Reynolds v. Stewart et al
ORDER granting 13 Motion to Dismiss; adopting 16 Report and Recommendation. Signed by District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow. (MLan)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 17-10257
SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
ARTHUR J. TARNOW
ANTHONY STEWART, ET AL.,
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PATRICIA T. MORRIS
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ; OVERRULING
PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTION ; GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS
; AND DISMISSING CASE
Plaintiff Brigitte Reynolds, a pro se prisoner, has brought claims against
Defendants, Michigan Department of Corrections officials Anthony Stewart, Erica
Reeves, Kari Osterhout, S. Holliwell, and Tackett. Plaintiff alleges violations of
her First Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, she claims
a violation of her right of access to the courts.
Plaintiff sues Defendants in both their official and personal capacities. She
seeks a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, $350,000.00 in punitive damages,
$350,000.00 in compensatory damages, and any appropriate attorney fees and
Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. #13] on April 24, 2017. On June
30, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) 
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advising the Court to grant Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff filed her
Objection to the R&R  on July 28, 2017.
The Court adopts the facts as set forth in the R&R:
Plaintiff Brigitte Reynolds (“Plaintiff”) is a prisoner incarcerated at
Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (“WHVCF”), and filed
this lawsuit, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, on January 25, 2017 against
Defendants Anthony Stewart (“Stewart”), Erica Reeves (“Reeves”),
Kari Osterhout (“Osterhout”), S. Holliwell (“Holliwell”), and Tackett
(“Tackett”). (Doc. 1). She avers a violation of her First Amendment
right of access to the courts because she was denied the ability to
access a compact disc containing “transcripts of a hearing she had” in
“the 26th Judicial Court in Alpena, Michigan” for “the return of her
personal property.” (Doc. 1 at ID 4). “Plaintiff needed transcripts to
request a reconsideration and appeal the court’s decision,” and she
had “21 days from June 3, 2016, to request a reconsideration from the
court for the hearing and for the return of Plaintiff’s personal
property.” (Id.). Tackett, a correctional officer, told her “she was not
allowed to have the disc,” as did Osterhout, Holliwell, and Stewart
when she contacted them. (Id.). Other inmates “had been allowed” to
“receive a viewing” of discs mailed them. (Id.). Following these
rejections, Plaintiff “requested, but did not receive a hearing on” this
On November 6, 2016, Plaintiff avers “a memo was posted in all
housing units” stating that attorneys would be permitted to show
inmates videos related to their cases on devices owned by the
Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”). (Id.). Because
Plaintiff was representing herself in the state court proceeding, she
was unable to utilize this policy. Ultimately, Defendants’ actions
“prevented her the possibility to prevail on a reconsideration and/or
appeal of the 26th Circuit Court’s decision and the possibility to
recover her personal property from the county that prosecuted her on
her criminal case.” (Id.). “Additionally, the prison staff has not
completed the grievance process within the Michigan Department of
Corrections policy’s mandated 120 days.” (Id.).
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Plaintiff filed a Response to the instant Motion, (Doc. 14), and I
consider it “as part of the pleadings.” Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F.
App’x 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Flournoy v. Seiter, 835 F.2d
878, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 7, 1987) (unpublished table decision)).
Relevantly, she elaborates somewhat on the state hearing, noting that
“[t]he Alpena Court denied [the] return [of] property they seized from
her apartment while she was confined in the county jail,” and that she
moved “for the return of her seized property that was not a part of her
criminal convictions.” (Doc. 14 at 5). She does not allege that the
state’s post-deprivation procedures are categorically inadequate.
The Court must make a de novo determination of the portions of the R&R to
which Plaintiff has objected. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). “A judge of the court may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” Id.
On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must “assume the veracity
of [the plaintiff’s] well-pleaded factual allegations and determine whether the
plaintiff is entitled to legal relief as a matter of law.” McCormick v. Miami Univ.,
693 F.3d 654, 658 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009); Mayer v. Mylod, 988 F.2d 635, 638 (6th Cir. 1993)).
The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant Defendants’
Motion to Dismiss. The Magistrate Judge held that Plaintiff’s claims for monetary
damages against Defendants in their official capacities are barred under the
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Eleventh Amendment. The Magistrate Judge also found that Plaintiff has not
shown an actual injury and therefore, her case is non-justiciable. (R&R at 12). The
Magistrate Judge declined to consider the qualified immunity issue because of the
non-justiciability of Plaintiff’s claim.
In her Objection to the R&R , Plaintiff argues that Defendants violated
her constitutional right when they denied her access to a compact disc containing
legal transcripts from a hearing that took place in 26th Circuit Court in Alpena
County. Plaintiff argues that an actual injury occurred “when the avenues to appeal
and recover her seized [personal] property . . . was [sic] effectively blocked by
MDOC Defendants’.” (Obj. at 3). She further asserts that “defendants acting in
their official capacities on behalf of states that have waived immunity are acting as
the state and are not immune from suit.” (Obj. at 3).
Most of the arguments set forth in Plaintiff’s Objection are virtually identical
to those asserted in her response to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. However,
“objections to magistrate judges’ reports and recommendations are not meant to be
simply a vehicle to rehash arguments set forth in the petition.” Nickelson v.
Warden, 2012 WL 700827, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 1, 2012); see also Senneff v.
Colvin, No. 15-13667, 2017 WL 710651, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 23, 2017). The
Court will briefly address the merits of Plaintiff’s case to ensure that the reasons
for dismissal are clear.
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1. Eleventh Amendment Immunity
It is well established that “sovereign immunity bars a § 1983 suit for
monetary damages against a prison official in his official capacity.” Smith-El v.
Steward, 33 Fed. Appx. 714, 716 (6th Cir. 2002). This is such a case: Plaintiff
seeks $350,000.00 each in punitive and compensatory damages and sues
Defendants in their official capacities. Accordingly, her claims are barred and her
2. Access to the Courts
Plaintiff lacks standing to bring a right-of-access claim because she has not
alleged a justiciable injury. Plaintiff’s “right to access the courts extends to direct
appeals, habeas corpus applications, and civil rights claims only.” Thaddeus-X v.
Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 391 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). U.S. Supreme Court
precedent explains that inmates must have access to the tools needed “in order to
attack their sentences, directly or collaterally, and in order to challenge the
conditions of their confinement.” Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 349 (1996). The
Sixth Circuit has expressly foreclosed the exact claim Plaintiff attempts to bring:
“[t]he right of access does not extend to a prisoner’s property claim filed in state
court.” Smith v. Craven, 61 Fed. Appx. 159, 162 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Hikel v.
King, 659 F. Supp. 337, 340 (E.D.N.Y. 1987) (“Unless part of a systemic practice,
the intentional deprivation of personal property is not actionable under 42 U.S.C. §
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1983 if the State provides a meaningful post-deprivation remedy.”). Furthermore,
“§ 1983 provides no redress even if the Plaintiff’s common law rights have been
violated and even if the remedies available under state law are inadequate.”
Lewellen v. Metropolitan Gov’t of Nashville, 34 F.3d 345, 347 (6th Cir. 1994), cert
denied, 513 U.S. 1112 (1995). Therefore, Plaintiff’s Objection is overruled.
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS ORDERED that the Report and Recommendation  is ADOPTED
and entered as the findings and conclusions of the Court. Plaintiff’s Objection to
the Report and Recommendation  is OVERRULED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss  is
GRANTED. Plaintiff’s case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
Dated: September 29, 2017
s/Arthur J. Tarnow
Arthur J. Tarnow
Senior United States District Judge
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