United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act,
Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), 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, the Court will dismiss
Plaintiff's complaint against Defendant Rose for failure
to state a claim.
is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at Richard A. Handlon Correctional
Facility (MTU) in Ionia County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues
Yvonne Rose, a librarian at that facility.
alleges that in December 2016, he intended to appeal a
decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals. He asked Rose for
a form to file an application for leave to appeal with the
Michigan Supreme Court. He contends that the prison library
at MTU contains a copy of the appropriate form in the State
Appellate Defender's Office motion book. Rose refused to
provide a copy of the form, asserting that she is not allowed
to copy motions or applications from the books, because
“Lansing said so.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.)
Plaintiff attempted to obtain a copy of the form from the
Michigan Supreme Court, but by the time he received one, it
was too late for him to file an appeal.
claims that Rose denied him his right of access to the
courts. Plaintiff seeks damages and unidentified injunctive
Failure to state a claim
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)).
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); Street
v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir.
1996). 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).
contends that Defendant Rose denied him his right to access
the courts. It is well established that prisoners have a
constitutional right of access to the courts. Bounds v.
Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977). However,
“Bounds does not guarantee inmates the
wherewithal to transform themselves into litigating engines
capable of filing everything from shareholder derivative
actions to slip-and-fall claims.” Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 355 (1996). The state is only
required to provide inmates with the tools needed to
“attack their sentences, directly or collaterally, and
. . . to challenge the conditions of their confinement.
Impairment of any other litigating capacity is simply one of
the incidental (and perfectly constitutional) consequences of
conviction and incarceration.” Id. In other
words, the right of access to the courts “extends to
direct appeals [in criminal cases], habeas corpus
applications, and civil rights claims only.”
Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 391 (6th Cir.
1999) (en banc).
addition, the the right of access to the courts only extends
to non-frivolous actions. In other words, the underlying
action allegedly impaired by Defendant must have asserted a
non-frivolous claim. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353. Because
the underlying action will not be tried independently, there
is a “need for care on the part of the plaintiff in
identifying, and by the court in determining, the claim for
relief underlying the access-to-courts plea.”
Christoner v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 416 (2002).
Accordingly, “the underlying cause of action . . . is
an element that must be described in the complaint, just as
much as allegations must describe the official acts
frustrating the litigation.” Id. at 415. The
complaint should “state the underlying claim in
accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) just as
if it were being independently pursued, and a like plain
statement should describe any remedy available under the
access claim and presently unique to it.” Id.
at 417-18 (footnote omitted).
does not allege what type of action he was pursuing on appeal
in state court, let alone state his underlying claim
“just as if it were being independently pursued.”
See Id. at 417. Consequently, it is not possible to
determine whether his intended appeal was frivolous, or
whether it concerned his criminal conviction, a habeas corpus
application, or a ...