Taylor v. Franklin et al (INMATE2)
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS Plaintiff's claims that he has been denied access to television and radio and that Defendants are improperly taxing postage-paid envelopes be DISMISSED with prejudice prior to service of process pursuant to the directi ves of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i); that Plaintiff's claim that he is being denied access to the courts be DISMISSED prior to service of process pursuant to the directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); that this case with respect to Plaintiff's claim that his First Amendment rights are being violated by a denial of access to newspapers and magazines be referred back to the undersigned for further proceedings; Objections to R&R due by 1/28/2010. Signed by Honorable Terry F. Moorer on 1/14/2010. (jg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION _____________________________ J O H N WILLIAM TAYLOR P l a in tif f , v. WILLIAM E. FRANKLIN, et al., Defendants. _____________________________ * * * * * 2:10-CV-6-ID (WO)
R E C O M M E N D A T I O N OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE P la in tif f , John Taylor, an inmate incarcerated at the Elmore County Jail, filed this 42 U .S .C . § 1983 action on January 4, 2010. He complains that he is being denied access to " m e d i a " in violation of his First Amendment rights, he is being denied access to the courts, a n d Defendants are illegally taxing stamps. Sheriff Bill Franklin, Warden Fox, and Jail
A d m in is tra to r Sue Roberts are the named defendants. Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive re lie f . Upon review of the complaint, the court concludes that dismissal of some of P lain tiff 's claims case prior to service of process is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).1
A prisoner who is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis in this court will have his complaint screened in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). This screening procedure requires the court to dismiss a prisoner's civil action prior to service of process if it determines that the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).
I . DISCUSSION A . The First Amendment Claim P la in tif f complains that his First Amendment right to freedom of the press has been v io la te d by an absence of access in the county jail to various forms of media including, te le v is io n , radio, newspaper, and magazines. Plaintiff's allegation that his First Amendment r ig h t s are being violated because he is denied access to radio and television shall be d is m is s e d . To state a viable claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must assert that a person d e p riv e d him or cause him to be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of th e United States, and that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law. S e e West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 152 (1 9 7 0 ); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981). Plaintiff lacks any federally guaranteed right in general to watch television or listen to the radio. See Scheanette v. Dretke, 2006 WL 2 4 7 4 4 8 6 , at * 1 (5 th Cir. Aug. 28, 2006); Elliott v. Brooks, 1999 WL 525909, at * 1 (10 th Cir. Ju ly 20, 1999); see also Griffin v. Smith, 493 F.Supp. 129 (W.D.N.Y.1980) ("It cannot be s a id that all of the conditions listed by plaintiffs, even if discomforting or undesirable, a m o u n t to deprivations of constitutional dimensions. There is no dispute that prison life is rig id and often harsh. However, a federal court is not the proper forum for challenging or c h a n g in g every aspect of the harsh realities of confinement unless the conditions cannot be tolerated under the Constitution.").
P la in tif f also alleges that his First Amendment rights are being violated because he is being denied access to newspapers and magazines. With regard to analyzing whether sua sp o n te dismissal of this First Amendment claim is warranted, the court finds that given the a b se n c e of a record showing the legitimate penological interests served by the alleged denial, s u c h sua sponte dismissal is not warranted. S e e Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006). B . The Illegal Taxation Claim P la in tif f complains that he is unable to purchase a stamp or have stamps mailed in but m u st buy a pre-stamped envelope which costs $1.00. According to Plaintiff, a stamp costs $ .4 4 and an envelope does not cost $.56 and, therefore, the jail is illegally taxing federally re g u la te d postage. Inmates have no constitutionally protected interest in purchasing goods available th ro u g h the jail let alone a constitutionally protected interest in not paying the tax or other p ro d u c tio n costs/fees associated with their desire to make such purchases. See Wolff v. M c D o n n e ll, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974) ( "[T]he fact that prisoners retain rights under the Due P r o c e ss Clause in no way implies that these rights are not subject to restrictions imposed by the nature of the regime to which they have been lawfully committed."). Cf. Jensen v. K le c kle r, 648 F.2d 1179, 1183 (8 th Cir. 1981) (holding that there was no basis for a due p ro c e ss claim where deduction from prisoner accounts for postage were "assessment[s] for v a lu e received" and plaintiffs did not contend that they did not receive the services for which
th e y were charged). Accordingly, the court concludes that neither the sale of postage-paid e n v e lo p e s nor the taxing or mark-up of other goods and services offered for sale or c o n su m p tio n at the county jail, without more, states a violation of an inmate's federally p ro te c te d constitutional rights. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 234 (1989). Indeed, th e claim is patently absurd.2 C . The Access to Courts Claims P la in tif f complains that he is being denied access to the courts because the jail does n o t have a law library or adequate legal assistance. The law is well established that the f u n d a m e n ta l constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to provide p riso n e rs with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in law to p ro s e c u te both post-conviction proceedings and civil rights actions. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U .S . 817 (1977), Younger v. Gilmore, 404 U.S. 15 (1971). In Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1 9 9 6 ), the Supreme Court concluded, however, that actual injury is required to state a claim f o r denial of access to the courts. Id. at 351-52. Such injury will be shown when an inmate c a n "demonstrate that a non-frivolous legal claim has been frustrated or was being
im p e d e d ." Id. at 353. The Lewis Court disclaimed any expansions of the right of access to t h e court which suggested "that the State must enable the prisoner to discover grievances, a n d to litigate effectively once in court. . ." To demand the conferral of such sophisticated
Certainly, the court is unaware of any basis under which an inmate should be afforded greater protection under the Constitution from taxation and/or cost mark-ups associated with the voluntary consumption of goods and services than is afforded an ordinary free-world citizen.
