The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD GUZMAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Harry McDonald, currently an inmate at Dixon
Correctional Center, brings this pro se complaint pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendant Dorothy Brown, the
Clerk of the Circuit Count of Cook County, refused to file his
petition for post-conviction relief in violation of his First
Amendment right of access to the court.
The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's complaint.
Plaintiff alleges that on June 21, 2002, he sent his petition for
post-conviction relief to Defendant. He also sent copies to the
State's Attorney and the Clerk of the Appellate Court. For about
the next nine months, Plaintiff wrote Defendant numerous times
about his petition for post-conviction relief. The petition was
never sent back to him, which was his first request, Defendant
was allegedly never responsive any of his questions, and the
petition was never filed.
Plaintiff filed this action on July 1, 2003, seeking an order
from this court compelling Defendant to file his petition for
post-conviction relief. He also asked for money damages.
On December 22, 2003, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss
arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff's cause of action was now moot because his petition for
post-conviction relief had been filed on October 30, 2003.
However, Defendant did not provide any documentation that the
petition had been filed, which, as a matter of public record,
would not have converted the motion to dismiss to a motion for
summary judgment. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment
and a motion to strike Defendant's motion to dismiss. The court
ordered Defendant to respond to Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment and to provide a copy of the docket for plaintiff's
petition for post-conviction relief and a copy of the decision
dismissing the post-conviction.
The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency
of the complaint, not to decide the merits. Gibson v. Chicago,
910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Federal notice pleading
requires only that the plaintiff "set out in her complaint a
short and plain statement of the claim that will provide the
defendant with fair notice of the claim." Scott v. City of
Chicago, 195 F.3d 950, 951 (7th Cir. 1999). When ruling on a
motion to dismiss, the court assumes that well-pleaded
allegations are true and draws all reasonable inferences in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Henderson v. Sheahan,
196 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 1999). This rule has particular force
when considering the allegations of a pro se complaint, which
are held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972). Accordingly, pro se complaints are to be liberally
construed. Wilson v. Civil Town of Clayton, Ind., 839 F.2d 375,
378 (7th Cir. 1988).
However, while it is often said that a claim may be dismissed
only if, as a matter of law, "it is clear that no relief could be
granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent
with the allegations," Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327
(1989) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)), the Seventh Circuit has observed that
this maxim "has never been taken literally." Kyle v. Morten High
School, 144 F.3d 448, 455 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Sutliff,
Inc. v. Donovan Companies, Inc., 727 F.2d 648, 654 (7th Cir.
1984)). All plaintiffs whether pro se or represented must
include in the complaint allegations concerning all material
elements necessary for recovery under the relevant legal theory.
Chowla v. Klapper, 743 F. Supp. 1284, 1285 (N.D. Ill. 1990).
A court may take judicial notice of matters of public record
without converting a 12(b)(6) motion into a motion for summary
judgment. Anderson v. Simon, 217 F.3d 472, 474-75 (7th Cir.
2000); Henson v. CSC Credit Services, 29 F.3d 280, 284 (7th
Cir. 1994) (citing United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1582
(7th Cir. 1991)).
In addition, for a pro se plaintiff the court considers the
allegations contained in all documents filed with the court. See
Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1367 & n. 2 (7th Cir. 1997);
Swofford v. Mandrell, 969 F.2d 547, 549 (7th Cir. 1992).
Documents attached to a pleading are considered to be part of the
pleadings if they are referred to in the Plaintiff's complaint
and are central to his claim. See Venture Assoc. Corp. v. Zenith
Data Sys. Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 431-32 (7th Cir. 1993); see also
Wright v. Associated Ins. Co., Inc., 29 F.3d 1244, 1248 (7th
Prisoners have a constitutional right to meaningful access to
the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977). However,
in order to state a claim, a prisoner must demonstrate that the
deprivation he suffered hindered his efforts to pursue a legal
claim and resulted in actual injury. Lewis v. Casey,
518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996) (an injury exists, for example, where
inadequacies at the law library might cause a plaintiff's
complaint to be dismissed for failure to satisfy some technical requirement, or where he was unable even to file a complaint).
In this case, Plaintiff was convicted of aggravated arson and
first degree murder on October 18, 1999, and sentenced to life
imprisonment. On May 1, 2002, the Illinois Appellate Court
affirmed Plaintiff's conviction. On June 28, 2002, Defendant
Clerk of the Circuit Court received the document in question.
This document, attached to Defendant's response to Plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment as Exhibit 2, is headed "Illinois
Post-Conviction Petition." However, the first paragraph of the
document under the heading "Prayer for Leave to Appeal" reads:
Your Petitioner, Harry McDonald, pro se, respectfully
petitions this Honorable Court for leave to Appeal
pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 315, from the judgment
of the Appellate Court of Illinois, 1st District,
which affirmed the judgment of conviction entered by
the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, upon the
Judge/Jury finding the petitioner guilty of
Aggravated Arson and First Degree Murder.
On October 30, 2003, this document ...