Sousa v. Marquez
A plaintiff who has knowledge of the facts that lead to a cause of action and the opportunity to rebut evidence in opposition possesses adequate access to a judicial remedy. The State of Connecticut assigned the defendant, Attorney Devin Marquez, to investigate allegations of the plaintiff, Bryan Sousa, that he was subjected to threats of violence when working at the Department of Environmental Protection. Marquez was unable to substantiate Sousa's claims. Sousa filed a District Court complaint, alleging co-workers retaliated, in violation of his First Amendment rights. The District Court granted judgment to the defendants. Sousa filed a Freedom of Information request and obtained Marquez's notes. Sousa also filed a §1983 complaint, alleging he was denied his constitutional right of access to the courts, because Marquez allegedly concealed evidence. The District Court granted judgment to Marquez, and Sousa appealed. The 2nd Circuit reviewed de novo. Sousa essentially claimed that official action caused the loss of a meritorious case. Sousa was unable to cite any 2nd Circuit decisions that recognize similar legal claims. Even if the 2nd Circuit recognized this claim, to prevail, Sousa would be required to allege that government action caused the underlying suit to be dismissed as untimely, or that official misconduct took away his right to request redress. In Swekel v. City of River Rouge, a 1997 decision, the 6th Circuit wrote, "[T]he defendants did not deny [the plaintiff's] access to the courts, because [the plaintiff] had all of the relevant facts." Sousa claimed he knew about alleged threats of violence. That indicated that he knew about alleged inaccuracies in Marquez's reports when he engaged in the earlier District Court litigation and that he possessed the opportunity to expose the alleged inaccuracies during discovery. "[A]ny intentionally misleading statements or omissions in Marquez's report," wrote the 2nd Circuit, "did not foreclose Sousa's ability to present his prior case." The 2nd Circuit found that because Sousa had knowledge of the facts and the opportunity to rebut evidence, he failed to prove he was denied access to the courts, even if the 2nd Circuit recognized this type of legal claim.