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Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

Bodhisattva SKANDHA v. Steven SILVA.1


Decided: April 12, 2021

By the Court (Milkey, Kinder & Sacks, JJ.2)


The plaintiff, an inmate at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk (MCI, Norfolk), appeals from a Suffolk Superior Court judgment denying him leave to file a complaint to initiate a civil action against the defendant, the superintendent of MCI, Norfolk. The plaintiff is required, by order issued in a separate Suffolk Superior Court action, to obtain such leave from the regional administrative justice (RAJ) before any new civil complaint is accepted for filing in that court. That order in turn was based on a finding that, by filing numerous frivolous claims in the past, the plaintiff has abused the court system. We affirm the judgment denying him leave to file his complaint in this case.

Background. The plaintiff's complaint in this case stemmed from his efforts to obtain a copy of the docket sheet in an earlier case he had filed. His complaint here alleged that the defendant and other prison officials enjoyed free Internet access to the docket sheet but denied such access to him. He further alleged that requiring him to pay for access, by paying for postage to mail a request for a copy of the docket sheet to the court clerk, violated the equal protection guarantees of the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution. His complaint sought a declaratory judgment that the defendant's actions violated his rights, an injunction requiring the defendant to allow him access to the docket reports in his cases via Internet in the inmate law library, and compensatory and punitive damages of $28,163 and $6,000 respectively.

The RAJ denied leave to file the complaint, stating that the court had already arranged for a copy of the specific docket report requested by the plaintiff to be mailed to him. Therefore, the RAJ determined that the claim was moot. The plaintiff appealed.

Discussion. The plaintiff argues that the denial on mootness grounds of leave to file his complaint was an abuse of discretion. He asserts that the case is not moot because he sought not merely a copy of a single docket sheet but also declaratory and injunctive relief regarding the defendant's assertedly unlawful “policy” of denying free access to docket sheets.3 But even if the complaint had alleged the existence of any such policy -- which it did not -- the plaintiff did not allege that he, despite his prolific history as a self-represented litigant, had ever been subjected to such a policy before. See G. L. c. 231A, § 2 (declaratory relief available against State officials for “consistently repeated” violations). Nor has the plaintiff explained why his claim, even if capable of repetition, will evade review. We therefore see no abuse of discretion in the RAJ's denial of leave to file the complaint.

Judgment affirmed.


3.   In his brief the plaintiff essentially abandons his damages claims. In any event, it would not have been an abuse of discretion for the RAJ to view those claims as insubstantial and vexatious.

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