Grullon v. City of New Haven
Generally, a pro se complaint should not be dismissed without furnishing the plaintiff an opportunity to amend, and the amended complaint should be construed to raise the strongest argument alleged. In January 2010, the pro se plaintiff pre-trial detainee, Raymond Grullon, was transferred to the City of New Haven's correctional facility. On April 18, Grullon wrote a letter to the warden, complaining about prison conditions. On or about May 18, he filed a complaint, alleging that he lacked access to a law library and the courts, his cell lacked a ladder to the top bunk and guard rails, his bunk lacked blankets and sheets, he was not provided toothpaste and soap, and the supply of food was not adequate. The prison warden moved to dismiss. Grullon objected and requested that he be allowed to amend his complaint, if his allegations were insufficient. The District Court found that the 11th Amendment barred claims against the warden in his official capacity and that Grullon's requests for equitable relief were moot as a result of Grullon's transfer to another facility. 'Grullon,' wrote the District Court, 'does not allege that the Warden was directly involved in or knew about the alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement.' Grullon, added the District Court, did not allege that the warden actually received his letter. The District Court denied Grullon's request to amend and dismissed his complaint. Grullon appealed. The 2nd Circuit found that Grullon's original complaint failed to adequately allege that the warden was personally involved in or knew about the alleged constitutional deprivation. Allegations in his April 18 letter to the warden combined with the allegations in the original complaint might have been sufficient to state a claim. The court could have drawn a reasonable inference that the warden actually received and perused the letter. The 2nd Circuit vacated in part and remanded, because 'the district court did not properly exercise its discretion in refusing to allow Grullon to amend his complaint.' Katherine Swan and Guy Struve represented the plaintiff. George Jepsen, and Michael Skold represented the warden.