United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
L. Maloney, 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 the only remaining
defendant, Defendant Avila, for failure to state a claim.
is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at Saginaw Correctional Facility (SRF) in
Freeland, Saginaw County, Michigan. The events about which he
complains, however, occurred at the Lakeland Correctional
Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan, and at
the Lapeer County Circuit Court.
originally filed his action in the Eastern District of
Michigan, naming the following Defendants: LCF Correctional
Officer (unknown) Avila; former Lapeer County Prosecutor
Timothy Turkelson; and retired 67th District Court Judge John
L. Conover, who was presiding by appointment in the Lapeer
County Circuit Court. In an opinion and order issued on April
19, 2018 (ECF No. 7), the Eastern District of Michigan
dismissed Defendants Turkelson and Conover, because both were
immune from suit based on the allegations of the complaint.
The court transferred the remainder of the action to this
Court, where venue was proper.
alleges that, on June 23, 2015, he was scheduled to appear
for a jury trial in the Lapeer County Circuit Court on
several counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC
I). Plaintiff alleges that he was representing himself in the
proceedings. He complains that he was awakened at 4:30 a.m.
to be transported to the court for trial. Despite advising
Defendant Avila that he was representing himself at trial and
that he required his legal materials for that representation,
Defendant Avila refused to allow him to bring those materials
alleges that, on the first day of trial, he was deprived of
his notes and prepared questions during the conduct of voir
dire. He alleges that the trial court instructed correctional
officers that they must assist Plaintiff to bring his legal
materials on the remaining days of trial. Plaintiff
contends that not having his legal materials during voir dire
violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments
to access the courts. He also claims that Defendant
Avila's actions constituted the common law torts of
trespass and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
seeks declaratory relief, together with compensatory and
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).
claims that Defendant Avila denied him access to the courts
by refusing to permit Plaintiff to bring his legal materials
to his criminal trial, at which he was scheduled to represent
himself. It is well established that prisoners have a
constitutional right of access to the courts. Bounds v.
Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977). The principal issue in
Bounds was whether the states must protect the right
of access to the courts by providing law libraries or
alternative sources of legal information for prisoners.
Id. at 817. The Court further noted that in addition
to law libraries or alternative sources of legal knowledge,
the states must provide indigent inmates with “paper
and pen to draft legal documents, notarial services to
authenticate them, and with stamps to mail them.”
Id. at 824-25. The right of access to the courts
also prohibits prison officials from erecting barriers that
may impede the inmate's access to the courts. See
Knop v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996, 1009 (6th Cir. 1992).
indigent prisoner's constitutional right to legal
resources and materials is not, however, without limit. In
order to state a viable claim for interference with his
access to the courts, a plaintiff must show “actual
injury.” Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 349
(1996); see also Talley-Bey v. Knebl, 168 F.3d 884,
886 (6th Cir. 1999); Knop, 977 F.2d at 1000. In
other words, a plaintiff must plead and demonstrate that the
shortcomings in the prison legal assistance program or lack
of legal materials have hindered, or are presently ...