le g a l capabilities upon a mostly uneducated and indeed largely illiterate prison population is [not something] . . . the Constitution requires." Id. at 354. (emphasis in original). The Court likewise rejected the argument that the mere claim of a systemic defect, w ith o u t a showing of actual injury, presented a claim sufficient to confer standing. Lewis, 5 1 8 U.S. at 349. Moreover, Lewis emphasizes that a Bounds violation is related to the lack o f an inmate's capability to present claims. Id. at 356. "Bounds, which as we have said g u a ra n tee s no particular methodology but rather the conferral of a capability -- the capability o f bringing contemplated challenges to sentences or conditions of confinement before the c o u rts . When any inmate . . . shows that an actionable claim of this nature which he desired to bring has been lost or rejected, or that the presentation of such a claim is currently being p re v e n te d , because this capability of filing suit has not been provided, he demonstrates" the req u isite actual injury. Id. Finally, the Court discerned that the injury requirement is
sa tisf ied only when an inmate has been denied "a reasonably adequate opportunity to file n o n f riv o lo u s legal claims challenging [his] convictions or conditions of confinement. . . . [ I]t is that capability, rather than the capability of turning pages in a law library, that is the to u c h sto n e ." Id. at 356-357. "[T]he Constitution does not require that prisoners ... be able to conduct generalized research, but only that they be able to present their grievances to the c o u rts - a more limited capability that can be produced by a much more limited degree of le g a l assistance." Id. at 360. The Court admonished that federal courts should allow prison o f f icia ls to determine the best method of ensuring that inmates are provided a reasonably
a d e q u ate opportunity to present their nonfrivolous claims of constitutional violations to the c o u rts . Id. at 356. A federal district court must "`scrupulously respect the limits on [its] ro le ,' by `not ... thrust[ing] itself into prison administration' and instead permitting `[p]rison a d m in is tra to rs [to] exercis[e] wide discretion within the bounds of constitutional req u irem en ts.' [Bounds, 430] U.S. at 832-833, 97 S.Ct. at 1500." Id. at 363. Plaintiff presents nothing to this court which demonstrates that he experienced adverse c o n se q u e n ce s or an actual injury from the alleged deprivations about which he complains a s such are contemplated in Lewis. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 349. Because Plaintiff's allegations f a il to articulate any "actual injury" accruing to him based on his contention that he has been d e n ie d access to the courts, this claim is due to be dismissed under the provisions of 28 U .S .C . § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). I I . CONCLUSION A c c o rd in g ly, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that: 1 . Plaintiff's claims that he has been denied access to television and radio and that D e f en d a n ts are improperly taxing postage-paid envelopes be DISMISSED with prejudice p rio r to service of process pursuant to the directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i); 2 . Plaintiff's claim that he is being denied access to the courts be DISMISSED prior to service of process pursuant to the directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); 3. This case with respect to Plaintiff's claim that his First Amendment rights are b e in g violated by a denial of access to newspapers and magazines be referred back to the
u n d e rs ig n e d for further proceedings. It is further ORDERED that the parties shall file any objections to the Recommendation on or b e f o re January 28, 2010. Any objections filed must specifically identify the findings in the M a g is tra te Judge's Recommendation to which a party objects. Frivolous, conclusive or g e n e ra l objections will not be considered by the District Court. The parties are advised that th is Recommendation is not a final order of the court and, therefore, it is not appealable. F a ilu re to file written objections to the proposed findings and advisements in the M a g is tra te Judge's Recommendation shall bar the party from a de novo determination by the D is tric t Court of issues covered in the Recommendation and shall bar the party from a tta c k in g on appeal factual findings in the Recommendation accepted or adopted by the D is tric t Court except upon grounds of plain error or manifest injustice. Nettles v.
W a in w r ig h t, 677 F.2d 404 (5 th Cir. 1982). See Stein v. Reynolds Securities, Inc., 667 F.2d 3 3 (11 th Cir. 1982). See also Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206 (11 th Cir. 1981) (en b a n c ), adopting as binding precedent all of the decisions of the former Fifth Circuit Court o f Appeals handed down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981. D o n e , this 14 th day of January 2010.
/s/Terry F. Moorer TERRY F. MOORER U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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