United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BARRY A. BRYANT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 23) filed by
Defendant Carlia Keener. Plaintiff has not filed a response
and the time to do so has passed. Pursuant to the provisions
of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3)(2011), the Honorable
Susan O. Hickey, Chief United States District Judge, referred
this case to the undersigned for the purpose of making a
Report and Recommendation.
filed his Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on
February 25, 2019, in the Eastern District of Arkansas. (ECF
No. 2). On March 4, 2019, the case was transferred to the
Western District, Texarkana Division. (ECF No. 4).
Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis
was granted that same day. (ECF No. 6). In response to this
Court's order (ECF No. 8), Plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint on April 22, 2019. (ECF No. 11). Plaintiff is
currently incarcerated in the Department of Community
Correction, Central Arkansas Community Correction Center in
Little Rock, Arkansas. The incidents giving rise to
Plaintiff's claims occurred while he was incarcerated in
the Southwest Arkansas Community Correction Center
(“SWACCC”) in Texarkana, Arkansas serving a
sentence as a result of a judgment or conviction. (ECF No.
11, p. 3).
describes his claim against Defendant Keener as
“withholding legal mail and opening and taping back
shut” on March 18, 2019. (ECF No. 11, p.1). He goes on
to state that several pieces of his legal mail “was
held 2 weeks and not given tell I was transferred. Made me
sign for it but wouldn't let me see it tell I left
unit…” Id. Plaintiff seeks compensatory
and punitive damages and requests a “written
apology”. (ECF No. 11, p. 7).
30, 2019, Defendant Keener filed the instant Motion to
Dismiss arguing that Plaintiff failed to state a claim
against her upon which relief can be granted. (ECF No. 23).
She contends that Plaintiff failed to allege the mail was
sent by his attorney or that Defendant Kenner acted with an
improper motive when she allegedly opened and delayed
delivery of Plaintiff's mail. In addition, Defendant
Keener states that Plaintiff has failed to allege that he was
prejudiced or harmed by Defendant Kenner's actions. (ECF
8(a) contains the general pleading rules and requires a
complaint to present “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “In order to meet
this standard, and survive a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Braden v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal quotations omitted)). “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.”
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. While the Court will
liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's
complaint, the plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to
support his claims. See Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d
912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004).
Interference with legal mail
alleges Defendant Keener interfered with his legal mail while
he was incarcerated in the SWACCC. He claims his mail was
held for two weeks and it was opened and taped “back
shut”. (ECF No. 11), Inmates have a First Amendment
right of free speech to send and receive mail. Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 547 (1984). "The fact of
confinement and the needs of the penal institution impose
limitations on constitutional rights, including those derived
from the First Amendment." Jones v. North Carolina
Prisoners'Union, 433 U.S. 119, 125 (1977).
"Prisoners' First Amendment rights encompass the
right to be free from certain interference with mail
correspondence." Davis v. Norris, 249 F.3d 800,
801 (8th Cir. 2001). "Interference with legal mail
implicates a prison inmate's right to access to the
courts and free speech as guaranteed by the First and
Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution."
Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 351 (2d Cir. 2003).
"A prison policy that obstructs privileged inmate mail
can violate inmates' right of access to the courts."
Weiler v. Purkett, 137 F.3d 1047, 1051 (8th Cir.
an inmate has no standing to pursue a denial of access claim
based on interference with legal mail unless he can
demonstrate he suffered prejudice or actual injury as a
result of the prison officials' conduct. “To prove
a violation of the right of meaningful access to the courts,
a prisoner must establish that 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.” Hartsfield v.
Nichols, 511 F.3d 826, 831 (8th Cir. 2008)
Plaintiff claims that Defendant Keener withheld his legal
mail from him for two weeks and that once he received the
mail it appeared to have been opened and taped
shut. First, Plaintiff has not alleged that
there was any improper motive on the part of Defendant
Keener. In addition, Plaintiff has failed to allege that he
suffered any injury or prejudice resulting from the opening
or withholding of his legal mail while he was incarcerated in
the SWACCC. See e.g., Gardner v. Howard, 109
F.3d 427, 431 (8th Cir. 1997) (claim fails without evidence
of improper motive or resulting interference with
inmate's right to counsel or access to courts); see
also Walker v. Navarro County Jail, 4 F.3d 410, 413 (5th
Cir. 1993) (an inmate shows actual injury by establishing his
position as a litigant was prejudiced due to the disputed
acts). Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
against Defendant Keener for denial of access to the courts
based on interference with his legal mail.