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Isaac v. Samuels

United States District Court, D. Columbia

September 25, 2015

PRINCE ISAAC, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES E. SAMUELS, JR.., Defendant

          PRINCE ISAAC, Plaintiff, Pro se, WHITE DEER, PA.

         For CHARLES E. SAMUELS, JR., In his capacity as Director, Bureau of Prisons, Defendant: Eric Joseph Young, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 57

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         EMMET G. SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, sues Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr., for declaratory and injunctive relief. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 24. Plaintiff claims that the failure to provide him with Pennsylvania state legal materials during his incarceration at a BOP facility deprived him of his First Amendment right to access the courts to challenge his state conviction. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that his constitutional rights were violated and an injunction compelling " defendant Samuels to implement [sic] all 50 States of the Union criminal law, on all B.O.P. computerized law libraries." Am. Compl. ¶ 15.

         Defendant moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or for summary judgment under Rule 56, ECF No. 27. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds no claim stated and, thus, grants defendant's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff " was convicted on September 21, 2007, of numerous federal offenses arising out of his involvement in a violent drug trafficking ring in Lancaster, Pennsylvania," and he was sentenced in November 2008 to life imprisonment. United States v. Isaac, 22 F.Supp.3d 426, 429 (E.D. Pa. 2014). In July 2009, the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Pennsylvania, sentenced plaintiff to life imprisonment following his conviction for first-degree murder in a case unrelated to the federal case. Id. n.2.

         This action arises from plaintiff's litigation of the state conviction while in custody at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Philadelphia. Plaintiff alleges that in May 2007, following a preliminary hearing in state court, he went to the law library at the FDC to research the death penalty since the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had charged him with capital murder. " To [p]laintiff's dismay and consternation, none of the material in the law library pertained to Pennsylvania criminal law, let alone any other 49 States." Am. Compl. at 2 ¶ 2.

Page 58

Plaintiff further alleges that because he had no access to state law materials, he was unable to assist in the preparation of a motion filed in the state case on his behalf in July 2008, and " to assist mitigation counsel with a motion to squash the death penalty notice." Id. ¶ 3. As the state case progressed, plaintiff, upon returning to FDC, made " verbal and written" requests " to be provided with [Pennsylvania] criminal law. Each time [he] was told by prison officials that the BOP doesn't provide such law material." Id. at 3 ¶ 4.

         Following his trial and conviction in state court, plaintiff was returned to BOP's custody in July 2009 " with a life sentence and a consecutive 20-40 years, which is consecutive to the life plus 10 years he has under a federal conviction." Id. ¶ 5. At the end of July 2009, plaintiff was ordered by the state court " to file 'A Concise Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal' under Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b)," which he alleges he could not do because he was back in federal custody and could not research the rule. Id. ¶ 6. " [S]o [plaintiff] was compelled to file a generalized State of Errors or risk losing his right to appeal." Id.

         In August 2010, plaintiff, by counsel, filed a direct appeal, but plaintiff " had no input on [the] brief . . . since he didn't have access to State[] criminal law." Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiff also alleges that he could not petition for new appointed counsel " due to not having [Pennsylvania] case law for authority." Id. The Superior Court denied plaintiff's direct appeal on February 29, 2012, and the state Supreme Court denied his petition for review on August 13, 2012. Id. ¶ 8.

         II. ...


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