatures and
absence of ventilation in the Quad. (Id.) As a result, Bradshaw was taken to the medical clinic
at AMKC for an examination. (Id. ¶ 16.) The personnel there determined that Bradshaw had
contracted a throat infection, and they provided him with treatment. (Id. ¶17; id. at 23-25 (“Ex.
As a result of the incident, Bradshaw sought to file a Notice of Intention to File a Claim
against the City of New York for failure to properly maintain AMKC and for negligence in
causing Bradshaw’s illness. (Id. ¶ 18-19; id. at 27-30 (“Ex. 2”).) Bradshaw sought to file the
Notice within ninety days of the incident, by mid-May, as required by New York General
Municipal Law § 50-e. (Id. ¶ 18.) On March 12, 2015, Bradshaw gave Officer Thomas (whom
Bradshaw describes as the “mail-officer at AMKC”) certified, outgoing legal mail, which was
labeled as such and addressed to the Office of the Comptroller. (Id. ¶ 20; id. at 32 (“Ex. 3”).)
Thomas told Bradshaw that because Bradshaw was “indigent and unable to pay” the cost of
postage, he should “execute and submit with his certified . . . mail an ‘Inmate Request for
Withdrawal of Funds for Postage’ form,” which Bradshaw completed on March 12. (Id. ¶ 21; id.
at 24 (“Ex. 4”).) Based on this form, Bradshaw alleges that Defendant John Doe, a “Social
Service Supervisor,” determined that there was no money in Bradshaw’s “Inmate Account” on
March 16, March 19, and April 9, 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 22.) Nevertheless, Doe failed to provide the
funds required for postage and “held the mail.” (Id. ¶ 22.)
About a month after Bradshaw sought to send the Notice, on April 14, 2015, Thomas
returned the Notice to Bradshaw, along with two other unspecified pieces of certified mail, also
addressed to the Office of the Comptroller. (Id. ¶ 23.) Bradshaw claims that Thomas told him
that Doe simply “refuse[d] to provide funds to pay [the] expense of the Certified Mail Receipt
despite the Department’s duty to indigent inmates.” (Id. ¶ 24.) Thomas allegedly told Bradshaw
to “file a grievance.” (Id. ¶ 25.)
On April 19, 2015, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the three pieces of “Certified
(out-going legal) mail” addressed to the Office of the Comptroller that had been returned and
for which Doe had refused to provide the required funds for postage. (Id. ¶ 26; id. at 36 (“Ex.
5”).) Having received “no response,” Bradshaw appealed and requested a formal hearing, by
letter dated May 1, 2015. (Id. ¶ 27; id. at 38 (“Ex. 6”).) Again receiving no word back,
Bradshaw appealed to Tony Durante (“Warden Durante”), by letter dated May 11, 2015. (Id.
¶ 28; id. at 40 (“Ex. 7”).) When Warden Durante failed to issue a decision, Bradshaw appealed
to the “Central Office Review Committee” (“CORC”), by letter dated May 23, 2015. (Id. ¶ 29;
id. at 42 (“Ex. 8”).) The CORC failed to render a decision or otherwise respond, so Bradshaw
considered his initial grievance and subsequent appeals “constructively denied.” (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.)
Bradshaw received only a letter from the “DOC, Office of the Commissioner” stating that the
Department of Correction had received his letter of May 23, 2015, and that the letter had been
forwarded to the appropriate unit for investigation. (Id. ¶ 32; id. at 44 (“Ex. 9”).) But Bradshaw
received nothing further. (Id. ¶ 33.) The ninety-day window in which Bradshaw could file his
Notice of Claim under New York law elapsed on May 23, 2015. (Id. ¶ 34.)
On May 9, 2016, Bradshaw was transferred from AMKC to Green Haven Correctional
Facility, where he remains to this day. (Id. ¶ 35.) Bradshaw alleges that this was the first time
he had access to a law library. (Id.)
