Stovall v. Sikes et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS dismissing re 1 Complaint filed by Dwayne Stovall. Objections to R&R due by 11/29/2012. Signed by Magistrate Judge G. R. Smith on 11/15/2012. (loh)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
Case No. CV412-204
STATE DISTRICT ATTORNEY,
LIBERTY COUNTY SHERIFF
STEVE SIKES, and LIBERTY
COUNTY JAIL ADMINISTRATOR
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Inmate-plaintiff Dwayne Stovall has filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil
rights complaint claiming that he has been denied access to legal
research, had his legal mail confiscated, and refused privacy during
meetings with his public defender. (Doc. 1.) Having completed his in
forma pauperis ("IFP") paperwork (docs. 5 & 6), the Court will now
screen his case under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), which permits a
district court to dismiss sua sponte an IFP plaintiff's claims for failure to
state a claim before service of process. See also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (courts
must identify "cognizable claims" filed by prisoners or other detainees
and dismiss claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for
relief, or seek monetary relief from a defendant immune from such
relief); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(2) (allowing dismissal on the same four
standards provided by § 1915A as to any prisoner suit brought "with
respect to prison conditions").
According to Stovall, the Liberty County Jail offers no way for him
to perform legal research. (Doe. 1 at 5.) Additionally, he alleges that
Administrator Franks confiscated a letter from his daughter that
included legal material useful to his defense in an ongoing state criminal
prosecution against him. (Id.) Finally, he states that he has been forced
to meet with his attorney in a hallway with an officer situated nearby.
(Id. at 6.) As relief for these alleged infractions, he asks for a restraining
order to protect his rights along with damages.' (Id. at 7.)
First, while Stovall names the "State District Attorney" ("DA") as
a defendant, he has not made any allegations implicating the DA in any
He also asks for the Court to certify his complaint as a class action. (Doe. 1 at
7.) Class certification is not permitted for prisoners proceeding IFP in a civil action.
Hubbard v. Haley, 262 F.3d 1194, 1198 (11th Cir. 2001) (barring multi-plaintiff
actions brought by prisoners proceeding IFP).
impropriety at the Liberty County Jail. Nor has he suggested that the
DA has any power over the institution. Since Stovall has not made any
factual allegations tying the DA to the case, the DA must be dismissed.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (requiring that a plaintiff make a "short and
plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief').
Stovall also fundamentally misunderstands his rights on the legal
mail and research claims.
Generally, to qualify as legal mail, "the
envelope of the correspondence must clearly reveal that the
communication is from or to an attorney." M.B. MUSHLIN, RIGHTS OF
PRISONERS §12:26 at 248 (2009); Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 577-
78 (1974). Here, Stovall: states that the parcel was sent to him by his
daughter, not his attorney, and he has not alleged that it was even
marked as "legal mail" to put the jail's officials on notice. (Doc. 1 at 5.)
In other words, the letter he refers to was not "legal mail" within the
meaning of Wolff.
Similarly, while he must be provided with ready
access to the courts, he does not enjoy any "abstract, freestanding right
to a law library or legal assistance" simply because he has been detained.
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 843, 351 (1996). In fact, there is some dispute
as to whether the rights of access, elucidated in Bounds v. Smith, 430
U.S. 817 (1977), even extend to pre-trial detainees. M.B.
RIGHTS OF PRISONERS
§12:19 at 209 (2009). Some courts have reasoned
that since pretrial detainees are entitled to services of counsel for their
defense, they have no need of a law library.
Id. More fundamentally,
since both claims implicate Stovall's right of access to the courts, he must
first establish standing to sue by alleging that the facility's impediments
caused him to suffer some actual injury. Casey, 518 U.S. at 351-55; see
Al-Amin v. Smith,
511 F.3d 1317, 1333 (11th Cir. 2008) (inspection of
legal mail claim not actionable where plaintiff failed allege actual injury
from interception); Bass v. Singletary, 143 F.3d 1442, 1446 (11th Cir.
1998) (case challenging prison policy forbidding passing papers between
inmates without authorization failed since prisoners never showed that
they had been "unable to file proper pleadings and responses in their
various litigations"). As Stovall has not offered any facts showing that
the jail's policies have caused him actual injury, he lacks standing to
bring either claim.
Plaintiff stands on firmer ground with his last claim, however.
According to Stovall, the jail's administrators (presumably Sheriff Sikes
and Administrator Franks) have decided that inmates should meet with
their attorneys in a hallway, standing within five or six feet of a jail
official.' (Doe. 1 at 6.) Having an officer in earshot is problematic. In a
case strikingly similar to this one, a court held that an inmate was
deprived of his right to consult meaningfully and confidentially with his
attorney where guards were placed within a few feet of the inmate and
his attorney. People v. Torres, 218 Cal App. 3d 700, 705 (Cal. Ct. App.
1990); see also Wright v. State, 250 Ga. 570, 571 (1983) (detainee's rights
were violated where jail conditions required "speaking very loudly,
shouting, or screaming" during attorney interviews in order to be heard,
which permitted other inmates and deputy sheriffs to overhear what was
being said); cf. Harris v. Gardner, 471 F. App'x 634, 635 (9th Cir. 2012)
(no First or Fourteenth Amendment access-to-courts claim where
plaintiff failed to show actual injury as a result of correctional officers
failing to shut the door while he was talking to his attorney on the
telephone). Because such a practice unreasonably burdens a detainee's
opportunity to consult with his attorney in confidence, Alster v. Goord,
While this claim implicates Stovall's right of access, it also bears on his right
to counsel. M.B. MUSHLIN, RIGHTS OF PRISONERS §12:27 at 254 (2009). "Because the
right to counsel is an independent constitutional requirement separate from the right
of access to the courts, the 'actual injury' requirement need not be satisfied in order
to show a violation." Id. at 264-55; Benjamin v. Fraser, 264 F.3d 175, 186 (2d Cir.
745 F. Supp. 2d 317, 341 (S.D.N.Y. 2010), the Court is satisfied that
Stovall has stated a claim against Sikes and Franks.
For the reasons explained above, the DA, along with Stovall's legal
mail and research claims, should be DISMISSED from this action. The
Clerk, however, is DIRECTED to forward a copy of this Report and
Recommendation along with Stovall's complaint to the Marshal for
service upon Sheriff Sikes and Administrator Franks so that they may
respond to his attorney consultation' claim.
Meanwhile, Stovall must pay for filing this lawsuit. Based upon his
furnished information, he owes an initial partial filing fee of $18.30. See
28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) (requiring an initial fee assessment "when funds
exist," under a specific 20 percent formula) (emphasis added). Plaintiffs
custodian shall deduct $18.30 from Stovall's account and remit it to the
Clerk of Court. The custodian also shall set aside 20 percent of all future
deposits to the account, then forward those funds to the Clerk each time
the set aside amount reaches $10, until the balance of the Court's $350
filing fee has been paid in full.
In the event plaijatiff is transferred to another institution,
plaintiff's present custodian shall forward a copy of this Order and all
financial information concerning payment of the filing fee and costs in
this case to plaintiffs new custodian. The balance due from the plaintiff
shall be collected by the custodian at his next institution in accordance
with the terms of this Order.
A copy of this Order and a copy of the Consent to Collection of Fees
from Trust Account shall be served upon plaintiff and his current
custodian. The payment portion of this Order is to be implemented
immediately, as it is not subject to the adoption provision of Fed. R. Civ.
SO REPORTED AND RECOMMENDED this
/5 day of
UNITED 16TMES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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