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Gibbs v. Miller

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 12, 2019

LOUIS ALISTER GIBBS, Plaintiff,
v.
MATT MILLER et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Janet T. Neff, United States District Judge.

         This is 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 for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

          I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated in the Chippewa County Jail in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. The incident about which he claims, however, occurred while he was housed at the Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the Calhoun County Sheriff's Department and its employees Sergeant Matt Miller and Lieutenant Dave Tendziegloski.

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 26, 2018, he received legal correspondence from his attorney. When Plaintiff received the mail, the envelope had already been opened. Plaintiff filed a grievance because his legal mail had been opened outside his presence.

         Defendant Miller responded to Plaintiff's grievance:

In your grievance dated 9/26/2018 your complaint is that you received legal correspondence from an attorney and that when your [sic] received the mail it had been opened. You state that this was not done in your presence and therefore constitutes a violation of our policy. You are correct in your statement that your legal mail was opened outside your presence. This had been investigated and it has been determined that it was an oversight and mistake made by the person working in that assignment that day. In no way was it an intentional act direct[ed] toward you. Nothing [was] left out of that correspondence, tampered with, restricted or redacted. Nothing was copied, read for content or otherwise compromised regarding any privileged information that may [have] been written on the pages contained in the letter. The envelope was simply opened, the contents checked as any regular mail would be and then returned to the envelop[e]. We do not read any mail incoming or outgoing for content unless there is a specific reason to do so. In this case the mail was only examined for contraband and not read or tampered with in any way. You are correct that this should not have occurred . . . .

(Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.7.)

         Plaintiff was not satisfied with Defendant Miller's response, so he appealed. Defendant Tendziegloski responded as follows:

Mr. Gibbs, in your grievance you state that your legal mail was opened before it got to you, so you did not witness it. Sgt. Miller investigated it and found that your claim was true. Sgt. Miller after the completion of the investigation met with you and explained the issue. Since Sgt. Miller's shift and the [person-in-question's] shift are not the same, he had to make [arrangements] to meet with them and discuss the issue. This did make it fall outside the 5 days as you outlined and would be considered an unusual circumstance.
You told Sgt. Miller that you had confirmed with your legal counsel that you received all the contents of your mail. Sgt. Miller also confirmed that no one read you mail for content, but they did however check it not in your presence by error, for contraband. We have taken steps to try to make sure this does not happen again I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and we will endeavor to not let this happen again.

(Grievance Appeal Response, ECF No. 1-1, ...


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