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Blanchard v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

October 14, 2010

RICHARD L. BLANCHARD, PLAINTIFF
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Richard Blanchard, a federal prisoner housed at USP-Allenwood, White Deer, Pennsylvania, has filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). He has also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Named as defendants are the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the following individuals employed by the BOP at USP-Allenwood: Tanner; Sones; Reed; Ross; Wall; Hoffa; S. Dodrill; H. Watts; and Yocum.

The Complaint is before the court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Court will grant Blanchard's request to proceed in forma pauperis and direct him to file an amended complaint identifying the individuals he wishes to sue; state with specificity what actions they took to violate his constitutional rights; and what, if any, actual injury he suffered as a result of each defendant's actions.

II. Background

On August 3, 2010, Blanchard filed a complaint (doc. 1), alleging that defendants for the past several years have delayed or tampered with his mail. (Doc. 1). Tanner is alleged to have withheld, or allowed, Blanchard's mail to be withheld for period of two days while hie was in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) on July 29, 2008. On September 25, 2008, CO Sones is alleged to have taken Plaintiff's legal mail and failed to return his certified mail receipt to him. Officers Reed and Ross are claimed also to have delayed his outgoing and incoming mail on an unspecified date. Id. Walls is alleged to have ignored Blanchard's instructions and posted his mail late. Id. Hoffa is alleged to have mailed Blanchard's certified mail "late." Id. Dodrill and Watts did not take any remedial action to halt the tampering with Blanchard's mail. Id. Yocum, the mail room supervisor, refused to give Blanchard any information as to why his certified mail was delayed two days. Id.

III. Standard of Review

A complaint filed in forma pauperis may be dismissed if it is determined that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In deciding whether the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the court employs the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and construe any inferences to be drawn from the allegations in the plaintiff's favor. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). A complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), giving the defendant "fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Although detailed factual allegations are not required, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 93, 127 S.Ct. at 2200, the complaint has to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. "[M]ore than labels and conclusions" are required. Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65.

Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson, supra, 551 U.S. at 94, 127 S.Ct. at 2200. Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint "even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend," unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004).

IV. Discussion

A. Failure to state an Access-to-the-Courts Claim Against Tanner, Sones, Reed, Ross, Walls, Hoffa, Dodrill, Watts and Yocum

Prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 2177, 135 L.Ed.2d 606 (1996); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821, 97 S.Ct. 1491, 1494, 52 L.Ed.2d 72 (1977). However, when an inmate does not allege an actual injury to his ability to litigate a claim, his constitutional right of access to the courts has not been violated. See Lewis, 518 U.S. at 352-53, 116 S.Ct. at 2180-2181. An actual injury is shown only where a non-frivolous, arguable claim is lost. See Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415, 122 S.Ct. 2179, 2186-2187, 153 L.Ed.2d 413 (2002).

In its present form, Blanchard's access-to-the-courts claim fails. Plaintiff fails to allege that he sustained any actual injury as a result of the defendants' action.

See Lewis, 518 U.S. at 349, 116 S.Ct. at 2179 (requiring a claimant to show actual injury by the alleged denial of access). Throughout his complaint he claims defendants have delayed the posting of his mail and legal mail but he does not assert he suffered actual injury to a pending or contemplated legal claim as a result of defendants' actions. ...


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