United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL
A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Michigan prisoner Rufus Brown
(“Plaintiff”), confined at the Cooper Street
Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, alleges that
prison officials failed to properly deliver legal mail to
him. Specifically, he states that he did not timely receive a
copy of a decision denying him federal habeas relief, which
was issued on October 31, 2016, and that the delay affected
his ability to timely file an appeal. Plaintiff asserts a
violation of his right of access to the courts. Plaintiff
names several prison officials and the Michigan Department of
Corrections as the defendants in this action and seeks
declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and monetary damages.
The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed without
prepayment of the filing fees for this action pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).
the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996
(“PLRA”), the Court is required to sua sponte
dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint before service on a
defendant if it determines that the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c); 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court is similarly required to
dismiss a complaint seeking redress against government
entities, officers, and employees which it finds to be
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis
in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
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) (quoting Conley
v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) and Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). While such notice pleading does not require
detailed factual allegations, it does require more than the
bare assertion of legal 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).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that (1) he was deprived of a right, privilege, or
immunity secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the
United States; and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person
acting under color of state law. Flagg Bros. v.
Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-57 (1978); Harris v.
Circleville, 583 F.3d 356, 364 (6th Cir. 2009). A
plaintiff must also allege that the deprivation of rights was
intentional. Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 348
(1986); Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 333-36
(1986). A pro se civil rights complaint is to be construed
liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21
(1972). Despite this liberal pleading standard, the Court
finds that Plaintiff's complaint is subject to summary
including indigent prisoners, have a constitutional right of
access to the courts which the states have a duty to protect.
Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821-25 (1977). A
prisoner's right of access to the courts is limited to
direct criminal appeals, habeas corpus applications, and
civil rights claims challenging the conditions of
confinement. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 355
(1996); Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 391
(6th Cir. 1999). To state a §1983 claim for the denial
of access to the courts, a plaintiff must allege that the
deprivation of rights was the result of intentional conduct.
Sims v. Landrum, 170 F. App'x 954, 957 (6th Cir.
2006); Wojnicz v. Davis, 80 F. App'x 382, 384
(6th Cir. 2003). An allegation of negligence is insufficient
to state an access to the courts claim under § 1983.
Collins v. City of Harker Hgts., 503 U.S. 115,
127-30 (1992). Additionally, a plaintiff must make some
showing of prejudice or actual injury as a result of the
challenged conduct. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351;
Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 578 (6th Cir.
2005) (citing Jackson v. Gill, 92 F. App'x 171,
173 (6th Cir. 2004)). Examples of actual prejudice include
having a case dismissed, being unable to file a complaint,
and missing a court-imposed deadline. Harbin-Bey,
420 F.3d at 578. No actual injury occurs without a showing
that a non-frivolous claim has been lost or rejected, or that
the presentation of such a claim is being prevented.
Lewis, 518 U.S. at 354-56; Pilgrim v.
Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996).
case, Plaintiff fails to allege facts showing that any delay
in receiving his legal mail was the result of the
defendants' conduct (as opposed to the post office's
conduct for example) or that the defendants' conduct was
intentional in the constitutional sense (as opposed to
negligent). Conclusory allegations are insufficient to state
a claim for relief under § 1983. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-57;
Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 588 (1998);
Moldowan v. City of Warren, 578 F.3d 351, 390-91
(6th Cir. 2009).
Plaintiff fails to show that he suffered prejudice or actual
injury as the result of the defendants' alleged improper
conduct. In the habeas case referenced by Plaintiff,
Brown v. Rivard, No. 2:12-CV-13638 (E.D. Mich.), the
Court's records reveal that Plaintiff received notice of
the October 31, 2016 habeas decision on March 2, 2017.
See Motion for Appellate Notice Extension. Under the
Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Plaintiff could have
reopened the time for filing an appeal within the earlier of
180 days after the judgment or 14 days after receiving notice
of the Court's decision. See Fed. R. App. P.
4(a)(6). For Plaintiff, the earlier date was 14 days after he
received notice of the habeas decision - on or about March
16, 2017. Plaintiff, however, did not date his motion until
April 3, 2017. See Motion for Appellate Notice
Extension. Thus, while the delay in receiving his legal mail
affected Plaintiff's habeas appeal, it did not preclude
him from timely seeking to reopen the time for filing an
appeal and ultimately pursuing that appeal. Plaintiff fails
to state a denial of access to the courts claim in his
pleadings. This case must therefore be dismissed.
reasons stated, the Court concludes that Plaintiff fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 in his pleadings. Accordingly, the Court
dismisses with prejudice Plaintiff's civil rights
complaint. Given this determination, the Court also denies
Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel, which was
submitted with his complaint. Lastly, the Court concludes
that an appeal from this decision cannot be taken ...