United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
OPINION AND ORDER SUMMARILY DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT
AND CERTIFYING THAT AN APPEAL COULD NOT BE TAKEN IN GOOD
L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge
prisoner Cary Cosgrove has filed a pro se civil rights
complaint. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Ionia
Maximum Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. The
complaint alleges that on or about October 28, 2015,
Defendant, a Michigan Department of Corrections postal
inspector working at the Saginaw Correctional Facility,
violated Plaintiff's First Amendment rights by failing to
return a letter written by Plaintiff that was sent back after
he mailed it. Plaintiff does not indicate whether the letter
was returned by the post office or by the Department of
Corrections, nor does he disclose the nature of the letter.
In any event, Plaintiff seeks $7, 500 in damages for the
knowing violation of his First Amendment rights.
filed in forma pauperis are subject to the screening
requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Brown v.
Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 866 (6th Cir. 2000). Section
1915(e)(2) requires district courts to screen and to dismiss
sua sponte complaints that are “(i) frivolous or
malicious; (ii) fail to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted; or (iii) seek monetary relief against a defendant
who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). The Supreme Court has defined a
“frivolous” action as one that “lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
se civil rights complaint is to be construed liberally.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).
Nonetheless, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires
that a complaint set forth “a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
” as well as “a demand for the relief
sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), (3). The purpose of this
rule is to “give the defendant fair notice of what the
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(citation omitted). While this notice pleading standard does
not require “detailed” factual allegations, it
does require more than the bare assertion of legal principles
or conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rule 8
“demands more than an unadorned, the
defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
“A pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
“Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further
factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). “Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level on the assumption that all the
allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in
fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (citations
and footnote omitted).
alleges that on a single occasion Defendant failed to return
a letter written by him that was sent back for unknown
reasons. He claims that this constituted an actionable
violation of his First Amendment rights. Although there is no
question that the First Amendment applies to a prisoner's
receipt of incoming mail, the right is subject to limitation.
Sheets v. Moore, 97 F.3d 164, 166 (6th Cir. 1996);
Knop v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996, 1012 (6th Cir. 1992).
In Thornburgh v. Abbott, the Supreme Court held that
regulations governing incoming correspondence to prisoners
are valid if they are “reasonably related to legitimate
penological interests.” 490 U.S. 401, 413 (1989).
does not disclose the stated reason for Defendant's
actions. Nevertheless, the claim is not actionable. An
isolated incident of interference with a prisoner's mail
generally is insufficient to establish a constitutional
violation. Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 351 (2d
Cir. 2003). Rather, the inmate must show that a prison
official “regularly and unjustifiably interfered”
with the inmate's incoming mail. Id. (citations
omitted); Huey v. Philbin, Case No. 7:12-cv-97, 2013
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102856, 2013 WL 3816684, at *6 (M.D. Ga.
July 22, 2013) (“Plaintiff's allegation that on one
occasion he did not receive his American's Sovereign
Bulletin does not rise to the level of a constitutional
violation, and therefore Plaintiff has failed to state a
First Amendment claim”); McKinnon v. James,
No. 3:03-cv-2274, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8145, 2005 WL
1074466, at *3 (D. Conn. May 5, 2005) (“To state a
claim for the violation of [the First Amendment right to free
flow of mail] . . . an inmate must allege more than a single
instance of interference with his mail.”).
allegations against Defendant McLain do not reflect that he
“regularly and unjustifiably” interfered with
Plaintiff's mail. Rather, the interference is alleged to
have occurred on only one occasion. Plaintiff has thus failed
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
IT IS ORDERED THAT the complaint, ECF No. 1, is summarily
dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and
FURTHER ORDERED THAT an appeal from this order would be
frivolous and could not be taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a)(3); Coppedge ...