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Worth v. Wamsley

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

October 20, 2017

WILLIAM A. WORTH, II, Plaintiff,
v.
BRENDA WAMSLEY, et al., Defendants.

          Elizabeth P. Deavers, Magistrate Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELIZABETH A. PRESTON DEAVERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court for consideration of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 14.), Plaintiff's Response in Opposition (ECF No. 17), and Defendant's Reply (ECF No. 21). For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a prison inmate under the custody and control of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, brings his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his First Amendment right to meaningful access to the courts. (Doc. No 1 at 2.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendants[1] interfered with his First Amendment access to the courts by delaying the submission of his legal mail to the Ohio courts. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff is monetary relief in the amount of $25, 000 compensatory and $50, 000 punitive damages against each Defendant, as well as fees and costs. (Id. at 7.)

         Plaintiff's Complaint states that he filed motions to reopen and reconsider denial of his state criminal appeal in the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals on the grounds of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel and merger of related offenses. (ECF No. 1-1.) The appeals court denied his applications for reopening and reconsideration of his appellate case as untimely on May 26, 2016. (Id. at 4, 6.) According to Plaintiff, his discretionary appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court was due on July 10, 2016. (ECF No. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff claims that “around a week before the . . . deadline, ” he sought notary services from Defendant Smith who allegedly declined to notarize Defendant's affidavit of indigency and told Plaintiff to procure an affidavit form from the prison cashier, per institutional policy, along with a six-month financial certification and financial statement of his prison account.[2] (Id.) Plaintiff states that he requested the affidavit and related financial statements on August 8, 2016. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff also states that he received the documents on August 15, 2016, but found that the prison-provided affidavit was for use in the Ohio Court of Claims, rather than the Ohio Supreme Court. (Id.) Plaintiff subsequently filed various administrative grievances and appeals before filing his Complaint in this matter on January 13, 2017. (Id. at 5-6.) Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss on April 13, 2017. (ECF No. 14.)

         II. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must satisfy the basic federal pleading requirements set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Thus, Rule 8(a) “imposes legal and factual demands on the authors of complaints.” 16630 Southfield Ltd., P'ship v. Flagstar Bank, F.S.B., 727 F.3d 502, 503 (6th Cir. 2013).

         Although this pleading standard does not require “‘detailed factual allegations, ' . . . [a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '” is insufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A complaint will not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Instead, to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Facial plausibility is established “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “The plausibility of an inference depends on a host of considerations, including common sense and the strength of competing explanations for the defendant's conduct.” Flagstar Bank, 727 F.3d at 504 (citations omitted).

         Further, the Court holds pro se complaints “‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Garrett v. Belmont Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't., No. 08-3978, 2010 WL 1252923, at *2 (6th Cir. April 1, 2010) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). This lenient treatment, however, has limits; “‘courts should not have to guess at the nature of the claim asserted.'” Frengler v. Gen. Motors, 482 Fed.Appx. 975, 976-77 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989)).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff brings his claims against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceedings for redress.

         In order to proceed under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove both that (1) the perpetrator acted under color of state law; and (2) the conduct deprived the complainant of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981); Brandon v. Allen, 719 F.2d 151, 153 (6th Cir. 1983), rev'd and remanded subnom, Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464 (1985). As a general rule, a plaintiff proceeding under ยง 1983 must allege that the deprivation of his rights was intentional or at least the result of gross negligence. ...


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