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Bey v. Singleton

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

August 13, 2018

Jontez Ward Bey, Plaintiff,
Stephanie Singleton; Deputy Cook; Deputy Lilianthol; Deputy Donahoe; Sgt. Caswell; Sgt. Williams; Sgt. Green; Sgt. Roderick; Sgt. Sheppard, and Major Smith, Defendants.


          Kaymani D. West United States Magistrate Judge

         This is a civil action filed pro se by a local detainee. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to submit findings and recommendations to the district court. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e); 1915A (as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal).

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Jontez Ward Bey (“Plaintiff”) is a detainee at the Charleston County Detention Center (“CCDC”). Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff submitted a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking monetary damages. Following initial review of his Complaint, the court noted in an Order issued on July 5, 2018 that Plaintiff alleges that he has been denied photocopies and law library access at CCDC. ECF No. 18. The court also noted that Plaintiff does not allege any actual injury from the alleged denial of access to copies or to a library, and that Plaintiff does not allege whether he is currently represented by legal counsel in connection with pending criminal charges. Id. Plaintiff was informed of the deficiencies in his Complaint that prevent him from stating plausible federal claims and was granted 14 days to submit an amended complaint to correct those deficiencies. Id. at 3-4. In that same Order, Plaintiff was informed that his handwritten Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis, ECF No. 13, did not provide the required information for the court to rule on his Motion. He was ordered to complete and file a Form AO 240 to provide the required information and was warned that if he failed to do so, it would be recommended that the Motion be denied and he could not proceed without paying the full filing fee. ECF No. 18 at 5.

         Plaintiff did not respond to the court's Order, and his time for compliance has passed. The mail in which the court's Order was sent to Plaintiff has not been returned, thus it appears that Plaintiff received the Order, but chose not to respond. As a result, this case is now ripe for a report and recommendation.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of Plaintiff's pro se Complaint filed in this case. This review has been conducted pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995); Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983); Boyce v. Alizaduh, 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979).

         Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Kerr v. Marshall Univ. Bd. of Governors, 824 F.3d 62, 72 (4th Cir. 2016). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 630 n.1 (4th Cir. 2003). Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that this court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Even under this less stringent standard, the Complaint filed in this case is subject to summary dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         III. Discussion

         Initially, the undersigned recommends that Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis be denied because it does not contain the type of financial information about the Plaintiff that the court requires to make a ruling on such a motion. Plaintiff provided no information about his income or debts and failed to complete the court-approved Form AO 240 as ordered by the court. Plaintiff was explicitly warned that failure to complete the Form AO 240 would result in a recommendation for denial of his Motion. ECF No. 18 at 4. Accordingly, it is recommended that the court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis.[1]Even though the Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis should be denied, the undersigned conducted an initial review of the Complaint as required under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A and addresses the merits of Plaintiff's Complaint.

         As a general rule, jails are not constitutionally required to make photocopies for detainees or provide access to a law library for detainees. In Harrison v. Moketa/Motycka, 485 F.Supp.2d 652, 658 (D.S.C. 2007), this court stated, “It is well established that inmates do not have unlimited rights to photocopies or photocopying machines. See Lyons v. Clark, 694 F.Supp. 184, 188 (E.D. Va. 1988) (while prisoners who can show they are indigent have a right to free postage stamps in connection with the right to access the courts, there exists no such right to free photocopies); see also Magee v. Waters, 810 F.2d 451, 452 (4th Cir. 1987) (libraries not required in pretrial detention centers in absence of actual injury and denial of access to court).

         The only exception to this general rule is that detainees who are representing themselves in their criminal case should be provided with some access to legal research materials. If a detainee has appointed or retained legal counsel, no access to legal materials is required. See United States v. Chatman, 584 F.2d 1358, 1360 (4th Cir. 1978). Furthermore, a detainee has a first amendment right to access to court, but must allege that he or she suffered an actual injury from the alleged denial of access to court. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351-53 (1996) (plaintiff must allege actual injury resulting from allegedly inadequate jail library in order to state a claim under § 1983); Michau v. Charleston Cnty., S.C., 434 F.3d 725, 728 (4th Cir. 2006) (inmate must allege and show that he has suffered an actual injury or specific harm to his litigation efforts as a result of the defendant's actions); Magee v. Waters, 810 F.2d at 452 (actual injury required where complaint was of limited library time). An actual injury may be shown if the detainee had a court case dismissed or lost a motion in a case because of his or her inability to access the court due to a state actor's wrongdoing. See Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1383-85 (4th Cir. 1993).

         The allegations in Plaintiffs Complaint fail to state plausible claims because there are no allegations that Plaintiff is not represented by legal counsel in his criminal case, which would require more access to legal materials for trial preparation. Additionally, there are no allegations showing a denial of access to court or an actual injury from the alleged failure of Defendants to provide copies or legal research. Without allegations of actual injury such as the dismissal of a case ...

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