As a result of these circumstances, Bradshaw alleges that he was “prevented from
sending his Notice of Claim,” forfeiting the chance to bring a legal action. (Id. ¶ 36.) Here,
Bradshaw brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the deprivation of his access to courts and
his First Amendment right to send mail. (Id. ¶¶ 38-43.) Bradshaw further asserts claims for
discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. (Id. ¶ 40.) He additionally alleges that the
relevant authorities failed to intervene, and advances claims of supervisory and municipal
liability, based on a pattern or practice carried out by the city. (Id. ¶¶ 53-66.) Bradshaw further
claims that the City was generally negligent, and specifically negligent in the screening, hiring,
and retention of personnel at AMKC, and in its training and supervising, in violation of New
York law, and he further makes a claim for respondeat superior liability. (Id. ¶¶ 67-78.) Finally,
Bradshaw asserts a claim under the Constitution of the State of New York that duplicates the
federal constitutional torts alleged. (Id. ¶¶ 79-81.)
To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.” Wilson v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 671 F.3d 120, 128 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation mark omitted)). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678) (internal quotation marks omitted).
When evaluating whether a complaint meets these requirements, courts assume that all
“factual allegations contained in the complaint” are true, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 572 (2007), and “draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,”
In re NYSE Specialists Sec. Litig., 503 F.3d 89, 95 (2d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).
Additionally, a complaint “filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,’ and ‘a pro se complaint,
however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted
by lawyers.’” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976)).
The heart of Bradshaw’s claims is that Defendants violated his rights, while he was an
indigent inmate at AMKC, by failing to provide the required postage to send outgoing legal mail.
“[A]s few as two incidents of mail tampering could constitute an actionable violation (1) if the
incidents suggested an ongoing practice of censorship unjustified by a substantial government
interest, or (2) if the tampering unjustifiably chilled the prisoner’s right of access to the courts or
impaired the legal representation received.” Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 351 (2d Cir. 2003)
(citing Washington v. James, 782 F.2d 1134, 1139 (2d Cir. 1986)). “Interference with a
prisoner’s mail thus may implicate two distinct rights: the ‘right of access to the courts’ and the
‘right to the free flow of incoming and outgoing mail.’” Antrobus v. City of N.Y., No. 11 Civ.
2524, 2014 WL 1285648, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2014) (quoting Davis, 320 F.3d at 351).
The Court first addresses Bradshaw’s claims under federal and state law that Defendants’
denying him postage deprived him of his right to access the courts. The Court then turns to
Bradshaw’s claim regarding his right to send mail generally. Finally, it discusses Bradshaw’s
“Prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts and, where there is a
deliberate and malicious interference with that right, may seek redress from the court.” Smith v.
City of N.Y., No. 14 Civ. 443, 2015 WL 1433321, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2015) (citing Davis,
320 F.3d at 351). This right includes “‘a reasonably adequate’ amount of postage” for access to
the courts. Chandler v. Coughlin, 763 F.2d 110, 114 (2d Cir. 1985) (citation omitted) (quoting
Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 825 (1977)); see Pollack v. Holanchock, No. 10 Civ. 2402, 2012
WL 1646893, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. May 10, 2012) (“With regard to legal supplies, ‘[i]t is indisputable
that indigent inmates must be provided at state expense with paper and pen to draft legal
documents . . . and with stamps to mail them.’” (quoting Bounds, 430 U.S. at 824–25)).
Federal Claims Against Doe and Durante
A Section 1983 claim for deprivation of access to the courts requires: (1) a legitimate
underlying cause of action (separate from the deprivation of access claim); and (2) the frustration
or hindrance of the litigation caused by defendants’ actions. See Christopher v. Harbury, 536
U.S. 403, 414-15 (2002). Considering prisoners’ mail in the context of their right to access
courts, “[m]ere delay in being able to work on one’s legal action or communicate with the courts
does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.” McIntosh v. United States, No. 14 Civ.
7889, 2016 WL 1274585, at *23 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2016) (quoting Davis, 320 F.3d at 352).
