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Jackson v. Bouchard

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

December 21, 2016

DOUGLAS CORNELL JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOE BOUCHARD, Defendant.

          OPINION

          GORDON J. QUIST, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiff's action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Douglas Cornell Jackson, a state prisoner currently confined at the Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility (AMF), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Law Librarian Joe Bouchard. Plaintiff alleges that he has pending litigation in Wayne County Circuit Court, the United States District Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the Baraga County Circuit Court. Plaintiff claims that Defendant has refused to provide him with adequate access to the law library, or with access to the legal writer program.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant only allowed Plaintiff access to legal research one day per week. Because of Plaintiff's refusal to sign a LWP [legal writer program] / client agreement, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with his motion for superintending control. Housing staff stole Plaintiff's Michigan Court Rules Book. On February 24, 2016, and March 1, 2016, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with legal research materials. Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with LWP service to help with the preparation of the instant complaint. On March 4, 2016, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with the Michigan Court Rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On March 18, 2016, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with the index of the federal criminal statutes.

         Plaintiff further claims that Defendant intentionally delayed providing Plaintiff with a “Mich. Ct. Rule 6.502 motion for relief from judgment, motion for writ of superintending control complaint.” On May 21, 2016, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with LWP services in preparing a motion to the trial court. Defendant also refused to turn over some of Plaintiff's documents, which contained vital information relating to Plaintiff's criminal case. Defendant provided Plaintiff with a state pleading that contained only federal case law. Finally, on August 8, 2016, and August 10, 2016, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with the necessary copies for service of this action. Plaintiff states that he filed grievances on Defendant each time Defendant violated his rights.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated his right to be free from retaliation, as well as his right of access to the courts. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

         Discussion

         I. Failure to state a claim

         A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement, ' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(I)).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).

         In Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977), the Supreme Court recognized a prisoner's fundamental right of access to the courts. While the right of access to the courts does not allow a State to prevent an inmate from bringing a grievance to court, it also does not require the State to enable a prisoner to discover grievances or litigate effectively. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996). Thus, Bounds did not create an abstract, free-standing right to a law library, litigation tools, or legal assistance. Id. at 351 (1996). Further, the right may be limited by legitimate penological goals, such as maintaining security and preventing fire or sanitation hazards. See Acord v. Brown, No. 91-1865, 1992 WL 58975 (6th Cir. March 26, 1992); Hadix v. Johnson, No. 86-1701, 1988 WL 24204 (6th Cir. March 17, 1988); Wagner v. Rees, No. 85-5637, 1985 WL 14025 (6th Cir. Nov. 8, 1985).

         To state a claim, an inmate must show that any shortcomings in the library, litigation tools, or legal assistance caused actual injury in his pursuit of a legal claim. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351; Talley-Bey, 168 F.3d at 886; Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1996); Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996); Walker v. Mintzes, 771 F.2d 920, 932 (6th Cir. 1985). An inmate must make a specific claim that he was adversely affected or that the litigation was prejudiced. Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 578 (6th Cir. 2005); Vandiver v. Niemi, No. 94-1642, 1994 WL 677685, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 2, 1994). “Examples of actual prejudice to pending or contemplated litigation include having a case dismissed, being unable to file a complaint, and missing a court-imposed deadline.” Harbin-Bey, 420 F.3d at 578 (citing Jackson v. Gill, 92 F. App'x 171, 173 (6th Cir. 2004)).

         In this case, Plaintiff makes a conclusory assertion that Defendant's conduct prevented him from presenting “all his claims of constitutional violations.” With regard to the instant case, Plaintiff states that Defendant prevented him from filing a “legally and factually sufficient prisoner civil rights complaint in this court that is meaningful, possibly resulting in dismissal in [Defendant]'s favor.” However, Plaintiff fails to specifically allege any such prejudice. Plaintiff's complaint contains detailed allegations regarding Defendant's alleged ...


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