United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Plaintiff's August 8, 2017
letter to the court (Doc. # 9), which the court liberally
construes as a Motion for Extension of Time to File an
Amended Complaint. Although Petitioner filed his motion for
extension on August 8, 2017, he has not filed an amended
complaint to this date. For the reasons explained below,
Plaintiff's Motion for Extension is due to be denied, and
this case is due to be dismissed.
April 2017, Plaintiff filed this action against six
individual Defendants. (Doc. # 1 at 1). In his initial
complaint, Plaintiff first claims that Defendants violated
his Eighth Amendment rights by not providing him access to
fresh air or sunlight. (Id. at 11). Second,
Plaintiff claims that Defendants failed to provide him access
to an adequate law library. (Id.). Third, Plaintiff
claims that Defendants violated his equal protection rights
under the Fourteenth Amendment by granting female inmates
opportunities to go outside while denying such opportunities
to male inmates. (Id. at 11-12). Finally, Plaintiff
claims that one Defendant violated his First Amendment rights
by opening legal mail outside of his presence. (Id.
1, 2017, the Magistrate Judge determined that Plaintiff had
improperly joined claims against separate Defendants in the
same complaint. (Doc. # 6 at 1-2). The Magistrate Judge also
found that Plaintiff's complaint contained conclusory
allegations against Defendants. (Id. at 2). The
Magistrate Judge ordered Plaintiff to submit an amended
complaint with 30 days. (Id.).
5, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a “Motion Supplementing
Supporting Corroborating Critical Evidence and Factors”
to the court. (Doc. # 7). This filing discusses
Plaintiff's claim that prison officials improperly opened
his legal mail. (See generally id.). Plaintiff
explained that one of the Defendants admitted to opening mail
from this court outside of Plaintiff's presence.
(Id. at 1). And, he complained that another
Defendant failed to properly address the grievance.
(Id. at 2). The grievance attached to
Plaintiff's filing asserts that mail from this court to
Plaintiff was opened and signed as “opened by
mistake.” (Id. at 4).
25, 2017, the Magistrate Judge determined that Plaintiff had
failed to comply with the directions in her earlier order
because his June 2017 filing was not an amended complaint.
(Doc. # 8 at 1). The Magistrate Judge ordered Plaintiff to
file an amended complaint within 30 days of the order.
(Id. at 1-2). The Magistrate Judge explicitly warned
Plaintiff that “FAILURE TO COMPLY WITHIN THIRTY DAYS
WILL RESULT IN DISMISSAL OF THIS ACTION WITHOUT FURTHER
NOTICE.” (Id. at 2) (emphasis in original). On
August 8, 2017, Plaintiff asked for an extension of
unspecified length to file an amended complaint. (Doc. # 9).
seeks an extension of time to file an amended complaint. But,
Plaintiff has provided no reason as to why he needs
additional time to file an adequate complaint. (See
generally Doc. # 9). Plaintiff has been aware of the
deficiencies in his original pleading since June 2017. Yet,
while he has asked for an extension, he has not filed an
amended complaint with the court while the motion has been
pending. For these reasons, Plaintiff has not shown good
cause for extending the Magistrate Judge's deadline for
amending his complaint, and the Motion for Extension is due
to be denied.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “expressly authorize a
district court to dismiss a claim, including a counterclaim,
or entire action for failure to prosecute or obey a court
order or federal rule.” State Exchange Bank v.
Hartline, 693 F.2d 1350, 1352 (11th Cir. 1982);
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b). Additionally, a district
court has “inherent . . . authority to enforce its
orders and ensure prompt disposition of legal actions.”
State Exchange, 693 F.2d at 1352. Plaintiff has
failed to obey the Magistrate Judge's June 1, 2017 Order
or July 25, 2017 Order, despite the Magistrate Judge's
express warning about the consequences of his failure to
comply. Accordingly, this action is due to be dismissed
without prejudice for want of prosecution.
to the extent Plaintiff's June 5, 2017 filing is
construed as an amended complaint, Plaintiff has failed to
state a claim for relief. Plaintiff claims that at least two of
the Defendants violated his constitutional rights by opening
legal mail outside of his presence. It is well established
that “a prisoner's constitutional right of access
to the courts requires that incoming legal mail from his
attorneys, properly marked as such, may be opened only in the
inmate's presence and only to inspect for
contraband.” Al-Amin v. Smith, 511 F.3d 1317,
1325 (11th Cir. 2008). This established constitutional right
extends to incoming legal mail from a court. Taylor v.
Sterett, 532 F.2d 462, 475 (5th Cir. 1976) (cited as
binding precedent in Al-Amin). But, to plead an
access to courts claim, a plaintiff must plead an
“actual injury” that impeded his ability to
pursue a non-frivolous claim. Al-Amin, 511 F.3d at
1332-33. Here, Plaintiff has not pled any actual injury that
he suffered due to the opening of his mail from this court.
(See generally Doc. # 7). For example, Plaintiff has
not pled that the opening of his mail caused him to miss a
deadline or affected a legal claim in another suit. See
Al-Amin, 511 F.3d at 1333 (dismissing the
plaintiff's access to courts claim for failure to show an
actual injury). Because Plaintiff has not pled an actual
injury he suffered due to his legal mail being opened, his
access to courts claim is due to be dismissed for failure to
state a claim.
also has failed to state a First Amendment claim based on the
opening of his legal mail. (Doc. # 7). In Al-Amin,
the Eleventh Circuit recognized “a [prisoner's]
First Amendment free speech right to communicate with his
attorneys by mail.” Al-Amin, 511 F.3d at 1334.
It held that the defendants in that case had chilled the
plaintiff-prisoner's freedom of speech through a
“pattern and practice of opening” mail that was
clearly marked as attorney mail. Id. Nevertheless,
the Eleventh Circuit explicitly limited its First Amendment
holding “to attorney-client mail only.”
Id. at 1334 n. 34. Here, Plaintiff has not alleged a
First Amendment claim based on the opening of his legal mail
for two reasons. First, Plaintiff has not asserted that the
opened mail concerned communication with an attorney. (Doc. #
7 at 1) (stating that the mail came from personnel at this
court). Second, Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendants
engaged in a pattern or practice of opening such mail, as he
has only provided one example of legal mail being opened.
Therefore, Plaintiffs First Amendment claim regarding the
opening of his legal mail is due to be dismissed for failure
to state a claim.
reasons explained above, this action is due to be dismissed
for failure to prosecute. Alternatively, this action is also
due to be dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). ...