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Bell v. Mullins

March 23, 2007

CHRISTOPHER BELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SERGEANT MULLINS, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra S. Beckwith, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 47). Plaintiff opposes the motion (Doc. 55), and Defendant has filed a reply (Doc. 56).

The Court grants summary judgment to Defendant Sgt. Mullins on Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Mr. Bell is a prison inmate of the State of Ohio; he has been incarcerated since the early 1990's. In December 2003, Bell was transferred from Trumbull Correctional Institution to Allen Correctional Institution. Bell told officials at Allen that he needed more space to accommodate his legal materials, relating to six lawsuits he had pending at that time. Rather than provide Bell an additional locker, Bell contends that ACI confiscated his materials and placed him in segregation until March 14, 2003.

In September 2003, Bell was transferred to the Lebanon Correctional Institution, and Bell asked that his legal materials be transferred with him. Two months later, in November 2003, Bell was transferred again to Warren Correctional Institution. Bell alleges that two boxes of legal materials were mailed to him by a relative on November 1, 2003, addressed to him at Lebanon. He alleges that the Lebanon institution forwarded the boxes to the Warren Correctional Facility. Bell alleges that Sergeant Mullins, who is the Warren institution's mailroom supervisor, kept the arrival of the boxes a "secret" from him. Instead of immediately giving Bell the materials in the boxes, Mullins recorded them as containing contraband material. Bell was informed of this decision about a week later, on November 13, 2003.

Bell filed a prison grievance on November 20, 2003, because Bell contended that the materials in the boxes were "legal materials" which had not been given to him. On December 2, 2003, his grievance was denied. The grievance inspector found that Mullins had properly labeled the materials as contraband under applicable ODRC regulations. The inspector found that the boxes bore the name of an attorney in the Cleveland area, but the address on the box did not match the law office address of that attorney. Under Ohio Admin. Code §5120-9-17 (H), the boxes were not "legal material" but were instead properly classified as "minor contraband."

The two boxes were then mailed back to the sender, Bell's relative. It is unclear from the pleadings when or if Bell may have eventually received the two boxes, which are described as containing old transcripts and prison kites.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Bell filed his pro se complaint in this case on February 24, 2004 under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against a number of prison employees and officials. (Doc. 2) Magistrate Judge Hogan recommended that all of Bell's original claims against all Defendants should be dismissed. In addition, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Bell's motion to amend his complaint, Doc. 13, also be denied except for a single claim against Sergeant Mullins for impeding Bell's free access to the courts. (Report & Recommendation, Doc. 19) This Court overruled all objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and adopted that report on December 8, 2004. (Doc. 28)

Bell sought interlocutory review from the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed this Court's order dismissing all Bell's claims save the access claim against Sgt. Mullins. See Dkt. No. 05-3088, Order of November 14, 2005.

Bell's amended complaint alleges that Sgt. Mullins tortiously and intentionally interfered with his access to legal materials he needed to prosecute two Ohio Court of Claims actions. His original complaint had alleged interference with a case he filed in the Northern District of Ohio. As the Magistrate Judge's Report noted, that complaint was dismissed sua sponte by the district judge. Bell's amended complaint alleges that Mullins interfered with two Court of Claims actions Bell filed against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, seeking monetary damages for personal injuries Bell allegedly suffered while incarcerated.

ANALYSIS

1. Summary Judgment ...


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