Rather, a plaintiff must establish an actual injury—that is, “actions that ‘hindered [his] efforts to
pursue a legal claim.’” Monsky v. Moraghan, 127 F.3d 243, 247 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996)). Accordingly, Bradshaw alleges that he tried to initiate a legal
action against AMKC by sending a Notice of Intention to File a Claim, that he was indigent at
the time, and that Defendants denied him the required postage to send his Notice, prejudicing his
putative suit. 2
Defendants do not take issue with the cause of action underlying Bradshaw’s claim—
namely, that he was made sick by the lack of ventilation in AMKC Quad 6. Rather, they argue
that he was not prejudiced in the pursuit of that claim by their actions vis-à-vis his outgoing mail.
Defendants advance three arguments in support of this position: (1) that Defendants’ actions only
delayed Bradshaw’s legal mail and thus did not actually prejudice him; (2) that Bradshaw failed
to take additional action to further the underlying legal action after Defendants denied him
postage; and (3) that the papers Bradshaw tried to mail, while prerequisites to filing subsequent
legal action, were not directed to a court and did not contain a complaint or other papers
initiating or supporting an existing legal action. (See Dkt. No. 20 at 5-7.) None of these
In passing, Bradshaw also refers to a lack of law-library services at AMKC. A
prisoner’s right of access to courts includes “[m]eaningful access” to a law library or legal
assistance program that provides “the tools they need ‘in order to . . . challenge the conditions of
their confinement.’” Peoples v. Fischer, No. 11 Civ. 2694, 2012 WL 1575302, at *7 (S.D.N.Y.
May 3, 2012) (quoting Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355). Bradshaw’s access to courts claim is thus
buttressed by his allegation that he did not have access to a law library of any kind during the
relevant period, before his transfer to Green Haven Correctional Facility. (Dkt. No. 26 ¶ 24.)
First, Defendants observe that “mere delay” in communicating with a court does not
constitute prejudice for the purposes of a Section 1983 access-to-courts claim. (Id. at 7.) But
here, the timing of the legal mail was potentially dispositive of Bradshaw’s entire underlying
action. The piece of mail at the heart of Bradshaw’s claim is a Notice of Intention to File a
Claim, which Bradshaw sought to file within the ninety-day window required by state law. See
N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law § 50-e(1). Defendants’ failing to provide postage sufficient to send the
Notice can therefore be understood not as mere delay, but as real prejudice to Bradshaw’s pursuit
of his underlying claim. See, e.g., Arnold v. Westchester Cty. Corr. Facility, No. 10 Civ. 1249,
2011 WL 3501897, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. July 18, 2011) (dismissing claims where plaintiff “failed to
plead . . . how the alleged interference [with his legal mail] impeded his access to the courts,” to
“explain why he needed to notify the [recipient] of his claims or how the rejection of his letter
prejudiced his lawsuit”). This is so because, in Bradshaw’s case, any delay that brought him
close to the end of the ninety-day window had the potential to foreclose the action entirely.
Drawing all inferences in Bradshaw’s favor, the facts as pleaded suggest prejudice to a putative
With regard to Defendants’ second objection, Bradshaw’s claim does not fail at this stage
simply because he has not alleged that he attempted to resend the Notice after it was returned to
him on April 14, 2015. Bradshaw has pleaded that the ninety-day window in which he could file
such Notice would expire less than a month after the mail was returned to him. (Dkt. No. 26 ¶
6.) It may be the case, as Defendants argue (Dkt. No. 20 at 6-7), that courts have authority to
grant leave to file a late notice of claim, see N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law § 50-e(5), but drawing all
inferences in Bradshaw’s favor, he may well have reasonably assumed that such special
exception would or could not be made or that Doe’s repeatedly denying Bradshaw postage would
render any effort wasted. Bradshaw could have reasonably assumed so at least, that is, until he
“file[d] a grievance” against Doe to change his conduct, as Officer Thomas recommended and
which Bradshaw did promptly, on April 19, 2015. (Compl. ¶¶ 25-26.) Construing Bradshaw’s
allegations to make their strongest argument, it is possible to read his grievance and subsequent
appeal efforts as actions further attempting to initiate the underlying legal action that were
prejudiced because of Defendants’ actions and inaction. (Id. ¶¶ 25-28.)
