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Carey v. Jones

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

January 18, 2017

CARLOS CAREY, #245 045, Plaintiff,
WARDEN JONES, et al ., Defendants.




         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a complaint filed, by Carlos Carey [“Carey”], a state inmate incarcerated at the Easterling Correctional Facility in Clio, Alabama. Carey challenges actions which occurred during his incarceration at the Bullock Correctional Facility from September 2013 to filing this complaint on October 18, 2013. He alleges a denial of access to the courts and the prison administrative grievance process because of Defendants' interference with his legal mail. Named as defendants are Warden Kenneth Jones, Warden Sandra Giles, Warden Rene Mason, Sergeant Dominic Whitley, Captain Jenkins, and the mail room supervisor. Carey requests Defendants be charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1701 (obstruction of mail generally), 18 U.S.C. § 1702 (obstruction of correspondence), and “other applicable federal and state laws.” He also requests declaratory relief, damages, and relief from actions initiated by Defendant Whitley regarding imposition of disciplinaries and an increase in security classification. Doc. 1.

         Defendants filed an answer, special report, and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Carey's claims for relief. Docs. 17, 18. Upon receipt of Defendants' special report, the court issued an order directing Carey to file a response, including sworn affidavits and other evidentiary materials, and specifically cautioning Carey that “the court may at any time thereafter and without notice to the parties (1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment.” Doc. 19 at 2. Carey responded to Defendants' report, see Doc. 24, but his response does not demonstrate there is any genuine issue of material fact. The court will treat Defendants' report as a motion for summary judgment, and concludes this motion is due to be resolved in favor of Defendants.


         “Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”). The party moving for summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing the non-moving party has failed to present evidence to support some element on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-324.

         Defendants have met their evidentiary burden. Thus, the burden shifts to Carey to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593-594 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that, once the moving party meets its burden, “the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or sworn statements], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ” demonstrate there is a genuine dispute of material fact) (internal quotations omitted). This court will also consider “specific facts” pled in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the non-moving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007).

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 525 (2006); Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff's pro se status alone does not compel this court to disregard elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case.


         Carey alleges a denial of access to the courts due to interception, interference, and/or discarding of his mail by Defendants. According to the complaint, after being subjected to excessive force, sexual harassment, and due process violations, Carey filed a federal lawsuit as well as complaints with the Investigative and Intelligence Division (“I&I”) of the Alabama Department of Corrections (“ADOC”), the prison commissioner, the ADOC Central Board, three wardens, the justice department, and the postmaster. Carey claims, however, that “on several occasions [his] mail was found in the trash, thrown away, open[ed] and read by staff.” He alleges Defendant Whitley knew of the contents of his federal lawsuit before it was filed and discussed it “in the open” and also knew that Carey had attempted to file a state habeas corpus petition. Carey maintains that he “drafted and mailed these motions 4 times. 3 times they were found in the trash and inmates and staff w[ere] aware of contents.” He alleges he never received confirmation from the courts that his motions had been received, he had to redraft his § 1983 complaint five times, he received no order from the court until he gave “it” to another inmate for mailing, and that all the mail he receives from relatives goes through other inmates rather than being sent directly to him because it would otherwise be intercepted. Doc. 1 at 2-3.


         A. Absolute Immunity

         To the extent Carey sues Defendants in their official capacities, they are immune from monetary damages. Official capacity lawsuits are “in all respects other than name, . . . treated as a suit against the entity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). “A state official may not be sued in his official capacity unless the state has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100, 104 S.Ct. 900, 908, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984), or Congress has abrogated the state's immunity, see Seminole Tribe v. Florida, [517 U.S. 44');">517 U.S. 44, 59], 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1125, 134 L.Ed.2d 252 (1996). Alabama has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Carr v. City of Florence, 916 F.2d 1521, 1525 (11th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted), and Congress has not abrogated Alabama's immunity. Therefore, Alabama state officials are immune from claims brought against them in their official capacities.” Lancaster v. Monroe Cty., 116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997).

         In light of the foregoing and under the facts of this case, Defendants are entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for claims seeking monetary damages from them in their official capacities. Lancaster, 116 F.3d at 1429; Jackson v. Ga. Dep't of Transp., 16 F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994); Parker v. Williams, 862 F.2d 1471 (11th Cir. 1989).

         B. Injunctive Relief

         Carey's request for declaratory and/or injunctive relief against Defendants is due to be dismissed as moot. Carey is no longer incarcerated at the Bullock Correctional Facility. The transfer or release of a prisoner renders moot any claims for injunctive or declaratory relief. See Cty. of Los Angeles v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631 (1979); see also Cotterall v. Paul, 755 F.2d 777, 780 (11th Cir. 1985) (past exposure to even illegal conduct does not in and of itself show a pending case or controversy regarding injunctive relief if unaccompanied by any continuing present injury or real and immediate threat of repeated injury). As it is clear from the pleadings and records before the court that Carey is no longer incarcerated at the Bullock Correctional Facility, his request for equitable relief is moot.

         C. Criminal Charges

         To the extent Carey requests the court to consider this action as one seeking to pursue criminal charges against Defendants for the destruction or obstruction of his mail, legal or other, he is entitled to no relief. “[A] private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another.” Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973 see also Leeke v. Timmerman, 454 U.S. 83 (1981); Otero v. U.S. Att'y Gen., 832 F.2d 141, 141 (11th Cir. 1987). Further, a plaintiff cannot maintain a civil claim against a defendant for violation of a federal criminal statute in the absence of some expression of Congressional intent to create a private right of action. See, e.g., Adventure Outdoors, Inc. v. Bloomberg, 552 F.3d 1290, 1303 (11th Cir. 008) (rejecting notion that Congress authorized “a federal private right of action any time a civil plaintiff invokes a federal criminal statute”). Neither 18 U.S.C. § 1701 or § 1702 expressly or impliedly creates a private right of action, and federal courts have consistently refused to recognize civil claims for mail-tampering or obstruction crimes. See, e.g., Brett v. Brett, 503 F.App'x 130 (3d Cir. 2012) (finding no basis for civil liability in plaintiff's claim that defendants opened his mail, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1702, because “criminal statutes do not give rise to civil liability”); Summer Brook Preserve Howmeowners Ass'n, 641 F.Supp.2d 1256, 1268 (M.D. Fla. 2008) (holding that 18 U.S.C. § 1705 “provides for criminal penalties but does not create civil liability, ” and dismissing plaintiff's civil cause of action predicated on violating § 1705).

         D. Due Process

         To the extent Carey's allegations regarding his mail present a due process claim for the destruction of his property, it is well established that negligent or intentional deprivations of property resulting from random, unauthorized acts of government officials do not become due process violations when there exist adequate remedies under state law for Carey to seek redress for the deprivation. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 543-44 (1984), overruled on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986) (overruling Parratt to the extent that it states that mere lack of due care by a state official may “deprive” an individual of life, liberty, or property under the Fourteenth Amendment); Rodriguez-Mora v. Baker, 792 F.2d 1524, 1527 (11th Cir. 1986). Because ...

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