Medford v. Unknown Party
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 9) and COUNT 10 are DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that C/O WALT and JOHN/JANE DOE ARE dismissed without pr ejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, should he wish to proceed with this case, Plaintiff shall file his Second Amended Complaint, stating any facts which may exist to support a First and/or Fourteenth Amendment legal mail claim, within 28 days of the entry of this order (on or before February 7, 2018). (Amended Pleadings due by 2/7/2018). Signed by Judge J. Phil Gilbert on 1/9/2018. (tjk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
SCOTT A. MEDFORD,
C/O WALT, and
Case No. 17−cv–1015−JPG
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
GILBERT, District Judge:
Plaintiff Scott Medford, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights that allegedly occurred
at St. Clair County Justice Center (“Jail”). (Doc. 9). In his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff
claims that legal mail at the Jail is being opened before inmates receive it. (Doc. 9, p. 5). This
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(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
(b) Grounds for Dismissal – On review, the court shall identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the
(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.
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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers
to a claim that any reasonable person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 102627 (7th Cir. 2000). 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). At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se
complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d
816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).
Upon careful review of the First Amended Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the
Court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal.
The First Amended Complaint
In his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 9), Plaintiff makes the following allegations:
“[l]egal mail is being opened prior to getting [to the] intended [recipient].” (Doc. 9, p. 5).
Plaintiff further claims that in St. Clair County, there is a “blatant disregard” for the rights of
inmates. Id. “[O]n May 24, 2017 C.O. Walt gave [Plaintiff] open legal mail.” Id. Plaintiff did
not include a request for relief in his First Amended Complaint. However, on November 2,
2017, Plaintiff filed a document titled “Supplemental First Amended Complaint” (Doc. 11) in
which he requests that this Court add a request for monetary damages and injunctive relief
“requiring the grievance procedure to be fixed” at the Jail to the First Amended Complaint.1
(Doc. 11, p. 1).
The Court previously designated a single count in this pro se action. The parties and the
As noted below, the Court does not accept piecemeal amendments to pleadings, so it will not consider the
Supplemental First Amended Complaint to be part of the First Amended Complaint. It being considered part of the
First Amended Complaint would not change the analysis herein.
Court will continue to use this designation, with a slight modification included herein, in all
future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The
designation of this count does not constitute an opinion regarding its merit.
Count 10 –
First and/or Fourteenth Amendment access to courts claim for the opening
and reviewing of Plaintiff’s legal mail at the Jail.
As discussed in more detail below, Count 10 will be dismissed without prejudice for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Any other intended claim that has not
been recognized by the Court is considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pleaded
under the Twombly pleading standard.
“Although prison officials may open a prisoner's legal mail in his presence, Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 577 (1974), repeated instances of a prisoner’s legal mail being opened
outside of his presence are actionable.” Greeno v. Litscher, 13 F. App’x 370, 375-376 (7th Cir.
2001) (citing Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1431–32 (7th Cir. 1996) (allegations that legal
mail was repeatedly opened and sometimes stolen stated claims); Castillo v. Cook County Mail
Room Dept., 990 F.2d 304, 306-07 (7th Cir. 1993) (allegations that prisoner's legal mail was
opened outside of his presence stated a claim)).
Legal mail is subject to somewhat greater protection than personal mail, in part because
the right of access to the courts is involved and must be zealously safeguarded.2 Campbell v.
