United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON JUDGE
Stewart Murfitt, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed an
amended complaint (ECF 10) alleging that Sheriff Michael D.
Grzegorek, Warden Julie Lawson, Captain S. Richmond, and Ms.
Coleman have impeded his access to the courts while he was a
pre-trial detainee at the St. Joseph County Jail. (ECF 10).
“A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed,
and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be
held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must
review the merits of 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.
claims that the defendants collectively have violated his
rights to legal mail, legal copies, and library access. As
noted in my previous order, prisoners are entitled to
meaningful access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith,
430 U.S. 817, 824 (1977). The right of access to the courts
is the right of an individual, whether free or incarcerated,
to obtain access to the courts to adjudicate claims that have
a reasonable basis in law or fact without undue interference.
Snyder v. Nolen, 380 F.3d 279, 291 (7th Cir. 2004).
To establish a violation of the right to access the courts,
an inmate must show that unjustified acts or condition
hindered the inmate's efforts to pursue a non-frivolous
legal claim, and that actual harm resulted. See Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996); Nance v.
Vieregge, 147 F.3d 589, 591 (7th Cir. 1998). 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 [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, Murfitt 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.
has outlined four separate civil actions that he alleges he
was unable to pursue because he was denied access to the law
library, copies, or legal mail. He claims that, on June 12,
2012, he suffered a property loss, mental anguish, and
anxiety due to wrongful police activity. He asserts that the
claim was subject to a five-year statute of limitation. He
further asserts that he was unable to file his complaint
before the statute of limitations expired on or about June
12, 2017, because he needed access to the Indiana Rules of
Trial Procedures, legal copies, and legal mail. He does not
explain why he believes that statute of limitation was five
years. Indiana's statute of limitation for personal
injury and property claims is two years. See I.C.
§ 34-11-2-4(a). He also does not explain why he needed
the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure to file his complaint.
He was, after all, able to file this complaint despite his
law library access being restricted. It also appears that
Murfitt was arrested on September 19, 2017, well after June
12, 2017, the date Murfitt asserts that the complaint was
due. He needs to explain exactly when he was incarcerated at
the St. Joseph County Jail - if he was not incarcerated at
the time the complaint was due, then these defendants cannot
be liable for his failure to file the complaint in a timely
also claims that, on August 14, 2016, a police officer
falsely told his landlord that he had violated the chronic
nuisance ordinance and, as a result, his landlord forced him
to move from his apartment. He asserts that he was unable to
pursue this case because he could not file the notice of tort
claim by the February 20, 2017, deadline without access to
the law library to obtain information about the tort claim
format and procedure, and because he was unable to send the
notice of tort claim by either certified or registered mail.
He needs to clarify whether he was incarcerated at the St.
Joseph County Jail between August 14, 2016, and February 20,
2017. He also needs to explain exactly what information he
needed to obtain from the law library in order to file his
Murfitt claims that police officers used excessive force
against him on September 6, 2016. He asserts that he was
unable to pursue this claim because he could not file the
notice of tort claim by the deadline of March 5, 2017,
without access to the law library to obtain information about
the tort claim format and procedure, and because he was
unable to send the notice of tort claim by either certified
or registered mail. He needs to clarify whether he was
incarcerated at the St. Joseph County Jail between September
6, 2016, and March 5, 2017. Additionally, he needs to explain
exactly what information he needed to obtain from the law
library in order to file this tort claim. And, he needs to
explain why he cannot pursue this claim in federal court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Murfitt claims that, on September 16, 2017, he was falsely
arrested. He asserts that he was unable to pursue this claim
because he could not file the notice of tort claim by the
deadline of March 15, 2018, without access to the law library
to obtain information about the tort claim format and
procedure, and because he was unable to send outgoing legal
mail either certified or registered. Murfitt needs to clarify
whether he was incarcerated at the St. Joseph County Jail
between September 16, 2017, and March 15, 2018. As with the
other two claims, he needs to explain exactly what
information he needed to obtain from the law library in order
to file his tort claim. And, he needs to explain why he
cannot pursue this claim in federal court pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983.
must also explain in detail how the defendants he has named
in this action are responsible for his inability to pursue
these claims. Section 1983 “liability depends on each
defendant's knowledge and actions, not on the knowledge
or actions of persons they supervise.” Burks v.
Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 594 (7th Cir. 2009).
“[P]ublic employees are responsible for their own
misdeeds but not for anyone else's.” Id.
at 596. An allegations that the defendants are collectively
responsible or that he submitted grievances is insufficient.
He must describe, with reference to each separate claim, who
he asked for assistance, what he asked for (copies, legal
mail or law library access) and what response he received.
the amended complaint does not state a claim, I will afford
Murfitt an opportunity to replead his claims. Luevano v.
WalMart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1022-23, 1025 (7th
Cir. 2013); Loubser v. Thacker, 440 F.3d 439, 443
(7th Cir. 2006). In the second amended complaint, he should
carefully address each item I have pointed out in this order.
He should explain in his own words what happened, when it
happened, where it happened, who was involved, and how he was
personally injured, providing as much detail as possible.
these reasons, the court:
DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank
Prisoner Complaint (INND Rev. 8/16) and send it to Mark
GRANTS Mark Stewart Murfitt until August 31,
2018, to file a second amended complaint on
that form; and
CAUTIONS Mark Stewart Murfitt that if he does not respond by
that deadline, this case will be dismissed without further
notice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A ...