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Darsch v. Lynch

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 13, 2016

SCOTT LYNCH, ET AL., Defendants.




On September 29, 2015, plaintiff Michael Darsch (“Darsch”), a prisoner in custody at MCI Concord in Concord, Massachusetts, filed a self-prepared Complaint against a number of defendants connected in various ways to his criminal prosecution, conviction, and/or sentence in the Hampden County Superior Court. Specifically, the defendants include: (1) Scott Lynch (“Lynch”), the lead detective and investigator for the Chicopee Police Department (“CPD”); (2) John Pronovost (“Pronovost”), a supervising police officer with the CPD; (3) Tracey Duncan (“Duncan”), Darsch’s criminal defense attorney appointed by the state court; (4) Matthew Green, (“Green”) the prosecuting attorney for the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office (“HCDAO”); (5) the HCDAO; and (6) the CPD. In the caption of the Complaint, Darsch also indicates there are additional defendants (by using “et al.”); however, there are no allegations against any other individuals or entities within the body of the Complaint. Darsch asserts due process and equal protection violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and criminal statutes 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 242 (Conspiracy against rights; Deprivation of rights under color of law). He also asserts claims under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (“MCRA”), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, §11I, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 263, § 1A, and legal malpractice.

In brief, Darsch claims that in November, 2010, he was interviewed by Lynch and given his Miranda rights. He claims he was not informed of the reason why he was being questioned nor was he advised that he could stop the interview at any time. After Darsch stated he wanted a lawyer, the interview ended and he was escorted out of the police station. He was not arrested or brought before a Clerk-Magistrate for arraignment; rather, he later was summonsed into court and told he had been indicted pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, § 23 (Rape and abuse of child). Darsch further contends that defendants Lynch and Pronovost submitted a false incident report that indicated that he had been arrested (the report stated the matter was “closed by arrest.”). Compl. (Docket No. 1 at 7. ¶ 12) . He asserts that this violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 263, § 1A.[1] He also asserts claims against the CPD for the actions of these two employees.

Next, with respect to defense attorney Duncan, Darsch alleges that she provided inadequate representation by failing to investigate other witnesses who would support Darsch’s claim of innocence. He also claims she failed to use an expert witness and failed to point out that the testimony of a witness was inaccurate and contrary to the police investigation reports. He alleges that Duncan committed legal malpractice.

With respect to prosecutor Green, Darsch alleges that he maliciously and willfully violated his equal protection rights at sentencing because he recommended a sentence that was far greater than the statute required for a defendant with no criminal record. Darsch further contends that other similarly situated defendants received lesser prison sentence recommendations than he did. Additionally, Darsch claims that Green was aware that he had never formally been arrested and booked as required under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 263, § 1A. He also contends that Green is not entitled to immunity where he overstepped constitutional boundaries. Darsch sues the HCDAO for the actions of its employee.

As relief, Darsch seeks, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that the criminal process was void and therefore dismissal of his criminal conviction is required. He also sees $4 million in monetary damages and $25, 000.00 in punitive damages, as well as an Order prohibiting the defendants from retaliating against him.

Along with the Complaint, Darsch filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Docket No. 2). On December 10, 2015, Darsch filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel (Docket No. 5) with supporting materials.


I. The Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Upon review of Darsch’s financial affidavit and prison account statement, this Court finds that he lacks funds to pay the $400.00 filing and administrative fees for this action. Nevertheless, because he is a prisoner, he is obligated to pay the filing fee in installments pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (the in forma pauperis statute).

Accordingly, Darsch’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Docket No. 2) is ALLOWED, and he is Ordered to pay the filing fee as follows.

A. Darsch is assessed an initial partial filing fee of $23.50, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A);[2] and

B. The remainder of the fee $326.50 is to be assessed and collected in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

The Clerk shall send the Treasurer’s Office at MCI Concord a copy of this Memorandum and Order to facilitate payments to this Court.

II. Screening of the Complaint

Because Darsch is a prisoner as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), the screening provisions of the PLRA come into play. The PLRA contains several provisions which grant this Court the authority to screen and dismiss prisoner complaints. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (proceedings in forma pauperis); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (screening of suits against governmental officers and entities). Section 1915 authorizes federal courts to dismiss actions in which a plaintiff seeks to proceed without prepayment of fees if the action lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact, Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), or if the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and (iii). Section 1915A also authorizes the Court to review prisoner complaints in civil actions in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or officers or employees of a governmental entity, and to dismiss the action regardless of whether or not the plaintiff has paid the filing fee, if the complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or fact, fails to state a claim, or seeks relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

In connection with this preliminary screening, Darsch’s pro se Complaint is construed generously. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Instituto de Educacion Universal Corp. v. U.S. Dept. of Education, 209 F.3d 18, 23 (1st Cir. 2000). Even under a broad reading, however, the Complaint is substantially deficient and is subject to dismissal for the reasons set forth below.

III. Failure to Plead Plausible Federal Claims Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 Darsch’s Complaint fails to comport with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure with respect to his conspiracy claims, his claims against his defense counsel, and his claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985.

Under Rule 8(a), a plaintiff is required to include in the complaint, inter alia, “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement must “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ’” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); see Rivera v. Rhode Island, 402 F.3d 27, 33 (1st Cir. 2005). It must afford the defendant(s) a “[‘]meaningful opportunity to mount a defense, ’” Díaz-Rivera v. Rivera-Rodríguez, 377 F.3d 119, 123 (1st Cir. 2004) (quoting Rodríguez v. Doral Mortgage Corp., 57 F.3d 1168, 1172 (1st Cir. 1995)). See also Redondo-Borges v. U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Dev., 421 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2005). “In a civil rights action as in any other action . . ., the complaint should at least set forth minimal facts as to who did what to whom, when, where, and why.” Educadores Puertorriqueños en ...

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