United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM O. BERTELSMAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff David Emerson Caudill is an inmate confined in the Kenton County Detention Center ("KCDC") located in Covington, Kentucky. Caudill has filed a pro se civil rights complaint alleging violations of his federal constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Caudill alleges that the named defendants have violated his right of access to the courts guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; have prevented him from assisting in his own criminal defense; and have denied him due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. By separate Order, Caudill has been granted in forma pauperis status.
The Court has conducted a preliminary review of Caudill'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 Caudill 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 Caudill has not alleged a claim upon which relief can be granted as to his allegations that the defendants have denied him access to the courts and/or prevented him from assisting in his criminal defense in violation of his right to due process of law.
ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT
Caudill states that he has been confined in the KCDC since February 11, 2015. [R. 3, p. 3] He complains that the KCDC "... Does not have a legal law library for me (or any other inmate) to research cases, to help our lawyers fight our cases." [ Id., p. 2, § III] Caudill candidly admits that he did not file a grievance concerning his claim. Id., p. 6 (marking the "NO" box following question asking if he filed a grievance). Caudill explains his failure to comply with the administrative exhaustion process as follows:
Does no good because they just disregard them or throw them away, so they never even make it to the correct people. This is a civil rights violation of due process, and doesn't need to be grieved.
Id., p. 6
In his complaint, Caudill seeks no type of relief. See id., p.8
Federal law requires all inmates, whether state or federal, to exhaust their administrative remedies prior to filing suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). When the failure to comply with this requirement is apparent from the face of the complaint, dismissal of the complaint without prejudice is appropriate upon initial review. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 214-15 (2007) (stating that a district court can dismiss a complaint sua sponte when it is apparent from the face of the complaint that claim is barred by affirmative defense); Carbe v. Lappin, 492 F.3d 325, 328 (5th Cir.2007) (where complaint was clear that the prisoner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, sua sponte dismissal was proper); Fletcher v. Myers, No. 5:11-CV-141-KKC (E.D. Ky. May 17, 2012), aff'd, No. 12-5630 (6th Cir. Jan. 4, 2013) ("Because Fletcher's failure to exhaust, or to attempt to exhaust, administrative remedies is apparent from the face of his complaint, the district court properly dismissed Fletcher's complaint on that basis."); Smith v. Lief, No. 10-CV-8-JMH, 2010 WL 411134, at *4 (E.D. Ky. Jan. 27, 2010); Gunn v. Ky. Dept. of Corrections, No. 5:07CV-P103-R, 2008 WL 2002259, at *4 (W.D. Ky. May 7, 2008); Deruyscher v. Michigan Dept. of Corrections Health, No. 06-15260-BC, 2007 WL 1452929, at *3 (E.D. Mich. May 17, 2007).
Simply put, under Jones v. Bock , Caudill's admitted failure to pursue the grievance process at the KCDC justifies dismissal of his complaint without prejudice. Other grounds, however, justify the dismissal of his § 1983 complaint with prejudice.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " as well as "a demand for the relief sought." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (2), (3). The purpose of this rule is to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (2)). While this notice pleading standard does require not require detailed factual allegations, it does require more than the bare assertion of legal conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (citations and footnote omitted).
Caudill asserts that the KCDC does not have a law library which he and other inmates can use to "research cases and to help our lawyers fight our cases." [R. 1, p. 2] He asserts that the absence of a law library violates his First Amendment right of access to the courts. Prisoners, including indigent prisoners, have a constitutional right of access to the courts which the states have a duty to protect. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821-25 (1977). The State adequately provides defendants access to the courts when it provides them either an attorney or access to a law library. Holt v. Pitts, 702 F.2d 639, 640 (6th Cir. 1983). Prisoners may not dictate the method by which access to the courts will be assured. Penland v. Warren County Jail, 759 F.2d 524, 531 n. 7 (6th Cir.1985) (en banc ). See also Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351-354 (1996). Further, a prisoner's right of access to the courts is limited to direct criminal appeals, habeas corpus applications, and civil rights claims challenging the conditions of confinement. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355; Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 391 (6th Cir. 1999).
Here, Caudill does not allege that he needs a law library to file or participate in a direct criminal appeal, a habeas corpus petition, or a civil rights claims challenging the conditions of confinement; he alleges only in broad terms that he and other KCDC inmates want to research cases to "... help our lawyers fight our cases." [R. 1, p. 2] Caudill's reference to "our lawyers" signals that he currently has the benefit of legal representation, presumably in his criminal case (about which he provides no information). Thus, to the extent that Caudill complains about ...