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Human Rights Defense Center v. Bezotte

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 31, 2017

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENSE CENTER, d/b/a Prison Legal News, Plaintiff,
LIVINGSTON COUNTY SHERIFF BOB BEZOTTE, individually and officially, LIEUTENANT THOMAS CREMONTE, individually and officially, and LIVINGSTONCOUNTY, Defendants.


          Honorable Denise Page Hood, Judge


         Plaintiff recently filed a Rule 54(b) Motion Seeking Relief from the Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. [Dkt. No. 246] Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of the Court's conclusion in its March 29, 2013 Order that Plaintiff's regarding the delivery of “legal mail” and visitation with clients were not viable. Plaintiff's Motion has been fully briefed, and the Court heard argument on the Motion at a May 31, 2016 hearing.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) states:

[A]ny order or other form of decision, however designated, which adjudicates fewer than all of the claims ... shall not terminate the action ... and the order or other form of decision is subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties.

         The Sixth Circuit has held that “[t]raditionally, courts will find justification for reconsidering interlocutory orders when there is (1) an intervening change of controlling law; (2) new evidence available; or (3) a need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Rodriguez v. Tenn. Laborers Health & Welfare Fund, 89 F.App'x 949, 959 (6th Cir. 2004); see also Mallory v. Eyrich, 922 F.2d 1273, 1282 (6th Cir.1991) (“District courts have inherent power to reconsider interlocutory orders and reopen any part of a case before entry of final judgment. A district court may modify, or even rescind, such interlocutory orders.” (citations omitted)).

         Plaintiff argues that, in this case, the Sixth Circuit's holding in ACLU v. Livingston County, 796 F.3d 636 (6th Cir. 2015), which was not available for the Court's consideration or Plaintiff's argument that precipitated the Court's decision, constitutes an intervening change of controlling law. Plaintiff argues that the ACLU v. Livingston County decision contravenes this Court's findings on March 29, 2013 that Plaintiff “has failed to state a claim for a constitutional violation as to Defendants' failure to allow visitation of inmates or delivery of ‘legal mail' not personal to an individual inmate.” Dkt. No. 64, PgID 1994.

         B. Analysis

         In its Motion and supporting brief, Plaintiff contends that:

In ACLU v. Livingston, the Sixth Circuit unequivocally stated that mail from an attorney is “legal mail as a matter of law because ‘unimpaired, confidential communication with an attorney is an integral component of the judicial process.'” 796 F.3d at 643 (citing Sallier v. Brooks, 343 F.3d at 877); see also id. “all incoming mail from attorneys and from the courts is to be treated as privileged mail” (citing Knop v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996, 1012 (6th Cir. 1992) (emphasis in original)). Accordingly, the first analysis must be whether the correspondence on its face established that it came from a licensed attorney. In ACLU, the Sixth Circuit relied on several factors including: 1) notations on the outside of the envelope and the letter identifying it as “legal mail;” 2) the name of a licensed attorney; and 3) the name of the organization or firm affiliated with the attorney. 796 F.3d at 640. While the Sixth Circuit certainly did not intend this to be an exhaustive list, the intent was clear - the jail staff receiving the correspondence must be able to determine that the letter came from an attorney.

Dkt. No. 246, PgID 6404. Plaintiff then contends that, because correspondences to Livingston County Jail inmates clearly labeled as coming from attorney Daniel Manville were not processed to prisoners, Defendants' actions contravened the law “announced” in ACLU v. Livingston County. See id. at PgID 6408-15.

         Defendant argues, and the Court agrees, that Plaintiff's argument regarding mail sent to Livingston County Jail inmates by attorney Daniel Manville is not persuasive or relevant. Plaintiff does not dispute that: (1) the issue of correspondence from attorney Daniel Manville was not identified in the motions underlying the Court's March 29, 2013 Order; and (2) the Court did not address the issue of correspondence from Daniel Manville in the March 29, 2013 Order. Plaintiff also does not dispute that it withdrew, prior to any action by the Court, the proposed pleadings Plaintiff later sought leave to file regarding attorney Daniel Manville's correspondence with inmates at Livingston County Jail. See Dkt. Nos. 122 and 147. The Court never considered previously, and the Court concludes that it ...

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