Byrd v. Lawson et al
OPINION AND ORDER: The Court DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner Complaint form and send it to Stephen A. Byrd, GRANTS Stephen A. Byrd to and including 5/3/2017 to file an amended complaint and CAUTIONS him that if he does not respond by the deadline this case will be dismissed because the current complaint does not state a claim for which relief can be granted. Signed by Judge Rudy Lozano on 4/4/17. (Copy mailed to pro se party along with form). (nal)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
STEPHEN ANTHONY BYRD,
JULIE LAWSON, et al.,
CAUSE NO. 3:16-CV-351
OPINION AND ORDER
Stephen A. Byrd, a pro se prisoner, filed an amended complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (DE #6.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the
Court must review a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action
is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
Courts apply the same standard under Section 1915A as when
deciding a motion under FEDERAL RULE
CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6).
Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To
survive dismissal, a complaint must state a claim for relief that
is plausible on its face. Bissessur v. Indiana Univ. Bd. of Trs.,
581 F.3d 599, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2009). In determining whether the
complaint states a claim, the Court must bear in mind that “[a]
Notably, the screening of Byrd’s complaint was delayed by his failure
to pay the initial partial filing fee in this case. Though Byrd has shown that
he does not have sufficient funds to pay the $9.90 initial partial filing fee,
that is largely the result of his various commissary purchases rather than a
lack of deposits. (See DE #11 at 5, 6.)
document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). To state a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege: “(1) that defendants
deprived him of a federal constitutional right; and (2) that the
defendants acted under color of state law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469
F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006).
Here, Byrd alleges that he is a pretrial detainee being held
at the St. Joseph County Jail. He names Warden Julie Lawson,
Assistant Warden Steven Richmond, Sgt. Melinda Fisher, and Sgt.
Belinda Schroeder as defendants. However, the only name that
appears in the body of his complaint is Warden Lawson. He seeks
money damages and injunctive relief in the form of being given
access to the jail’s law library.
First, Byrd complains that Warden Lawson has denied him use of
the law library, which has contributed to several continuances in
his underlying criminal case. Inmates have a First Amendment right
of access to the courts, but there is no “abstract free-standing
right” to a law library or to legal materials. Lewis v. Casey, 518
U.S. 343, 351 (1996). In other words, “the mere denial of access to
a prison law library or to other legal materials is not itself a
violation of a prisoner’s rights; his right is to access the
potentially meritorious legal claim has the right been infringed.
Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 968 (7th Cir. 2006). Thus, to
state a claim, an inmate must “spell out” the connection between
the denial of access to legal materials and the resulting prejudice
to a potentially meritorious legal claim. Id. The court must also
bear in mind that prison officials are afforded discretion in
materials. See Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351-52; Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S.
520, 546 (1979).
Here, Byrd alleges that he does not have access to the law
library. As explained above, this alone does not give rise to an
actionable First Amendment claim. He must spell out some type of
prejudice to a potentially meritorious legal claim, and he has not
done so. At most, he alleges the lack of a law library has caused
his underlying criminal case to be delayed. It is possible that his
insufficient to demonstrate injury. “[A] delay becomes an injury
only if it results in actual substantial prejudice to specific
(quotation mark omitted). Byrd alleges that he has sought access to
the law library for ten months. But in Johnson, the Seventh Circuit
found that a delay of more than a year did not constitute actual
injury because there was no indication that the adjudication of his
post-conviction proceeding was adversely impacted by the delay. Id.
The same is true here. Thus, Byrd has not alleged any injury and
therefore he “cannot prevail on his access-to-courts claim.” Ortiz
v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 671 (7th Cir. 2009).
Next, Byrd complains that Warden Lawson has communicated with
the judge presiding in his state court criminal case. He alleges
this has interfered with his criminal proceedings. However, this
Court cannot dismiss or otherwise interfere with the state criminal
charges pending against Byrd. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37,
53 (1971); In re Campbell, 264 F.3d 730, 731 (7th Cir. 2001). Thus,
this Court cannot order Warden Lawson to stop communicating with
the state court judge or punish her for doing so. Byrd must seek
that relief in the State court system.
As explained, this complaint does not state a constitutional
claim against any defendant. Though it does not appear that Byrd
could state a claim even if he filed an amended complaint, he will
nevertheless be permitted to do so. See Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722
F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013).
For the these reasons, the Court:
(1) DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank
Prisoner Complaint form and send it to Stephen A. Byrd;
(2) GRANTS Stephen A. Byrd to and including May 3, 2017, to
file an amended complaint; and
(3) CAUTIONS him that if he does not respond by the deadline,
this case will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A because
the current complaint does not state a claim for which relief can
DATED: April 4, 2017
/s/ RUDY LOZANO, Judge
United States District Court
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