United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JANET T. NEFF
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. CARMODY U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 36), and Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 42). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B), the undersigned recommends that both
motions be denied.
following allegations are contained in Plaintiff's
amended complaint. (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff is incarcerated
with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). On April
4, 2016, Plaintiff submitted for mailing material addressed
to the MDOC Pardons and Commutation Coordinator Unit. The
following day, Haley Henley opened Plaintiff's mail, read
the contents, and then destroyed the mail in question. Henley
thereafter required Plaintiff to submit his outgoing mail
unsealed so that it could be reviewed by prison staff.
Plaintiff initiated the present action against Henley
alleging that she violated his First Amendment
rights. Defendant Henley and Plaintiff now both
move for summary judgment.
judgment "shall" be granted "if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party moving for summary
judgment can satisfy its burden by demonstrating "that
the respondent, having had sufficient opportunity for
discovery, has no evidence to support an essential element of
his or her case." Minadeo v. ICI Paints, 398
F.3d 751, 761 (6th Cir. 2005). Once the moving party
demonstrates that "there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case, " the non-moving
party "must identify specific facts that can be
established by admissible evidence, which demonstrate a
genuine issue for trial." Amini v. Oberlin
College, 440 F.3d 350, 357 (6th Cir. 2006).
the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party, the party opposing the summary
judgment motion "must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts." Amini, 440 F.3d at 357. The existence
of a mere "scintilla of evidence" in support of the
non-moving party's position is insufficient. Daniels
v. Woodside, 396 F.3d 730, 734-35 (6th Cir. 2005). The
non-moving party "may not rest upon [his] mere
allegations, " but must instead present
"significant probative evidence" establishing that
"there is a genuine issue for trial." Pack v.
Damon Corp., 434 F.3d 810, 813-14 (6th Cir. 2006).
the non-moving party cannot defeat a properly supported
motion for summary judgment by "simply arguing that it
relies solely or in part upon credibility
determinations." Fogerty v. MGM Group Holdings
Corp., Inc., 379 F.3d 348, 353 (6th Cir. 2004). Rather,
the non-moving party "must be able to point to some
facts which may or will entitle him to judgment, or refute
the proof of the moving party in some material portion, and.
. .may not merely recite the incantation, 'Credibility,
' and have a trial on the hope that a jury may disbelieve
factually uncontested proof." Id. at 353-54. In
sum, summary judgment is appropriate "against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial." Daniels, 396 F.3d at 735.
moving party without the burden of proof need only show that
the opponent cannot sustain his burden at trial, a moving
party with the burden of proof faces a "substantially
higher hurdle." Arnett v. Myers, 281 F.3d 552,
561 (6th Cir. 2002). Where the moving party has the burden,
"his showing must be sufficient for the court to hold
that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for
the moving party." Calderone v. United States,
799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986). The party with the burden
of proof "must show the record contains evidence
satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the evidence is
so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to
disbelieve it." Arnett, 281 F.3d at 561.
Accordingly, summary judgment in favor of the party with the
burden of persuasion "is inappropriate when the evidence
is susceptible of different interpretations or inferences by
the trier of fact." Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S.
541, 553 (1999).
argues that she is entitled to relief on the ground that the
mail in question is not properly characterized as
“legal mail” and, furthermore, that “even
assuming that the envelope was legal mail, [Plaintiff] has
failed to state a claim.” Plaintiff argues that he is
entitled to summary judgment because Defendant opened his
legal mail outside his presence after which she
“destroyed the contents” thereof. For the reasons
discussed below, disputes of fact preclude granting summary
judgment to either party.
prisoners “do not forfeit all constitutional
protections by reason of their conviction and confinement in
prison.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545
(1979); see also, Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84
(1987) (“[p]rison walls do not form a barrier
separating prison inmates from the protections of the
Constitution”). For example, inmates retain the right,
under the First Amendment, to send and receive mail. See,
e.g., Bergey v. Tribley, 2015 WL 2401503 at *4 (W.D.
Mich., May 20, 2015) (citations omitted).
have long recognized a distinction between legal mail and
non-legal mail, the former warranting much greater protection
from unreasonable intrusion. See, e.g., Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 577 (1974); Kensu v.
Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 174 (6th Cir. 1996). Whether a
particular item of mail qualifies as legal mail is a question
of law for the Court to resolve. See Sallier v.
Brooks, 343 F.3d 868, 873 (6th Cir. 2003). While
Plaintiff asserts in conclusory fashion that the mail in
question is properly characterized as legal mail, there is
nothing in the record to support ...