United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an inmate incarcerated at the Elmore County Jail, filed this
42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint on October 31, 2018, against
Sheriff Bill Franklin and Warden Mike Henline. He complains
that on October 22, 2018, Defendants opened his legal mail.
Although Warden Henline sent Plaintiff a letter informing him
his mail had been opened by the post office, Plaintiff
indicates that he does not believe this explanation but
believes his mail was opened intentionally at the jail.
Plaintiff seeks justice and $250, 000 in damages.
review, the court concludes that dismissal of this case prior
to service of process is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. §
October 22, 2018, Plaintiff received mail from this court
containing a form for filing a complaint under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. The envelope containing the form had been
opened, presumably outside of his presence, and taped shut.
Warden Henline informed Plaintiff in writing that his mail
had been opened by the post office, but Plaintiff asserts
that a jailer informed him that he-the jailer-had taped it
shut which Plaintiff maintains is proof his mail was opened
at the jail. Doc. 1 at 2-3.
allegation that on one occasion Defendants opened his mail
from this court entitles him to no relief. A single mistake
or occasional incident of mishandling of mail, legal or
non-legal, does not state a claim under § 1983. See
Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 351(2d Cir. 2003) (finding
allegation of two incidents of mail interference did not
warrant relief where plaintiff failed to allege invidious
intent or actual harm); Florence v. Booker, 23
Fed.Appx. 970, 972-973 (10th Cir. 2001) (finding that
“single incident in which prison officials allegedly
improperly opened legal mail” did not justify relief
where plaintiff failed to “show either an improper
motivation by defendants or denial of access to the
courts”); Berger v. White, 12 Fed. App'x.
768, 771 (10th Cir. 2001) (citing Smith v. Maschner,
899 F.2d 940, 944 (10th Cir. 1990)) (finding that
“isolated incidents of opening constitutionally
protected legal mail, ‘without any evidence of improper
motive or resulting interference with [plaintiff's] right
to counsel or to access to the courts,' do not support a
civil rights claim.”); Gardner v. Howard, 109
F.3d 427, 431 (8th Cir.1997) (finding isolated incident of
inadvertent opening of inmate's incoming legal mail,
without evidence of improper motive or resulting interference
with inmate's right to counsel or access to courts, does
not rise to level of constitutional violation). Further,
Plaintiff's complaint is devoid of any allegation that
Defendants' alleged interference with his mail impeded or
interfered with his ability to access the courts. See
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996) (holding that a
prisoner who contends he was deprived of access to the courts
must show actual prejudice or harm as a “constitutional
prerequisite”); Hoever v. Belleis, 911 (11th
Cir. 2017) (finding inmate's challenge to correctional
officer's conduct in inventorying and storing his
personal and legal mail did not establish an access to courts
claim); Lewis v. Cook County Bd. of Commr's, 6
Fed. App'x. 428, 430 (7th Cir. 2001) (finding
inmate's denial of access to courts claim insufficient
because he did “not describe a single legal case or
claim that was in any way thwarted because the mail room
staff opened his legal mail.”); see also White v.
White, 886 F.2d 721, 723 (4th Cir. 1989); accord
Richardson v. McDonnell, 841 F.2d 120, 122 (5th Cir.
best, the matter about which Plaintiff complains reflects an
isolated incident of mail mishandling which is insufficient
to establish a constitutional violation. Plaintiff also fails
to allege much less indicate that Defendants' conduct
resulted from improper motivation. Finally, Plaintiff does
not allege that he suffered any actual injury as a result of
Defendants' conduct in relation to the delivery and
receipt of his mail. For these reasons, Plaintiff's
complaint is subject to dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failing to state a claim on which
relief may be granted. See Hoever, 703 Fed.
App'x at 911; White, 886 F.2d at 723;
Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351; see also Parratt v.
Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981).
it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that this
complaint be DISMISSED with prejudice and prior to service of
process under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
that on or before November 19, 2018,
Plaintiff may file an objection. Any objection filed must
specifically identify the factual findings and legal
conclusions in the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation to
which Plaintiff objects. Frivolous, conclusive or general
objections will not be considered by the District Court.
to file a written objection to the proposed findings and
recommendations in the Magistrate Judge's report shall
bar a party from a de novo determination by the
District Court of factual findings and legal issues covered
in the report and shall "waive the right to challenge on
appeal the district court's order based on unobjected-to
factual and legal conclusions" except upon grounds of
plain error if necessary in the interests of justice. 11th
Cir. R. 3-1; see Resolution Trust Co. v. Hallmark
Builders, Inc., 996 F.2d 1144, 1149 (11th Cir. 1993);
Henley v. Johnson, 885 F.2d 790, 794 (11th Cir.