Defendants’ third argument is that Bradshaw fails to make out a claim because his legal
mail did not implicate any existing legal action. But Defendants acknowledge that Bradshaw’s
Notice of Intention to File a Claim was an initial step toward his filing a legal action under state
law. (Dkt. No. 20 at 5.) As such, Defendants’ actions in preventing Bradshaw from sending the
Notice “hindered [his] efforts to pursue a legal claim.” Davis, 320 F.3d at 351 (quoting Monsky,
127 F.3d at 247). See, e.g., Cancel v. Goord, No. 00 Civ. 2042, 2001 WL 303713, at *4-5
(S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2001). Bradshaw’s Notice thus qualifies as legal mail for the purposes of his
Defendants further contest Bradshaw’s claims of individual liability as to named
defendants John Doe, a “Social Service Supervisor,” and Warden Durante. They argue, as a
threshold matter, that Bradshaw has failed to plead sufficient facts to show that any alleged
violations by Doe or Durante were “deliberate and malicious,” as required. See Smith, 2015 WL
1433321, at *3. The standard for pleading the state of mind of Defendants is low in the context
of a 12(b)(6) motion. See Jean-Laurent v. Lawrence, No. 12 Civ. 1502, 2013 WL 1129813, at
*5 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2013) (“[A]lleg[ations] that [officials] simply ignored Plaintiff’s repeated
oral and written requests for assistance . . . could plausibly rise to the level of deliberate and
malicious behavior.”) This is because questions of state of mind are often “question[s] of fact”
that are inappropriate as a basis for dismissal so early in litigation. See, e.g., Hardy v. City of
N.Y., 732 F. Supp. 2d 112, 135 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (declining to decide state of mind even at
Drawing all inferences in Bradshaw’s favor, he has pleaded enough for an inference of
deliberateness regarding Doe’s and Durante’s actions. The envelopes for which Doe allegedly
declined to provide postage were marked with the word “legal mail,” supporting a plausible
inference that Doe understood that his actions—namely, his refusing to provide the required
postage—constituted interference with legal mail. (Ex. 3.) And the appeal that Warden Durante
allegedly failed to act upon likewise made clear that Bradshaw’s legal mail was being
mishandled, supporting an inference that Durante may have deliberately ignored the clear
consequences of his failure to intervene. (Ex. 7.)
Setting aside the sufficiency of Bradshaw’s pleadings as to Doe’s and Durante’s state of
mind, Defendants further argue that Bradshaw does not state a claim against either one because
he does not allege enough about their individual conduct. First, as to Doe, the specific conduct
he allegedly carried out—namely, the refusal to provide the requisite postage—forms the basis of
Bradshaw’s claims. (Dkt. No. 26 at ¶¶ 9-12). Bradshaw has therefore pleaded enough conduct
by Doe to state a claim against him.
Second, as to Warden Durante, supervisory liability can be established by evidence that
the official, after being informed of the violation through a report or appeal, failed to remedy the
wrong. See Johnson v. Newburgh Enlarged Sch. Dist., 239 F.3d 246, 254 (2d Cir. 2001).
Bradshaw accordingly alleges that Warden Durante at least failed to take action following an
appeal—made by letter and appended to Bradshaw’s complaint—of several instances of failure
to provide postage for outgoing legal mail. (See Ex. 7.) Bradshaw has therefore alleged enough
as to Durante’s conduct to state a claim against him.
Defendants nonetheless argue that John Doe and Warden Durante are entitled to qualified
immunity. A finding of qualified immunity involves a two-step analysis: (1) whether plaintiff
alleges the violation of a constitutional right; and (2) whether the right was clearly established at
the time of the alleged violation. See Tenenbaum v. Williams, 193 F.3d 581, 596 (2d Cir. 1999).
For qualified immunity to bar suit at the motion-to-dismiss stage, “[n]ot only must the facts
supporting the defense appear on the face of the complaint,” but also “the plaintiff is entitled to
all reasonable inferences . . . that defeat the immunity defense.” McKenna v. Wright, 386 F.3d
432, 436 (2d Cir. 2004).
