United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
L. Maloney United States District Judge
a civil rights action brought by a county jail inmate 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.
is presently confined in the St. Joseph County Jail in
Centreville, Michigan. The events about which he complains
occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues St. Joseph County
Sheriff Bradley Balk and St. Joseph County Jail Administrator
alleges that Defendants are responsible for the operation of
the jail and that they have failed to provide adequate access
to a law library, legal research materials, or professional
legal assistance to permit the inmates to pursue nonfrivolous
civil rights claims concerning the conditions of confinement
in the St. Joseph County Jail. Plaintiff identifies three
legal claims he would like to pursue if only he had adequate
legal resources: (1) denial of necessary medical care for a
ruptured bicep tendon due to mishandling of Plaintiff by
officers; (2) denial of minimally adequate heat; and (3)
denial of nutritionally adequate meals. Plaintiff claims the
Defendants' actions, or more accurately inaction, have
denied him access to the courts in violation of the First
seeks compensatory and punitive damages and an injunction
compelling the sheriff to provide legal assistance.
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).
Plaintiff seeks relief for violation of his First Amendment
Access to the courts
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
hindering, his efforts to pursue a nonfrivolous legal claim.
Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351-53; see also Pilgrim v.
Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996). The
Supreme Court has strictly limited the types of cases for
which there may be an actual injury:
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. The tools it requires to be provided
are those that the inmates need in order to attack their
sentences, directly or collaterally, and in order to
challenge the conditions of their confinement. Impairment of
any other litigating capacity is simply one ...