Blakely v. Cartledge et al
ORDER RULING ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION: The Report and Recommendation 15 is adopted and incorporated herein by reference and this action is DISMISSED without prejudice and without service of process as to Defendants Parke r, Morton, Tatarsky, Young, and Franklin. This action shall continue to proceed against Defendants Cartledge and Bell concerning Plaintiff's claims of deliberate indifference to medical needs. Signed by Honorable Mary G Lewis on 5/31/2013. (mcot, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Leroy Cartledge, Warden; J. Parker, Associate
Warden; Cpl. P. Morton, Corr. Officer; David
M. Tatarsky, Esq., Ms. Bell; Ms. Young; Ms.
James G. Blakely,
a/k/a Gary James Gatewood Blakely,
a/k/a Jimmy G. Blakely,
Civil Action No.: 5:12-2649-MGL
ORDER AND OPINION
Plaintiff James G. Blakely (“Plaintiff”), proceeding, pro se and in forma pauperis, is
currently incarcerated at McCormick Correctional Institution of the South Carolina Department of
Corrections. On September 14, 2012, Plaintiff filed this civil action against Leroy Cartledge,
Warden; J. Parker, Associate Warden; Cpl. P. Morton, Corr. Officer; David M. Tatarsky, Esq., Ms.
Bell; Ms. Young; and Ms. Franklin (“Defendants”). (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants
Cartledge and Bell have been deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s medical needs and that
Defendants Cartledge, Parker, Morton, Tatarsky, Bell, Young, and Franklin have denied Plaintiff
access to the courts by limiting his legal supplies and refusing him access to a law library to work
on pending civil cases. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)
D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West for pretrial
handling. On October 9, 2012, Magistrate Judge West issued a Report and Recommendation
recommending inter alia that the Court summarily dismiss Plaintiff’s allegations regarding the
denial of court access and that Defendants Parker, Morton, Tatarsky, Young, and Franklin be
summarily dismissed from this case. (ECF No. 15 at 5.) The Magistrate Judge specifically noted
that an inmate must allege a specific injury resulting from an alleged denial of meaningful access
to the courts and that the instant complaint provides no facts to demonstrate that any of Plaintiff’s
pending civil actions have been prejudiced, or in any way negatively impacted, by Defendant’s
actions. (ECF No. 15 at 4-5.) The Magistrate Judge determined that Plaintiff’s claims of
deliberative indifference to medical needs against Defendants Cartledge and Bell were sufficient to
withstand summary dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
LEGAL STANDARD AND ANALYSIS
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has
no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court.
See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). The court may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the Magistrate
Judge with instructions. Id. The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those
portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objections are made. Plaintiff filed
objections to the Report and Recommendation on October 29, 2012. (ECF No. 22.)
Plaintiff makes several arguments in his Objections to the Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation. First, Plaintiff argues that Defendants Parker, Morton, Young, and Franklin
denied Plaintiff access to the courts by denying Plaintiff the legal assistance of someone trained in
the law. (ECF No. 22 at 1.) Plaintiff contends that the actual injury occurred as a result of the
prison’s failure to provide sufficient assistance and that this is a basis for liability under § 1983.
(ECF No. 22 at 2.) Plaintiff also argues that the court has demanded more than a short and plain
statement of his claims giving Defendant fair notice. (ECF No. 22 at 4-5.)
In his objections, Plaintiff states that he put in multiple requests to Defendants Young and
Franklin for the return of his legal material and that his request was refused. (ECF No. 22 at 5.)
He further claims that Defendant Morton denied Plaintiff access to legal assistance when she denied
him access to the law library. (ECF No. 22 at 5.) Plaintiff contends that he informed Parker and
Tatarsky of Defendant Morton’s conduct and they failed to act. (ECF No. 22 at 6.) Plaintiff
maintains that his right of access was violated when he was denied access to the law library and
legal assistance and concludes that all defendants are liable in this case and should be served
accordingly. (ECF No. 22 at 5-7.) Plaintiff also contends that the “Florence District Court argues
that Plaintiff [has] no right to file grievances” and that “Plaintiff failed to exhaust state’s remedies.”
