United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of the date of this Recommendation. If you do not file
objections, Judge Moody can adopt this Recommendation without
independently reviewing all of the evidence in the record. By
not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of
Lavell Williams (“Williams”) is a prisoner at the
Pine Bluff Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction
(“ADC”). He has filed a pro se §
1983 Complaint and Amended Complaint alleging that Defendants
violated his constitutional rights. Docs. 2 &
7. Before Williams may proceed with this
case, the Court must screen his allegations.
alleges that Defendants Grievance Coordinator Tanya Collins
(“Collins”), Sergeant K. Weinfurtner
(“Weinfurtner”), and Sergeant R. Holcomb
(“Holcomb”) violated his First Amendment right to
access the courts by “purposely” failing to
process grievances he had submitted to them. Specifically, he
alleges that: (1) Collins failed to send an acknowledgment
showing that she had forwarded his January 16, 2018 grievance
to the proper person for a response; (2) Collins
“ignored” a grievance that he put in the
grievance box on March 17, 2018; (3) and he never received
responses to grievances he handed to Weinfurtner and Holcomb
on January 30, 2018 and February 8, 2018, respectively.
Doc. 2 at 4-9; Doc. 7 at 2-6.
also alleges that Defendants' refusal to process his
grievances violated ADC policy, his due process rights under
the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and his Eighth Amendment
right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Finally,
he alleges that Collins's actions were retaliatory.
Violation of ADC Policy
violation of prison policy alone does not give rise to §
1983 liability. Moore v. Rowley, 126 Fed.Appx. 759,
760 (8th Cir. 2005); Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d
427, 430 (8th Cir. 1997). In addition, it is well settled
that prisoners do not have a due process right to
enforce compliance with internal prison rules or regulations.
Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir.
2003); Gardner, 109 F.3d at 430. Because Williams
has not pled a viable due process claim in connection with
Defendants' alleged failure to comply with ADC policies
regarding the processing of grievances, the Court concludes
that this claim should be dismissed, without prejudice.
Constitutional Violations Arising from Failure to Process
Eighth Circuit has made it clear that prisoners do not have a
constitutional right to a prison grievance procedure and that
a prison official's failure to properly process a
grievance, standing alone, is not actionable under §
1983. Walker v. Bertsch, 745 Fed.Appx. 664, 664 (8th
Cir. 2018) (holding that prisoner did not state a due process
claim regarding the prison's grievance system, “as
the grievance system does not give rise to a liberty interest
requiring due process protection”); Lomholt v.
Holder, 287 F.3d 683, 684 (8th Cir. 2002) (holding that
allegations regarding actions of prison officials in handling
prisoner's grievances were insufficient to state “a
substantive constitutional claim”); Buckley v.
Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. 1993) (holding that
inmates have no “protected liberty interest” in
the processing of their grievances, such as would support
§ 1983 due process claim for prison official's
failure to pick up his completed grievance forms). Thus, to
establish a viable § 1983 claim, Williams has to
demonstrate that the allegedly inaccessible grievance process
adversely affected an established constitutional right, such
as his First Amendment right to access the courts.
proceed with an access to the courts claim, a prisoner must
allege that he was “actually injured” in regard
to a “nonfrivolous and arguably meritorious underlying
legal claim.” White v. Kautzky, 494 F.3d 677,
680 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing Christopher v. Harbury,
536 U.S. 403, 413 (2002)). In this respect, “actual
injury” means “actual prejudice with respect to
contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to
meet a filing deadline or to present a claim.”
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 355 (1996). Finally,
to adequately plead an access to the courts claim, a prisoner
is required to describe in his complaint the underlying cause
of action that was allegedly impeded so that the Court can
determine whether it is “nonfrivolous” and
“arguably meritorious.” Christopher, 536
U.S. at 415-16.
ordering Williams to amend his Complaint, the Court
specifically instructed him to explain how
Defendants' alleged failure to process his grievances
“caused him to suffer an actual harm or injury
resulting from not being able to access the courts.”
Doc. 6 at 2. In his Amended Complaint, he does not
assert that he suffered any “actual harm or
injury” as a result of Defendants' alleged failure
to provide access to the grievance procedure. He does not
identify any legal claim or lawsuit that he was prevented
from filing. Clearly, his ability to litigate this lawsuit
was not impeded in any way. Thus, Williams has failed to
state a viable access to the courts claim.
the Court concludes that Williams's First, Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendment claims, based on the allegedly
inaccessible grievance procedure, should be dismissed for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.