United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MARK A. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
LAMAN L. STARK, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mark Jackson has filed a pro se civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [R. 1.] This
matter is before the Court to conduct the initial screening
required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2),
2015, Carroll Circuit Court Judge Leslie Knight presided over
a criminal prosecution charging Jackson with receiving stolen
property, burglary, and several counts of theft of mail. In
October 2015, Jackson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six
years imprisonment. Judge Knight denied numerous
post-judgment motions, requests, and notices filed by
Jackson. Jackson last filed documents in that case in August
and September 2018, shortly before the Kentucky Court of
Appeals dismissed his appeal for failure to prosecute in
December 2018. Commonwealth v. Jackson, No.
15-CR-00104 (Carroll Cir. Ct. 2015).
serving that prison term, in October 2018 Jackson was charged
with first degree terroristic threatening and being a
persistent felony offender in the second degree. Shortly
after the case was filed, a public defender was appointed to
represent Jackson. Judge Knight then recused and a special
judge was assigned to preside over the matter. The case is
pending the outcome of an evaluation of the defendant at the
Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center. Commonwealth v.
Jackson, No. 18-CR-00181 (Carroll Cir. Ct.
complaint before this Court, Jackson alleges that since late
November 2018 Laman Stark, the Carroll County Circuit Clerk,
will not immediately file motions that he sends to the
Circuit Court because Judge Knight has stated that it causes
“alarm” at the court house when they receive mail
from Jackson. Instead, Jackson's filings are first sent
to the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Post in Campbellsburg,
Kentucky for security screening. Jackson complains that this
procedure causes two-week delays before his filings are
docketed in the circuit court. Jackson contends that this
approach constitutes an unlawful search in violation of the
Fourth Amendment and hinders his right of access to the
courts and violates his rights under the First and Sixth
Amendments. [R. 1.]
thoroughly reviewed the complaint, the Court concludes that
it must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Because
KSP is a state agency, Jackson's claim against it is
barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985); Caldwell v.
Kentucky State Police, No. 6: 15-CV-43-DCR,
2015 WL 4397153, at *2 (E.D. Ky. July 16, 2015). State
agencies like KSP are also not considered
“persons” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th
allegations state no claim under the Fourth Amendment,
whether asserted against KSP, Judge Knight or Clerk Stark. An
inmate's rights under the Fourth Amendment are quite
limited, Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526 (1984),
and legitimate security concerns vitiate the need for prison
officials to have probable cause to search an inmate's
mail. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 576 (1974).
And when Jackson sends documents to the courthouse for
filing, he already expects that the envelope containing them
will be opened by the clerk and then his submissions will be
filed with the court. He does not allege that these
expectations have been frustrated; instead, he claims only
that the envelope is opened by KSP at the clerk's request
instead of opened at the courthouse. The fact that
Jackson's mail is handled in a different manner than what
he would prefer does not upset his reasonable expectations in
privacy in it, as the court clerk has merely transferred the
task of screening the mail for security purposes from court
security staff to KSP. Because Jackson has no reasonable
expectation of privacy in the manner in which his intended
recipient chooses to open his mail, this claim must be
dismissed. See United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696,
717 n.5 (1983) (“‘[T]he mere detention of mail
not in [one's] custody or control amounts to at most a
minimal or technical interference with [one's] person or
effects, resulting in no personal deprivation at
all.'” (emphasis added)) (Brennan, J.,
concurring)); see also United States v. Demoss, 279
F.3d 632, 639 (8th Cir. 2002).
complaint also fails to state a claim that he has been denied
access to the courts as guaranteed by the First and/or Sixth
Amendments. While Jackson complains that this screening
procedure hampers his ability to file pro se
documents in his pending criminal case, as noted above he has
been represented by counsel throughout those criminal
proceedings. Where a defendant is represented by counsel in
his criminal case, his constitutional right of access to the
courts in that proceeding is satisfied as a matter of law.
Holt v. Pitts, 702 F.2d 639, 640 (6th Cir. 1983);
see also Cooper v. Shelby County Justice Center, No.
99-6365, 2000 WL 924604, at *2 (6th Cir. June 26, 2000)
(“Since counsel was appointed to represent Cooper in
the pending criminal proceedings, his access to the court has
been protected.”); Wilson v. Porter, No.
99-1513, 2000 WL 332060, at *2 (6th Cir. March 22, 2000)
conducting the initial screening required by 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A, the Court has determined that
Jackson's complaint has failed to state a claim. Thus,
the Court must dismiss his complaint in its entirety.
Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir.
2010). Accordingly, and the Court being sufficiently advised,
it is hereby ORDERED as follows:
1. Mark Jackson's complaint [R. 1] is