United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern 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 for failure to state a claim.
is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at the Baraga Correctional Facility (AMF)
in Baraga County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues AMF mailroom clerk
T. Minton and United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan Clerk David J. Weaver. Plaintiff alleges
that he submitted a petition for writ of habeas corpus, and a
motion to stay, to the AMF mailroom for mailing to the United
States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
during June of 2016. He submits a disbursement authorization
for postage in support of his claim. (ECF No. 1-1,
PageID.11.) The authorization indicates that the materials
were placed in outgoing mail on June 27, 2016. (Id.)
attempted to follow-up with the federal court, only to learn
that that court did not receive the materials. Plaintiff
contends that one or the other of the Defendants is
responsible for interfering with his access to the courts.
The only relief Plaintiff seeks is a determination by this
Court as to who is responsible for mishandling the petition.
(Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4-5.)
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).
judges enjoy absolute immunity from a suit for monetary
damages. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991)
(“[I]t is a general principle of the highest importance
to the proper administration of justice that a judicial
officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be
free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of
personal consequences to himself.”) (internal
quotations omitted); Barrett v. Harrington, 130 F.3d
246, 254 (6th Cir. 1997); Barnes v. Winchell, 105
F.3d 1111, 1115 (6th Cir. 1997). Absolute judicial immunity
may be overcome in only two instances. First, a judge is not
immune from liability for non-judicial actions, i.e., actions
not taken in the judge's judicial capacity.
Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11; see Forrester v.
White, 484 U.S. 219, 229 (1988) (noting that immunity is
grounded in “the nature of the function performed, not
the identity of the actor who performed it”). Second, a
judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature,
taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction. Id.
judicial immunity is extended to non-judicial officers who
perform “quasi-judicial” duties.
“Quasi-judicial immunity extends to those persons
performing tasks so integral or intertwined with the judicial
process that these persons are considered an arm of the
judicial officer who is immune.” Bush v.
Rauch, 38 F.3d 842 (6th Cir. 1994) (probate court
administrator entitled to quasi-judicial immunity for his
role in carrying out the orders of the court) (citing
Scruggs v. Moellering, 870 F.2d 376 (7th Cir.
1989)); see also Johnson v. Turner, 125 F.3d 324,
333 (6th Cir. 1997) (one who acts as a judge's designee
in carrying out a function for which the judge is immune is
also protected from suit seeking monetary damages);
Foster v. Walsh, 864 F.2d 416, 417-18 (6th Cir.
1988) (clerk of court was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity
for issuing a warrant as directed by the court); accord
Carlton v. Baird, No. 03-1294, 2003 WL 21920023, at *1
(6th Cir. Aug. 8, 2003) (state court clerk's office
employees were entitled to quasi-judicial immunity from state
prison inmate's § 1983 claim); Lyle v.
Jackson, No. 02-1323, 2002 WL 31085181, at *1 (6th Cir.
Sept. 17, 2002) (quasi-judicial immunity applied to claims
against state court clerks who allegedly failed to provide
prisoner with requested copies of previous filings and
transcripts); Bradley v. United States, 84 Fed.Appx.
492 (6th Cir. 2003) (federal court clerk). Cf. Antoine v.
Byers & Anderson, Inc., 508 U.S. 429, 437 & n.11
(1993) (court reporter not entitled to absolute immunity for
preparing transcripts because that function is ministerial;
it does not exercise the kind of judgment protected by
judicial immunity). Defendant Weaver was clearly acting on
behalf of the court when he accepted, or, as Plaintiff
posits, failed to accept for filing Plaintiff's habeas
petition. Because Defendant Weaver is entitled to
quasi-judicial immunity, Plaintiff may not maintain an action
against him for monetary damages. But, it is not clear that
Plaintiff is seeking any damages, or injunctive relief.
Instead, it appears that he seeks only declaratory relief. To
the extent such a claim might survive quasi-judicial
immunity, the merits of Plaintiff's claim against
Defendant Weaver is considered below.
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 ...