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Cannon v. Lowell District Court

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 5, 2016

LOWELL DISTRICT COURT, et al., Defendants.



I. Introduction

On August 3, 2015, plaintiff Joseph Sherod Cannon, a prisoner in custody in a state facility in East Elmhurst, New York, filed a civil rights complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Cannon v. Lowell District Court, et al., Civil Action No 15-6105 (LAP). Cannon listed the defendants as (1) the Lowell District Court; (2) John Murphy; (3) Douglas Parigian; (4) Robert Normandin; (5) Mark Hooper; (6) “District Attorney of Lowell District Court”; (7) “District Attorney of Lawrence District Court”; (8) Billerica House of Correction; (9) Bridgewater State Hospital; and (10) the Chelmsford Police Department. Along with the complaint, Cannon filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, a prisoner authorization form, and a motion for appointment of pro bono counsel.

On October 7, 2015, Judge Loretta A. Preska issued a transfer order directing that the action be transferred from the Southern District of New York to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).

The complaint is sparse and not entirely coherent. From what can be discerned, it appears that Cannon is alleging that he was falsely imprisoned based on a probation violation detainer in October 2013. He contends his probation officer, John Murphy, lied to the judge by stating that he had failed to report to probation. He further contends that he did not receive notice of the probation violation until April 17, 2014, when he appeared in the Lawrence District Court. At that time, his defense counsel, Robert Normandin, withdrew from Cannon’s case.

Additionally, Cannon contends that paperwork from the District Attorney’s Office states that he was sentenced on January 7, 2014; however, Cannon asserts that he actually was sentenced on the following day, January 8, 2014. The remainder of the complaint simply contains the names the defendants and lists other unnamed defendants. As relief, Cannon seeks monetary damages.

II. Discussion

A. The Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Cannon has filed a financial affidavit indicating that he has no income or assets apart from $1.11 in his account. He did not submit a certified prison account statement; however, as is the practice at the New York facility, where he is incarcerated, he executed a prisoner authorization form that authorizes the agency having custody of him, or any agency to which he is transferred, to send a certified copy of his prison trust fund account for the past six months to this Court. The prisoner authorization further authorizes the agency to calculate the amounts specified by 28 U.S.C. § 1915, to deduct those amounts from Cannon’s prison trust fund account (or institutional equivalent), and to disburse those amounts to this Court. In another civil suit filed recently in this Court, Judge Burroughs granted Cannon leave to proceed in forma pauperis based on the same financial disclosures. She also directed the agency having custody of him to calculate Cannon’s filing fee obligations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) and disburse those amounts to this Court. See Cannon v. Noel, et al., Civil Action No. 15-14196-ADB (Order, Docket No. 8, dated January 12, 2016).

Under the circumstances, the Court will grant Cannon’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and directs that the agency having custody over Cannon calculate the amounts specified in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b), deduct those funds from Cannon’s prison account, and disburse payments to this Court as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

B. Screening of the Complaint

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court may conduct a preliminary review of the complaint brought by a litigant proceeding without prepayment of the filing fee. Similarly, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, prisoner complaints in civil actions that seek redress from a governmental entity or from officers or employees of a governmental entity are also subject to screening. Both § 1915 and § 1915A authorize federal courts to dismiss a complaint sua sponte if the claims are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief can be granted, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

In view of Cannon’s allegations of violations of his constitutional rights, and his use of a template complaint form for claims under § 1983, this Court construes this action as one brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In conducting the preliminary screening, this Court must liberally construe the complaint because Cannon is proceeding pro se. 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, 2 ...

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