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Kelly v. York County Prison

January 14, 2009

ALLEN KELLY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
YORK COUNTY PRISON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McCLURE, Jr. United States District Judge

(Judge McClure)

MEMORANDUM

Allen Kelly ("Plaintiff" or "Kelly"), an inmate confined at the York County Prison ("YCP") in York, Pennsylvania, initiated this pro se civil rights action by filing a Complaint pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also has filed a Motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Record document no. 5.)

Based on the request to proceed in forma pauperis, the case is before the Court for preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.

Standard of Review

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), a federal court must dismiss a case filed in forma pauperis if the court determines that the complaint "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." The applicable standard of review for the failure to state a claim provision is the same as the standard for a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103 (3d Cir. 2002). Under that standard, a court must accept the truth of a plaintiff's factual allegations. Morrison v. Madison Dearborn Capital Partners III L.P., 463 F.3d 312, 314 (3d Cir. 2006). In addition, a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, - , 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007).

Discussion

Kelly claims that he was denied access to the courts, he received inadequate medical care, he was not able to make photocopies, he was passed over for work release, and he was unjustly placed in the Behavioral Adjustment Unit ("BAU").*fn1

1. Access to the Courts Claims

Kelly alleges that he was denied access to the law library during his first twenty-nine (29) days at YCP while he was held in pre-class. (Record document 1-2, ¶ 13c.) He claims that "he did not have the ability to do legal research on his own in support of his DUI case" and that this case "is currently still active in the court." (Id., ¶ 13 c, d.)

Kelly's second access to the courts claim is that his complaint for custody of his eight (8)- year old daughter was dismissed because Defendant Rogers caused him to miss a conciliation. (Id., ¶¶ 39-46.) He states that, on or about September 2, 2008, he received a court order scheduling the conciliation on September 11, 2008. (Id., ¶ 39.) On September 7, 2008, he used a request form to notify his counselor, Defendant Rogers, that the conciliation had been scheduled. (Id., ¶ 40.) On September 8, 2008, Rogers responded by requesting that Kelly send her a copy of the court order. (Id., ¶ 41.) On that same date, Kelly responded to Rogers that he was not willing to allow his only copy of the court order out of his possession and requested that she either call him to her office to review it or come to his housing area to review it. (Id., ¶ 42.) He also stated that he would hold Rogers accountable if he missed the conciliation. (Id., ¶ 43.) Rogers then responded that she could not take action without the court order and suggested that he ask one of the correctional officers to take the order to her office when they bring her the "count sheet." (Id., ¶ 44.) Plaintiff alleges that "as a result of defendant Rogers ignorance and deliberate indifference" he was unable to attend the conference. (Id., ¶ 45.) He states that he received a court order on September 26, 2008 dismissing his complaint for custody of his daughter. (Id., ¶ 46.) Prison inmates have a constitutional right of access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977). This right "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." Id. at 828. In Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996), the Court clarified that "[t]he tools [Bounds] requires to be provided 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." 518 U.S. at 355.

In order to maintain an access to the courts claim, an inmate must demonstrate that a non-frivolous legal claim was frustrated or was being impeded. Id. at 351. The inmate also must allege an "actual injury" to his litigation efforts. Id. at 349; see also O'Connell v. Williams, 241 Fed. Appx. 55, 57 (3d Cir. 2007). In other words, "an inmate cannot establish a relevant actual injury simply by establishing that his prison's law library or legal assistance program is subpar in some theoretical sense." Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351.

With regard to Kelly's claim that he did not have the ability to perform legal research on his DUI case during his twenty-nine (29) days in pre-class, he fails to allege that an "actual injury" occurred as a result of the his lack of access to the law library. For example, he does not state that he was subject to an adverse ruling because of the alleged delay in accessing legal research materials. Accordingly, he fails to state an access to the courts claim.

As to Kelly's claim that Defendant Rogers caused his custody complaint to be dismissed, he alleges that he suffered an adverse ruling in that his child custody complaint was dismissed, but he fails to link the dismissal of his case to any conduct by Rogers that impeded his ability to litigate his case. He admits that Rogers offered to review the court order scheduling the conciliation in order to contact the court about it, but he does not state that he accepted her offer to send the order to her through the corrections officers in his unit. Moreover, he does not state that Rogers or any other prison employee restricted his ability to write a letter to the court explaining that he currently is incarcerated and requesting either a ...


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