United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE United States District Judge.
Kentes West filed a pro se civil rights action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against thirty-one
defendants who allegedly violated his constitutional rights
at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) in 2015
and 2016. See West v. Butler, et al., No.
16-cv-414-SMY (S.D. Ill. 2016) (“original case”).
In the Complaint (Doc. 2, instant case), Plaintiff asserted
unrelated claims against different defendants. The Court
severed the original case into eight additional matters
pursuant to a Memorandum and Order entered August 29, 2016
(Doc. 1, instant case). The instant case addresses a single
access-to-courts claim (“Count 13, ” original
case) against unidentified parties (“Unknown
Defendants”). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the
Unknown Defendants interfered with his right to access the
courts by refusing to provide him with documents that he
needed during two court appearances on July 9, 2015 and
August 5, 2015 (Doc. 2, p. 25). In connection with this
claim, Plaintiff seeks monetary relief.
Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
matter is now before the Court for preliminary review
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the
Court is required to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must also dismiss any
newly-severed claim that is legally frivolous, malicious,
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or
asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune
from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
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). The claim of
entitlement to relief must cross “the line between
possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557.
Conversely, a Complaint is plausible on its face “when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is
obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see
Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some
factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that
they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's
claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir.
2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as
adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of
action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At
the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro
se Complaint are to be liberally construed. See
Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821
(7th Cir. 2009).
allegations offered in support of Plaintiff's
access-to-courts claim are set forth in a single paragraph of
his Complaint, as follows:
Plaintiff has had his legal material kept from him for 19
days where he had to go to court without any of his legal
material leaving him at a disadvantage for a pavey hearing.
He had returned to the facility July 1, 201. Had to go to
court July 9, 2015. Didn't get property until July 19,
2015. Also, when Plaintiff went to court on court writ on
August 5, 2015. Menard intentionally didn't send
Plaintiff's legal material with him. Plaintiff had to get
his Judge to call the institution to get legal work. (Doc. 2,
have a fundamental right of meaningful access to the courts.
Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977). Violations of
that right may be vindicated in federal court, e.g.,
in a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Seventh Circuit uses a two-part test to decide if prison
administrators have violated the right of access to the
courts. Lehn v. Holmes, 364 F.3d 862, 868 (7th Cir.
2004). First, the prisoner must show that prison officials
failed “to assist in the preparation and filing of
meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate
law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in
the law.” Jenkins v. Lane, 977 F.2d 266, 268
(7th Cir. 1992) (quoting Bounds, 430 U.S. at 828).
Second, he must be able to show “some quantum of
detriment caused by the challenged conduct of state officials
resulting in the interruption and/or delay of plaintiff's
pending or contemplated litigation.” Alston v.
DeBruyn, 13 F.3d 1036, 1041 (7th Cir. 1994); see
also Lehn, 364 F.3d at 868. That means that a detriment
must exist, a detriment resulting from illegal conduct that
affects litigation. It does not mean that any delay is a
detriment. Kincaid v. Vail, 969 F.2d 594, 603 (7th
Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 1062 (1993).
Regardless of the length of an alleged delay, a prisoner must
show actual substantial prejudice to specific litigation.
Kincaid, 969 F.2d at 603.
state a claim, a plaintiff must explain “the connection
between the alleged denial of access to legal materials and
an inability to pursue a legitimate challenge to a
conviction, sentence, or prison conditions, ” Ortiz
v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 671 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotation and citation omitted); accord Guajardo Palma v.
Martinson, 622 F.3d 801, 805-06 (7th Cir. 2010). This
requires Plaintiff to identify the underlying claim that was
lost. See Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 416
(2002); Steidl v. Fermon, 494 F.3d 623, 633 (7th
Cir. 2007). Here, the allegations in the Complaint do not
satisfy the first or second requirement.
regard to the first requirement, Plaintiff did not allege
that he asked anyone for access to particular documents
before going to court. He simply alleged that his materials
were kept from him, and he did not have the paperwork he
needed at court (Doc. 2, p. 25). Section 1983 creates a cause
of action based on personal liability and predicated upon
fault. Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 809,
810 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). To be liable,
“an individual defendant must have caused or
participated in a constitutional deprivation.”
Id. In other words, the doctrine of respondeat
superior, or supervisory liability, does not apply.
Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir.
2001) (citing Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d
612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001)). Therefore, it is necessary to
identify a particular defendant (even in generic terms) who
was personally involved in the deprivation. Thus, Plaintiff
should indicate what materials he requested, to whom he
directed the request and what response he received.
regard to the second requirement, Plaintiff did not indicate
what claim, if any, was lost as a result of the Unknown
Defendants' interference with his legal documents in July
and August 2015. He merely alleges that he faced a
“disadvantage” at his Pavey hearing.
This allegation is insufficient to support an
access-to-courts claim, even at this early stage.
Accordingly, Count 13 shall be dismissed.
the dismissal of this claim is without prejudice, and
Plaintiff shall be granted leave to file an Amended Complaint
if he chooses to pursue this claim. Plaintiff is warned that
his access-to-courts claim will not proceed unless he can
demonstrate that he suffered actual substantial prejudice to
specific litigation. Kincaid, 969 F.2d at 603. If he
chooses to file an Amended Complaint, Plaintiff must follow
the instructions and deadline for doing so below.