As discussed above, Bradshaw has stated a claim that he suffered a violation of his
constitutional right of access to the courts. Defendants’ argument hinges, therefore, on the
second step of the analysis: whether the right was clearly established. With respect to Doe, who
allegedly carried out the violation by withholding postage, at the time of the alleged violation in
2015, it was firmly established in the Second Circuit that prison officials must provide a
reasonably adequate amount of postage for access to the courts. See, e.g., Chandler, 763 F.2d at
114. As regards Warden Durante, “[m]ultiple Second Circuit opinions . . . [have] held that ‘the
personal involvement of a supervisory defendant may be shown by evidence that the defendant,
after being informed of the violation through a report or appeal, failed to remedy the wrong’ or
‘the defendant exhibited deliberate indifference to the rights of inmates by failing to act on
information indicating that unconstitutional acts were occurring.’” Jean-Laurent v. Lawrence,
No. 12 Civ. 1502, 2014 WL 1282309, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2014) (internal alterations
omitted) (quoting Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 873 (2d Cir.1995)). Based on the facts as
alleged, and drawing all inferences in Bradshaw’s favor, Doe and Durante are therefore not
entitled to qualified immunity at this stage of litigation.
Defendants additionally argue that Bradshaw does not allege enough to state a claim for
municipal liability against the City of New York. To state a claim for municipal liability, a
plaintiff must allege that his injury was the result of an official policy, custom, or practice of that
municipality. See Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-94 (1978).
Notwithstanding an official Department of Correction policy to pay certified mail postage
for indigent inmates, Bradshaw makes allegations, both in the operative amended complaint and
in his opposition papers, see Escoffier, 2016 WL 590229, at *1, that the Department of
Correction maintained a custom of failing to send legal mail. Specifically, Bradshaw alleges that
he faced “consistent troubles with sending out-going legal mails” due to his inability to “afford
postage,” including “substantial amounts of regular out-going legal mails and several other outgoing certified mails that were never mailed out but instead returned” and “‘other’ intended
correspondences to the court [that] were . . . never received.” 3 (Dkt. No. 26 ¶¶ 18-22.) He
claims that these “continu[ing]” issues constituted an “official policy or custom” of the
Department of Correction. (Id.)
These allegations—with all inferences construed in Bradshaw’s favor and with the
special solicitude afforded to pro se filings—are enough to state a claim for municipal liability at
Defendants argue that Bradshaw cannot state a claim for a custom of denial of
access to courts because Bradshaw has initiated a handful of lawsuits while incarcerated. (Dkt.
No. 30 at 6.) This argument is beside the point. The fact that some amount of Bradshaw’s legal
mail may have made it to the intended recipient does not undermine his claim that Defendants
repeatedly withheld other items of legal mail, at least at the motion-to-dismiss stage.
this early stage. See, e.g., Carrasquillo v. City of N.Y., 324 F. Supp. 2d 428, 437 (S.D.N.Y.
2004) (finding that pro se plaintiff had alleged enough regarding a City “policy of not providing
prisoners with adequate protection” on buses where the complaint asserted only “that the City
[was] liable for causing his injuries . . . by failing to provide him with a seatbelt”); Gachette v.
Metro N. High Bridge, No. 12 Civ. 3838, 2013 WL 144947, at *5–6 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2013)
(inferring in pro se pleadings sufficient allegations of a municipal policy or custom of
discrimination where plaintiff alleged that “black electricians were paid less than white ones”).
As to Bradshaw’s state-law claim for negligence in hiring, retention, training, or
supervision, “[t]o state a claim . . . [a] plaintiff must show that the employer knew or should have
known of the employee’s propensity for the conduct which caused the injury prior to the injury’s
occurrence.” Williams v. City of N.Y., 916 F. Supp. 2d 235, 245 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (quoting Ehrens v. Lutheran Church, 385 F.3d 232, 235 (2d Cir.
2004)). For the same reasons discussed above regarding a custom carried out by the Department
of Correction, Bradshaw has also pleaded enough to suggest that the Department knew or should
have known about the alleged repeated failure to send outgoing legal mail. The same applies to
Bradshaw’s claim for respondeat superior liability. See Ricciuti v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth., 941 F.2d
119, 122 (2d Cir. 1991).
