Jackson #748757 v. Bouchard
OPINION; signed by Judge Gordon J. Quist (Judge Gordon J. Quist, jmt)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
DOUGLAS CORNELL JACKSON,
Case No. 2:16-cv-246
Honorable Gordon J. Quist
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation
Reform Act, PUB. L. NO. 104-134, 110 STAT. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any
prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff’s
pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff’s
allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504
U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed for failure to state
Plaintiff Douglas Cornell Jackson, a state prisoner currently confined at the Baraga
Maximum Correctional Facility (AMF), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against Defendant Law Librarian Joe Bouchard. Plaintiff alleges that he has pending
litigation in Wayne County Circuit Court, the United States District Court, the Michigan Court of
Appeals, and the Baraga County Circuit Court. Plaintiff claims that Defendant has refused to
provide him with adequate access to the law library, or with access to the legal writer program.
Plaintiff claims that Defendant only allowed Plaintiff access to legal research one day
per week. Because of Plaintiff’s refusal to sign a LWP [legal writer program] / client agreement,
Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with his motion for superintending control. Housing staff
stole Plaintiff’s Michigan Court Rules Book. On February 24, 2016, and March 1, 2016, Defendant
refused to provide Plaintiff with legal research materials. Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff
with LWP service to help with the preparation of the instant complaint. On March 4, 2016,
Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with the Michigan Court Rules and the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. On March 18, 2016, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with the index of the federal
Plaintiff further claims that Defendant intentionally delayed providing Plaintiff with
a “Mich. Ct. Rule 6.502 motion for relief from judgment, motion for writ of superintending control
complaint.” On May 21, 2016, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with LWP services in
preparing a motion to the trial court. Defendant also refused to turn over some of Plaintiff’s
documents, which contained vital information relating to Plaintiff’s criminal case. Defendant
provided Plaintiff with a state pleading that contained only federal case law. Finally, on August 8,
2016, and August 10, 2016, Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with the necessary copies for
service of this action. Plaintiff states that he filed grievances on Defendant each time Defendant
violated his rights.
Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated his right to be free from retaliation, as well
as his right of access to the courts. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as
declaratory and injunctive relief.
Failure to state a claim
A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While
a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s allegations must include more
than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although
the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,’ . . . it asks for more than
a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged – but it has not ‘show[n]’ – that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility
standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1)
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a
right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed
by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v.
Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating
federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to
identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271
In Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977), the Supreme Court recognized a prisoner’s
fundamental right of access to the courts. While the right of access to the courts does not allow a
State to prevent an inmate from bringing a grievance to court, it also does not require the State to
enable a prisoner to discover grievances or litigate effectively. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996).
Thus, Bounds did not create an abstract, free-standing right to a law library, litigation tools, or legal
assistance. Id. at 351 (1996). Further, the right may be limited by legitimate penological goals, such
as maintaining security and preventing fire or sanitation hazards. See Acord v. Brown, No. 91-1865,
1992 WL 58975 (6th Cir. March 26, 1992); Hadix v. Johnson, No. 86-1701, 1988 WL 24204 (6th
Cir. March 17, 1988); Wagner v. Rees, No. 85-5637, 1985 WL 14025 (6th Cir. Nov. 8, 1985).
To state a claim, an inmate must show that any shortcomings in the library, litigation
tools, or legal assistance caused actual injury in his pursuit of a legal claim. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351;
Talley-Bey, 168 F.3d at 886; Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1996); Pilgrim v. Littlefield,
92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996); Walker v. Mintzes, 771 F.2d 920, 932 (6th Cir. 1985). An inmate
must make a specific claim that he was adversely affected or that the litigation was prejudiced.
Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 578 (6th Cir. 2005); Vandiver v. Niemi, No. 94-1642, 1994 WL
677685, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 2, 1994). “Examples of actual prejudice to pending or contemplated
litigation include having a case dismissed, being unable to file a complaint, and missing a
court-imposed deadline.” Harbin-Bey, 420 F.3d at 578 (citing Jackson v. Gill, 92 F. App’x 171, 173
(6th Cir. 2004)).
In this case, Plaintiff makes a conclusory assertion that Defendant’s conduct
prevented him from presenting “all his claims of constitutional violations.” With regard to the
instant case, Plaintiff states that Defendant prevented him from filing a “legally and factually
sufficient prisoner civil rights complaint in this court that is meaningful, possibly resulting in
dismissal in [Defendant]’s favor.” However, Plaintiff fails to specifically allege any such prejudice.
Plaintiff’s complaint contains detailed allegations regarding Defendant’s alleged misconduct, but
Plaintiff fails to explain how he was injured by Defendant’s failings. Therefore, Plaintiff’s access
to courts claim is properly dismissed.
Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant retaliated against him in violation of the First
Amendment. Retaliation based upon a prisoner’s exercise of his or her constitutional rights violates
the Constitution. See Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 394 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). In order
to set forth a First Amendment retaliation claim, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) he was engaged
in protected conduct; (2) an adverse action was taken against him that would deter a person of
ordinary firmness from engaging in that conduct; and (3) the adverse action was motivated, at least
in part, by the protected conduct. Id. Moreover, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the exercise
of the protected right was a substantial or motivating factor in the defendant’s alleged retaliatory
conduct. See Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1037 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Mount Healthy City
Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 287 (1977)).
Plaintiff does nothing more than assert that Defendant retaliated against him.
Plaintiff describes Defendant’s conduct in this case, but fails to allege facts showing that Defendant
was motivated by a desire to retaliate against Plaintiff for engaging in protected conduct. Therefore,
Plaintiff’s retaliation claim is properly dismissed.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c).
The Court must next decide whether an appeal of this action would be in good faith
within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3). See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 611
(6th Cir. 1997). For the same reasons that the Court dismisses the action, the Court discerns no
good-faith basis for an appeal. Should Plaintiff appeal this decision, the Court will assess the
$505.00 appellate filing fee pursuant to § 1915(b)(1), see McGore, 114 F.3d at 610-11, unless
Plaintiff is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis, e.g., by the “three-strikes” rule of § 1915(g).
If he is barred, he will be required to pay the $505.00 appellate filing fee in one lump sum.
This is a dismissal as described by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
A Judgment consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: December 21, 2016
/s/ Gordon J. Quist
GORDON J. QUIST
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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