Miller, 787 F.2d 217, 225, n.14 (7th Cir. 1986); see also Adams v. Carlson, 488 F.2d 619, 630
(7th Cir. 1973) (all other rights of an inmate are illusory without right of access). “Thus, when a
prison receives a letter for an inmate that is marked with an attorney's name and a warning that
The extra protections afforded legal mail are generally reserved for privileged correspondence between
inmates and their attorneys. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 574 (1974); Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422,
1432 (7th Cir. 1995).
the letter is legal mail, officials potentially violate the inmate’s rights if they open the letter
outside of the inmate's presence.” Kaufman v. McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 686 (7th Cir. 2005)
(citing Wolf v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 577 (1974)); see also Gaines v. Lane, 790 F.2d 1299,
1306 (7th Cir. 1986). Isolated incidents of interference with legal mail are generally insufficient
to maintain a claim. See Bruscino v. Carlson, 654 F.Supp. 609, 618 (S.D. Ill. 1987), aff'd, 854
F.2d 162 (7th Cir. 1988). However, a prisoner’s claim of ongoing interference with his legal
mail is generally sufficient to state a claim. Castillo, 990 F.2d at 304.
The Seventh Circuit has clarified that, because a confidential communique with a lawyer
is aimed to win a case rather than to enrich the marketplace of ideas, it is “more straightforward”
to view an interference-with-legal-mail claim as infringing on the right of access to the courts as
opposed to the right of free speech. Guajardo–Palma v. Martinson, 622 F.3d 801, 801, 803 (7th
Cir. 2010) (prison officials reading mail to/from prisoners who sue them “is like a litigant’s
eavesdropping on conferences between his opponent and the opponent's lawyer.”).3 Thus, as
with all claims involving the right of access to the courts, a claim of interference with a
prisoner’s communications with his lawyer cannot proceed absent a showing of hindrance. See
Guajardo-Palma, 622 F.3d at 805-06 (“whether the unjustified opening of [attorney mail] is a
violation of the right of access to the courts or merely, as intimated in Kaufman and held in
Gardner, a potential violation….we think [as with claims challenging the adequacy of a prison's
library or legal assistance program] there must b[e] a showing of a hindrance”). With respect to
establishing a hindrance, the Seventh Circuit has explained:
[P]roof of a practice of reading a prisoner's correspondence with his lawyer
should ordinarily be sufficient to demonstrate hindrance. The reason is that
See also Dreher v. Sielaff, 636 F.2d 1141, 1143 (7th Cir. 1980) (“The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees
meaningful access to courts, [and] ... the opportunity to communicate privately with an attorney is an important part
of that meaningful access.”).
knowledge, inferred from a policy or practice, by a prisoner’s lawyer that prison
officials are likely to read his communications with his client (because they refuse
to let him be present when they open the lawyer’s letter to see whether it contains
contraband or other illicit material) will to a high probability reduce the candor of
Id. at 805. (internal citations omitted) (emphasis in original).
Plaintiff claims that legal mail at the Jail is opened before it reaches the intended
He also claims that Walt gave him open legal mail on May 24, 2017.
allegations are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. First, Plaintiff
never explains whether the “legal mail” that was opened prior to his receiving it was
correspondence with his attorney or a public document from a court. He also does not allege
whether legal mail is opened occasionally or as a regular practice at the Jail. He further does not
allege how many times his legal mail was opened, instead only describing one instance in May.
It is also unclear from the allegations whether Walt was at fault for Plaintiff’s legal mail
having been opened on May 24, 2017. Plaintiff merely alleges that Walt gave him a letter that
had been opened. There is no indication whether Walt read the letter, opened the letter, or was in
any way responsible for it outside of merely delivering it to Plaintiff. Plaintiff also fails to
include specific allegations against Defendant John/Jane Doe (Mail Room Employee) in the
body of his First Amended Complaint, despite his having listed him or her as a defendant.
Plaintiffs are required to associate specific defendants with specific claims, so that
defendants are put on notice of the claims brought against them and so they can properly answer
the complaint. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); FED. R. CIV. P.
8(a)(2). Where a plaintiff has not included a defendant in his statement of claim, the defendant
cannot be said to be adequately put on notice of which claims in the complaint, if any, are
directed against him. Furthermore, merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not
sufficient to state a claim against that individual. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted against John/Jane Doe and Walt. Thus, Count 10 will be dismissed without prejudice.
Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel (Doc. 10) that is hereby DENIED. There
is no constitutional or statutory right to appointment of counsel in federal civil cases. Romanelli
v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851 (7th Cir. 2010). Federal District Courts have discretion under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) to request counsel to assist pro se litigants. Id. When presented with a
request to appoint counsel, the Court must consider: “(1) has the indigent plaintiff made a
reasonable attempt to obtain counsel or been effectively precluded from doing so; and if so, (2)
given the difficulty of the case, does the plaintiff appear competent to litigate it himself [.]”
Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir. 2007).
With regard to the first step of the inquiry, there is no indication whether Plaintiff has
attempted to obtain counsel on his own, or has been effectively precluded from doing so.
Because Plaintiff has not made this showing, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not made a
reasonable attempt to find counsel.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 9) and COUNT
10 are DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that C/O WALT and JOHN/JANE DOE ARE
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, should he wish to proceed with this case, Plaintiff
shall file his Second Amended Complaint, stating any facts which may exist to support a First
and/or Fourteenth Amendment legal mail claim, within 28 days of the entry of this order (on or
before February 7, 2018). Should Plaintiff fail to file his Second Amended Complaint within
the allotted time or consistent with the instructions set forth in this Order, the entire case shall be
dismissed with prejudice for failure to comply with a court order and/or for failure to prosecute
his claims. FED. R. APP. P. 41(b). See generally Ladien v. Astrachan, 128 F.3d 1051 (7th Cir.
1997); Johnson v. Kamminga, 34 F.3d 466 (7th Cir. 1994); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Such
dismissal shall count as one of Plaintiff’s three allotted “strikes” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(g) as Plaintiff has thus far failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted..
Should Plaintiff decide to file a Second Amended Complaint, it is strongly recommended
that he use the forms designed for use in this District for such actions. He should label the form,
“Second Amended Complaint,” and he should use the case number for this action (i.e. 17-cv1015-JPG). The pleading shall present each claim in a separate count, and each count shall
specify, by name, each defendant alleged to be liable under the count, as well as the actions
alleged to have been taken by that defendant. Plaintiff should attempt to include the facts of his
case in chronological order, inserting each defendant’s name where necessary to identify the
actors. Plaintiff should refrain from filing unnecessary exhibits. Plaintiff should include only
related claims in his new complaint. Claims found to be unrelated to the alleged legal mail
claims will be severed into new cases, new case numbers will be assigned, and additional filing
fees will be assessed.
An amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint, rendering the
original complaint void. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass’n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n.1
(7th Cir. 2004). The Court will not accept piecemeal amendments to a complaint, so Plaintiff
should avoid filing supplements to his Second Amended Complaint like he did with his First
Amended Complaint. Thus, the Second Amended Complaint must stand on its own, without
reference to any previous pleading, and Plaintiff must re-file any exhibits he wishes the Court to
consider along with the Second Amended Complaint. The Second Amended Complaint is
subject to review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. No service shall be ordered on any defendant
until after the Court completes its § 1915A review of the Second Amended Complaint.
Plaintiff is further ADVISED that his obligation to pay the filing fee for this action was
incurred at the time the action was filed, thus the filing fee of $350.00 remains due and payable,
regardless of whether Plaintiff elects to file a Second Amended Complaint. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(b)(1); Lucien v. Jockisch, 133 F.3d 464, 467 (7th Cir. 1998).
Finally, Plaintiff is ADVISED that he is under a continuing obligation to keep the Clerk
of Court and each opposing party informed of any change in his address; the Court will not
independently investigate his whereabouts. This shall be done in writing and not later than
7 days after a transfer or other change in address occurs. Failure to comply with this order will
cause a delay in the transmission of court documents and may result in dismissal of this action
for want of prosecution. See FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b).
In order to assist Plaintiff in preparing his amended complaint, the Clerk is DIRECTED
to mail Plaintiff a blank civil rights complaint form.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: January 9, 2018
s/J. Phil Gilbert
U.S. District Judge
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