(ECF No. 22 at 7.)
As the Supreme Court stated in Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977), “the fundamental
constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the
preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries
or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law.” Bounds, however, “did not create an
abstract, freestanding right to a law library or legal assistance.” Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343,
351(1996); see also Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1385 (4th Cir.1993) ( “Bounds did not hold
that there is a right of access to a law library; it held that there is a right of access to the courts.” ).2
Neither failure to exhaust or Plaintiff’s lack of entitlement to grievances are discussed
in the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation and therefore, are not a basis for the
Magistrate Judge’s reasoning or this court’s ruling by extension.
In Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1384-1385 (4th Cir.1993), the Fourth Circuit
rejected the plaintiff’s argument that he need not show an injury merely because he has alleged
denial of the “core” Bounds requirements of an adequate library and access thereto. In reaching
its conclusion in Strickland, the Fourth Circuit distinguished Peterkin v. Jeffes, 855 F.2d 1021,
In this case, as noted by the Magistrate Judge, Plaintiff must demonstrate some actual injury or
prejudice caused by the alleged denial of meaningful access to the courts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S.
343, 351-52 (1996).
An “actual injury” occurs under Bounds when a prisoner “shows that an
actionable claim . . . which he desired to bring has been lost or rejected, or that the presentation of
such a claim is currently being prevented, because [the] capability of filing suit has not been
provided.” Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 356 (1996). As noted in Strickler, “a demonstration of
inability to present a legal claim is an essential ingredient of a suit such as this. . . .” Strickler, 989
F.2d at 1385. In order to make a claim that prison officials infringed his right of access to the
courts, a prisoner cannot rely on conclusory allegations; instead, he must allege a specific, actual
injury resulting from official conduct. Cochran v. Morris, 73 F.3d 1310, 1317 (4th Cir.1996). The
pleadings and objections here fail to provide any factual basis for the allegation that Plaintiff was
deprived of meaningful access to the courts or that any of his pending civil actions were prejudiced,
or in anyway negatively impacted by Defendants’ alleged conduct.
A careful review has been made of Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to the procedural
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and the
established local procedure in this district. Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, and thus his pleadings are
accorded liberal construction in light of the above-stated provisions and the applicable pleading
standards. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (per curiam). Even when considered under
this less stringent standard, however, this § 1983 Complaint is subject to summary dismissal as to
claims against Defendants Cartledge, Parker, Morton, Tatarsky, Young, and Franklin for denial of
access to the courts. The issues raised by Plaintiff in his objections in support of this claim against
1041 (3d Cir. 1988), a case relied upon by Plaintiff here, and rejected its applicability because
the Peterkin analysis was expressly limited to a unique group of death-sentenced prisoners.
these Defendants and the allegations of Plaintiff’s complaint were fully considered by the Magistrate
Judge and the arguments raised in Plaintiff’s objections do not change the well-reasoned analysis
set forth by the Magistrate Judge recommending partial dismissal based on the record before this
court. Upon review of Plaintiff’s objections and the record in this case, the Court agrees with the
Magistrate Judge’s conclusion that Plaintiff failed to set forth facts establishing how Defendants’
actions caused him to suffer harm in any court action he had pending or had planned to file. Absent
evidence that the prisoner suffered actual injury as a result of prison officials’ conduct, the prisoner
cannot succeed on a claim for denial of access to the courts. Accordingly, the Court overrules
Plaintiff’s objection. See Cochran, 73 F.3d at1317 (sua sponte dismissal appropriate when plaintiff
fails to make prima facie case of denial of access to courts).
After a careful review of the record, the applicable law, and the Report and
Recommendation, the Court finds the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation to be proper.
Accordingly, the Report and Recommendation is adopted and incorporated herein by reference and
this action is DISMISSED without prejudice and without service of process as to Defendants Parker,
Morton, Tatarsky, Young, and Franklin.
This action shall continue to proceed against
Defendants Cartledge and Bell concerning Plaintiff’s claims of deliberate indifference to medical
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/Mary G. Lewis
United States District Judge
Spartanburg, South Carolina
May 31, 2013
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