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Brett Cole v. John Doe Warden of Centralia Correctional Center and John Doe Mail

April 18, 2011

BRETT COLE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN DOE WARDEN OF CENTRALIA CORRECTIONAL CENTER AND JOHN DOE MAIL ROOM OFFICER #514, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge:

#B-26031,

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate currently confined in the Pontiac Correctional Center, was housed temporarily in the Centralia Correctional Center (CCC). Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights while he was confined at CCC. This case is before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds that some the claims in the complaint must be dismissed at this point in the litigation.

FACTS ALLEGED IN COMPLAINT

Plaintiff was housed temporarily at CCC while awaiting a court hearing in St. Clair County, Illinois. Plaintiff gave an envelope, which contained a legal motion concerning his state court case, to Defendant John Doe Mail Room Officer #514, who stated that the legal mail would be sent even though Plaintiff did not have funds on the books at CCC. Plaintiff later learned that his mail was returned as undeliverable for insufficient mailing funds. Because this mail was returned to Plaintiff instead of sent to the courthouse, Plaintiff's motion was not considered during his state court hearing.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff claims that he was denied access to the courts when he was told that his documents would be mailed to the court but then were returned to him for insufficient funds. Although prisoners must be provided with basic document-drafting materials, they do not have a right to unlimited free postage. See Gaines v. Lane, 790 F.2d 1299 (7th Cir. 1986). However, the Illinois Administrative Code states that inmates with insufficient funds are permitted to send reasonable amounts of legal mail to clerks of the courts, to court reporters, to the administrative review board, and to the prisoner review board at the State's expense as long as attached to the mail is a signed money voucher authorizing the reimbursement to the State out of future funds. ILL. ADMIN. CODE tit. 20, § 525.130(a).

It is unclear at this point why Plaintiff's mail was returned to him for insufficient funds. It is possible that Plaintiff previously had charged an unreasonable amount of legal mail to the State. It also is possible that Defendant John Doe Mail Room Officer #514 deliberately denied Plaintiff access ...


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