United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Simon, Judge
Rushing, pro se, filed a complaint in the United
States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana,
which was transferred here. ECF 1, 5, 6, 7. Rushing generally
alleged that Elkhart County Sheriff's Department Officers
B. Bush and B. Fitzgerald were hindering his efforts to
litigate various state and federal cases. Because the
complaint was vague, I found that he did not state a claim
for which relief could be granted. I gave Rushing leave to
clarify his allegations in an amended complaint, in the
spirit of Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th
has now filed an amended complaint. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, the court must review a prisoner complaint and
dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. I apply the same standard under § 1915A as when
addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d
621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). Under federal pleading standards,
a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 672 (2009)
(quotation marks and internal citations omitted).
Furthermore, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of
the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.” Id. at 678. To survive
dismissal, the plaintiff “must do better than putting a
few words on paper that, in the hands of an imaginative
reader, might suggest that something has happened to
her that might be redressed by the law.”
Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 403 (7th
Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original).
amended complaint suffers from the same deficiency as his
original. It generally alleges that these two officers
withheld various legal materials and supplies from him,
hindering his litigation efforts in unidentified cases. As I
previously explained, these vague allegations are
insufficient to state a constitutional claim. To establish a
violation of the right to access the courts, an inmate must
show that unjustified acts or conditions (by defendants
acting under color of law) hindered the inmate's efforts
to pursue a non-frivolous legal claim, Nance v.
Vieregge, 147 F.3d 591, 590 (7th Cir. 1998), and that
actual injury (or harm) resulted. Lewis v. Casey,
518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996) (holding that Bounds did
not eliminate the actual injury requirement as a
constitutional prerequisite to a prisoner asserting lack of
access to the courts). In other words, “the mere denial
of access to a prison law library or to other legal materials
is not itself a violation of a prisoner's rights; his
right is to access the courts, ” and only if
the defendants' conduct prejudices a potentially
meritorious legal claim has the right been infringed.
Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 968 (7th Cir.
2006) (emphasis in original). Thus, to state a claim, Rushing
must “spell out, in minimal detail” the
connection between the denial of access to legal materials
and the resulting prejudice to a potentially meritorious
legal claim. Id.
I am still in the dark as to whether the defendants'
conduct prejudiced any potentially meritorious legal claim.
Rushing has still not explained which case has been
prejudiced, specified how that case has been prejudiced, or
how that prejudiced case was otherwise meritorious.
Therefore, Rushing's amended complaint lacks sufficient
facts to adequately plead that the defendants' conduct
have denied him meaningful access to the courts. Because his
filing is again unduly vague, Rushing will be granted one
more opportunity to re-plead his claims. See Luevano v.
Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013).
Rushing has requested an extension of time to file exhibits
to his complaint. ECF 18. This will be granted and he will be
permitted to file those along with his amended complaint.
Rushing has also requested to file his forthcoming exhibits
under seal. ECF 15; ECF 17. However, he does not explain what
exhibits he plans to file or why be believes they should be
filed under seal. This is a problem. “The public at
large pays for the courts and therefore has an interest in
what goes on at all stages of a judicial proceeding.”
Citizens First Nat. Bank of Princeton v. Cincinnati Ins.
Co., 178 F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir. 1999). Therefore,
“very few categories of documents are kept confidential
once their bearing on the merits of a suit has been
revealed.” Baxter Int'l, Inc. v. Abbott
Labs., 297 F.3d 544, 546 (7th Cir. 2002). Rushing has
seemingly placed these yet-to-be filed documents at issue in
this proceeding, as he claims they are relevant to the
defendants' interfering with his access to the courts.
Consequently, the premature motions to seal will be denied.
However, if Rushing has a legitimate reason as to why these
documents and/or exhibits should be sealed from the public,
he can raise that issue in a motion to seal when he files the
documents with the court. Accordingly,
(1) the motions (ECF 15, 17) to seal are DENIED;
(2) the motion (ECF 18) for an extension of time is GRANTED;
(3) Rushing is GRANTED to and including August 20, 2018, to
file an amended complaint along with any exhibits; and
(4) Rushing is CAUTIONED that if he does not respond by the
deadline, this case is subject to dismissal pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A because the amended complaint does not