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McNeil v. State

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 30, 2014

TARA McNEIL, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DENISE J. CASPER, District Judge.

For the reasons set forth below, (1) plaintiff's emergency motion of indigency review is allowed; (2) plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is allowed; and (3) plaintiff shall show cause in writing why this action should not be dismissed. No summonses shall issue until further Order of the Court.

BACKGROUND

On December 4, 2014, Tara McNeil ("McNeil"), a self-described homeless resident of Boston, Massachusetts, filed a pro se complaint accompanied by motions for emergency review and to proceed in forma pauperis. See Docket. McNeil brings this civil rights action against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Somerville; the Somerville Police Department; a Somerville police officer; the Committee for Public Counsel Services ("CPCS");[1] two criminal defense attorneys and unnamed Somerville District Court employees. See Complaint ("Compl.").

The crux of the complaint concerns allegations that defendant police officer Lance Covert arrested McNeil without probable cause at the Somerville District Court. Id . In addition to alleging false arrest, McNeil complains of (1) the denial of a speedy trial, (2) obstruction of justice; (3) the defendants' failure to preserve the court surveillance tape, and (4) the public defender's alleged slander of McNeil. Id. at ¶ 25.

Specifically, McNeil alleges that she visited the Somerville District Court on April 14, 2014, and again on April 16, 2014. Id. at ¶ 11. She complains that several unnamed court employees prevented her from filing a motion concerning her appeal of a traffic ticket. Id . While at the courthouse, McNeil alleges that a police officer, subsequently identified as defendant Covert, arrested her. Id. at ¶ 12. McNeil complains that she was not read her Miranda rights and that Covert kept her briefcase while McNeil was being removed from the courthouse by another police officer. Id. at ¶¶ 13, 15. McNeil complains that Covert also performed an unlawful search of her bag. Id. at ¶ 15.

Defendant Connie Tran was appointed as McNeil's public defender and McNeil complains that Tran ignored her calls, missed an appointment and placed a note with McNeil's name in public view. Id. at ¶¶ 16-18. McNeil complains that attorney Tran sent a letter to the district attorney that contained untrue, derogatory commentary. Id. at ¶ 18. McNeil alleges that she made efforts to have the court surveillance tape preserved as exculpatory evidence by contacting the court, the police and attorney Tran. Id . McNeil alleges that the surveillance tape from the court was "erased" despite the fact that McNeil asked those with legal responsibility to preserve the tape. Id. at ¶ 19.

McNeil alleges that she dismissed Tran and attorney Gilbert was then appointed as her attorney. Id. at ¶ 21. McNeil complains that attorney Gilbert would not file a motion to dismiss, despite McNeil's instructions to do so. Id.

McNeil states that "the court process [has been allowed] to float along without any aggressive measures taken for [plaintiff's] defense with no accountability to those that are allowing this insult to justice' to continue." Id. at ¶ 23. McNeil believes that she has been disrespected because of her "homeless status." Id. at ¶ 23. McNeil complains that her name and reputation has been tarnished because of this incident and that her fledgling flower business has suffered as well. Id.

For relief, McNeil seeks (1) a declaration that her constitutional rights were violated; (2) a court order for the defendants either to produce the surveillance tape or dismiss the criminal case; and (3) compensatory damages. Id. at ¶¶ 25-28.

DISCUSSION

I. The Filing Fee

Plaintiff's financial disclosures contained in her motion to proceed in forma pauperis indicate that she has no substantial assets or income. Her primary source of income is from public benefits. She operates a small flower business. In view of these disclosures, this court finds plaintiff has demonstrated that she is without sufficient funds to pay the applicable filing and administrative fees, ...


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