United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
following Recommendation has been sent to United States
District Judge Susan Webber Wright. 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 this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the
right to appeal questions of fact.
Matthew Cockburn, who is currently held at the Dallas County
Detention Center, filed a pro se complaint pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 22, 2019, alleging that his
constitutional rights were violated because he does not have
access to a law library or legal materials. See Doc.
No. 2. The Court ordered Cockburn to file an amended
complaint describing how he was harmed by not having access
to a law library and why he sues jail administrators in their
official capacities. See Doc. No. 3 at 2. Cockburn
filed an amended complaint on May 15, 2019 (Doc. No. 6). For
the reasons described herein, the Court finds Cockburn fails
to describe facts sufficient to state a claim for relief.
law requires courts to screen prisoner complaints. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, 1915(e)(2). Claims that are legally frivolous
or malicious; that fail to state a claim for relief; or that
seek money from a defendant who is immune from paying damages
should be dismissed before the defendants are served. 28
U.S.C. § 1915A, 1915(e)(2). Although a complaint
requires only a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, the factual
allegations set forth therein must be sufficient to raise the
right to relief above the speculative level. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corporation v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (“a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds'
of his ‘entitle[ment]to relief' requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do....”). While
construed liberally, a pro se complaint must contain
enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face, not merely conceivable.
alleges that the Dallas County Detention Center has no law
library or legal materials. Doc. No. 2 at 4. Cockburn is a
pre-trial detainee and is concerned that his appointed public
defender will not adequately represent him in his pending
criminal trial. Id.
Bounds v. Smith, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized
that prisoners' constitutional right of access to the
courts is well-established. Bounds v. Smith, 430
U.S. 817, 821 (1977). However, to succeed on a claim for a
violation of the right of meaningful access to the courts, a
prisoner must establish that he or she suffered an actual
injury or prejudice caused by the denial of access to legal
materials, counsel, or the courts. Lewis v. Casey,
518 U.S. 343, 349 (1996). See also White v. Kautzky,
494 F.3d 677 (8th Cir. 2007) (“To prove a violation of
the right of meaningful access to the courts, a prisoner must
establish the state has not provided an opportunity to
litigate a claim challenging the prisoner's sentence or
conditions of confinement in a court of law, which resulted
in actual injury, that is, the hindrance of a nonfrivolous
and arguably meritorious underlying legal claim.”). The
injury requirement “is not satisfied by just any type
of frustrated legal claim.” Lewis, 518 U.S. at
354. The claim must involve an attempt by the inmate to
pursue direct appeal from a conviction for which he or she is
incarcerated, a habeas petition, or an action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 to vindicate the violation of a basic
constitutional right. Id. at 355 (“The tools
[required by Bounds] are those that the inmates need
in order to attack their sentences, directly or collaterally,
and in order to challenge the conditions of their
confinement. Impairment of any other litigating
capacity is simply one of the incidental (and perfectly
constitutional) consequences of conviction and
has not alleged that he suffered any injury as a result of
the lack of a law library at the Dallas County Detention
Center. Rather, he speculates that he will lose his criminal
trial because he has little confidence in his public
defender. That is insufficient to state a viable
reasons stated herein, it is recommended that:
1. Cockburn's claims be dismissed without prejudice for
failure to state a claim upon which ...