Because Bradshaw has stated a claim under Section 1983 for violations of his right of
access to the courts under federal law, any parallel claims under the New York Constitution, to
the extent he makes them, must be dismissed. See Hershey v. Goldstein, 938 F. Supp. 2d 491,
520 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (“District courts in this circuit have consistently held that there is no private
right of action under the New York State Constitution where, as here, remedies are available
under § 1983.” (quoting Campbell v. City of N.Y., No. 09 Civ. 3306, 2011 WL 6329456, at *5
(E.D.N.Y. Dec. 15, 2011))).
A plaintiff states a claim for a violation of his First Amendment rights where “officers
regularly and unjustifiably withheld or threw away . . . mail.” Antrobus, 2014 WL 1285648, at
*4 (collecting cases). What is more, “many courts” in this Circuit have held that “a prisoner’s
legal mail is entitled to a higher degree of protection than his regular mail.” Cancel, 2001 WL
303713, at *6 (citing Morgan v. Montanye, 516 F.2d 1367, 1368 (2d Cir. 1975)). 4 As a result,
practices that interfere with legal mail “whether incoming or outgoing must be supported by a
legitimate penological interest other than mere general security concerns which permit
interference with regular mail.” Id.
To advance his claim, Bradshaw has alleged at least three specific instances of
interference with his outgoing legal mail (Compl. ¶¶ 23, 26), enough, at this stage, to suggest a
pattern rather than an isolated incident. See Washington, 782 F.2d at 1139 (finding references to
two instances of interference with prisoner mail can be enough to “allege continuing activity
rather than a single isolated instance”). As such, Bradshaw has stated a Section 1983 claim for
violations of his First Amendment rights to send legal mail. 5
“The First Amendment protects prisoners’ access to mail directly, unlike the right
of access to courts, which protects prisoners’ access to mail only derivatively and with respect to
given claims.” Bellezza v. Holland, No. 09 Civ. 8434, 2011 WL 2848141, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. July
12, 2011). “It is thus not necessary to allege actual injury when asserting a violation of one’s
right to the free flow of mail.” Antrobus, 2014 WL 1285648, at *4 (collecting cases). As a
result, the Court credits the several instances of alleged failure to provide postage for legal mail.
(Compl. ¶ 26.)
As above, because Bradshaw has stated a claim for violations of his rights under
federal law, his parallel claims under the New York Constitution, to the extent he makes them,
must be dismissed. See Hershey, 938 F. Supp. 2d at 520.
Bradshaw also asserts claims of race or national origin discrimination under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1981, 1983, and under the New York Constitution. In order to state a discrimination claim, a
plaintiff must allege “some specific allegations of fact indicating a deprivation of rights” based
on the protected trait. Barr v. Abrams, 810 F.2d 358, 262 (2d. Cir. 1987). Bradshaw, in contrast,
has advanced only conclusions that Defendants’ conduct was based on race or national origin.
As a result, Bradshaw fails to state a claim for race or national origin discrimination.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART, with respect to
Bradshaw’s claims race and national origin claims under the Equal Protection Clause and
Section 1981, as well as his state-constitution claims, and DENIED IN PART, as regards the
Section 1983 and state-law claims for denial of access to courts and interference with outgoing
The Court grants Bradshaw leave to amend his complaint to replead his race and national
origin discrimination claims under the Equal Protection Clause, Section 1981, and the New York
Constitution. See Henriquez-Ford v. Council of Sch. Supervisors & Adm’rs, No. 14 Civ. 2496,
2016 WL 93863, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 7, 2016) (“[W]here dismissal is based on a pro se
plaintiff’s failure to comply with pleading conventions, a district court should not dismiss
without granting leave to amend at least once . . . .” (quoting Crisci-Balestra v. Civil Serv.
Employees Ass’n, Inc., 2008 WL 413812, at *6 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 13, 2008))). If Bradshaw wishes
to file a second amended complaint, he must do so on or before February 24, 2017.
The Clerk of Court is directed to close the motions at Docket Number 13 and Docket
Dated: New York, New York
January 23, 2017
J. PAUL OETKEN
United States District Judge
COPY MAILED TO PRO SE PARTY BY CHAMBERS
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