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Stratton v. Speanek

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

November 26, 2014

MICHAEL ANDREW STRATTON, Plaintiff,
v.
MICAHEL SPEANEK, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HENRY R. WILHOIT, Jr., District Judge.

Michael Andrew Stratton is an inmate confined by the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") in the Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI")-Ashland, located in the Ashland, Kentucky. Stratton has filed a pro se civil rights complaint alleging violations of his federal constitutional rights under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, pursuant to the doctrine announced in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Stratton alleges that the named defendants[1] have violated his right to due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. By separate Order, Stratton has been granted in forma pauperis status. [D.E. No. 11]

The Court has conducted a preliminary review of Stratton's complaint because he asserts claims against government officials and because he has been granted pauper status. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A. Because Stratton is proceeding without an attorney, the Court liberally construes his claims and accepts his factual allegations as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). But as explained below, the Court determines that Stratton has not alleged a claim upon which relief can be granted as to his allegation that he has been denied due process of law.

ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT

Stratton alleges that at some point prior to January 10, 2013, the FCI-Ashland staff informed him that he would not be permitted to use the monitored e-mail/TRULINCS system. The term "TRULINCS" stems from the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS)-Electronic Messaging, the terms and conditions of which are set forth and governed by BOP Program Statement 5265.13, which states in relevant part, at p. 2 therein:

2. AUTHORITY
The Bureau's authority to implement TRULINCS is found in 18 U.S.C. § 4042, which authorizes the Bureau to provide for the safekeeping, care, and subsistence of Federal prisoners. Pursuant to that authority, the CEO prohibits or discontinues its operation, or individual inmates' participation, whenever it is determined to jeopardize the safety, security, or orderly operation of the correctional facility, or the protection of the public and staff.
Use of the TRULINCS is a privilege; therefore, the Warden or an authorized representative may limit or deny the privilege of a particular inmate (see Section 3 for restrictions).
Individual inmates may be excluded from program participation as part of classification procedures (see Section 3). Information supporting the exclusion is forwarded to the Warden for final determination.
By participating in the TRULINCS program, inmates, and the persons in the community with whom they correspond, voluntarily consent to having all incoming and outgoing electronic messages, including transactional data, message contents, and other activities, monitored and retained by Bureau staff. This authority includes rejecting individual messages sent to or from inmates using TRULINCS that jeopardize the above-mentioned interests. (Emphasis added).

Stratton states that on January 10, 2013, he submitted a "Request for Administrative Remedy" to Warden Sepanek complaining about the denial TRULINCS e-mail access, which Warden Sepanek denied on January 14, 2013; that he appealed that decision to the MARO; that the MARO denied his appeal on June 7, 2013; and that on some unspecified date in 2013, he submitted his final administrative appeal (BP-11) to the BOP Central Office. [D. E. No. 1, p. 4] Stratton states that as of July 8, 2014 (two weeks before he filed this Bivens action on July 21, 2014), he had received no response from the BOP Central Office, and that the "BOP" has violated his right to due process of law by failing to respond to his final administrative appeal. [ Id. ] He seeks an order directing the BOP "... to allow my use of E-mail (Trulincs)." [ Id., p. 6]

DISCUSSION

Stratton claims that by denying his administrative grievance and first appeal, Warden Sepanek and "C." Eichenlaub violated his right to due process of law, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He further claims that Charles Samuels, Director of the BOP, denied his due process rights by failing to respond to his final administrative appeal.

Stratton states no claim upon which relief can be granted on these claims because the mere denial of prisoner grievances by supervisory or higher-ranking administrative officials is insufficient personal involvement for imposing constitutional liability, under either Bivens or 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Johnson v. Aramark, 482 F.App'x 992, 993 (6th Cir. 2012); Alder v. Correctional Medical Services, 73 F.App'x 839, 841 (6th Cir. 2003); Martin v. Harvey, 14 F.App'x. 307, 309 (6th Cir. 2001); Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999). Further, prisoners have no inherent constitutional right to an effective prison grievance procedure. See Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 467 (1983); Overholt v. Unibase Data Entry, Inc., 221 F.3d 1335, 2000 WL 799760, at *3 (6th Cir. June 14, ...


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