Nation v. Dickerson et al
ORDER rejecting in part and adopting in part the 28 Recommended Disposition. The RD is rejected with respect to defendants' 15 motion to dismiss the access to courts claim, which is granted. The RD is adopted, however, with respect to denying Nation's 12 motion for preliminary injunctive relief. Signed by Chief Judge Brian S. Miller on 4/14/2017. (ljb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CASE NO. 2:16-CV-00134 BSM
DICKERSON, et al.
The recommended disposition (“RD”) submitted by United States Magistrate Judge
Beth Deere [Doc. No. 28] and defendants’ objections [Doc. No. 31] have been reviewed.
After reviewing the record, the RD is rejected in part and adopted in part. Defendants’
motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 15] is granted, and plaintiff Cloyd Nation’s motion for a
preliminary injunction [Doc. No. 12] is denied.
Nation filed two lawsuits with the Arkansas Claims Commission for prison policy
violations. See Doc. No. 2 at 6. In both cases, Nation did not respond to the Arkansas
Department of Correction’s (“ADC”) motions to dismiss. Both claims were dismissed, with
one dismissal stating that the reason for dismissal was because “[Nation] failed to respond
to [ADC’s] ‘Motion to Dismiss.’” Id. at 30. Nation brings this federal lawsuit alleging the
East Arkansas Regional Unit, the facility where Nation resides, has an inadequate law library
and book retrieval system, and this deficiency prevented him from responding to his two
state-based lawsuits. See Doc. No. 2 at 5-7. The defendants move to dismiss. Doc. No. 15.
The RD correctly construes these allegations to assert an access to courts claim under
the First Amendment. See Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). Nation must have
standing to prosecute this claim, which is satisfied by alleging actual injury. Lewis v. Casey,
518 U.S. 343, 349 (1996). To allege “actual injury” for an access to courts claim, Nation
must allege “that a nonfrivolous legal claim had been frustrated or was being impeded” by
defendants’ failure to maintain an adequate law library or to provide relevant resources.
Lewis, 518 U.S. at 352-53; White v. Kautzky, 494 F.3d 677, 680 (8th Cir. 2007) (describing
the claim as a “nonfrivolous and arguably meritorious underlying legal claim”). The RD
recommends denying defendants’ motion to dismiss because at least one of Nation’s prior
suits over prison policy violations is a “nonfrivolous legal claim” that was impeded when
Nation could not prepare an adequate response to ADC’s motion because of the unit’s law
library. See Doc. No. 28 at 5-6.
The RD is rejected because the First Amendment does not require that the ADC
provide Nation with legal resources to pursue any claim imaginable. See Lewis, 518 U.S. at
355 (A prison need not “guarantee inmates the wherewithal to transform themselves into
litigating engines capable of filing everything from shareholder derivative actions to slip-andfall claims.”). Rather, actual injury occurs for First Amendment purposes only when a
prisoner’s impeded nonfrivolous claim was an attack on his sentence, directly or collaterally,
or an action to vindicate basic civil rights. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 354-55; White, 494 F.3d at 680
(holding claims are restricted to “actions seeking new trials, release from confinement, or
[the] vindication of fundamental civil rights”) (quoting Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 827
(1977)). “Impairment of any other litigating capacity is simply one of the incidental (and
perfectly constitutional) consequences of conviction and incarceration.” Lewis, 518 U.S. at
355 (emphasis in original).
Nation’s claim fails because his underlying claim does not implicate the First
Amendment. Even if Nation’s allegations are accepted as true, the underlying legal claims
were based on violations of prison policy, not an attack on his conviction or an action to
vindicate his civil rights. Compare Dale v. Kaemingk, Case No. 4:15-CV-04103 RAL, 2016
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163021, at *15 (D.S.D. May 25, 2016) (permitting access to courts claim
because prisoner alleged his pending civil rights matter was dismissed after prison’s mail
system caused him to miss filing deadline), with Green v. Johnson, Case No. 13-12305, 2014
WL 4054334 at *3 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 14, 2014 (dismissing access to court claim because
underlying claim was an appeal of a major misconduct ticket while in prison).
Accordingly, the RD is rejected in part and denied in part. The RD is rejected with
respect to defendants’ motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 15] the access to courts claim, which is
granted. The RD is adopted, however, with respect to denying Nation’s motion for
preliminary injunctive relief [Doc. No. 12].
IT IS SO ORDERED this 14th day of April 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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