United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
ROBERT L. HOLLEMAN, Plaintiff,
MR. ZENK, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Simon Judge United States District Judge
L. Holleman, a pro se prisoner, filed an amended
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF 8. “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). Nevertheless, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must review the complaint and
dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to
state a claim, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant
who is immune from such relief. “In order to state a
claim under [42 U.S.C.] § 1983 a plaintiff must allege:
(1) that defendants deprived him of a federal constitutional
right; and (2) that the defendants acted under color of state
law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th
Cir. 2006). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007).
is currently incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional
Facility (“Wabash”). He sues for events that took
place at the Lake County Jail in May and July of 2018.
Holleman was briefly incarcerated at the Lake County Jail
twice this year to attend scheduled court hearings in
connection with pursing post-conviction relief. On both
occasions, he arrived at the jail with various exhibits,
motions and legal materials. The Lake County Jail has a
policy that did not allow him to keep possession of his legal
materials. He claims this policy made it hard for him to
“prepare for his evidentiary hearing” that he is
litigating in Cause No. 4CR2661176978. Additionally, when he
did receive his legal materials, the staples had been removed
and the papers were all mixed up and thrown into two bags. As
a result, Holleman was not prepared for the hearing, and the
hearing had to be rescheduled. The defendants' policy and
practice, Holleman claims, infringed on his right to access
the courts in connection with his post-conviction proceeding.
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 without undue
interference. Snyder v. Nolen, 380 F.3d 279, 291
(7th Cir. 2004). The right of individuals to pursue legal
redress for claims that have a reasonable basis in law or
fact is protected by the First Amendment right to petition
and the Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due
process. Id. (citations omitted). Denial of access
to the courts must be intentional; “simple negligence
will not support a claim that an official has denied an
individual of access to the courts.” Id. at
291 n.11 (citing Kincaid v. Vail, 969 F.2d 594, 602
(7th Cir. 1992)).
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); see also
Pattern Civil Jury Instructions of the Seventh Circuit, 8.02
(rev. 2017). 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). Thus, to
state a claim, Holleman 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.
Holleman's allegations do not meet this standard. He
indicates that his post-conviction proceeding is still
pending. As such, there is no basis for inferring that he has
suffered any actual injury. see In re Maxy, 674 F.3d
658, 661 (7th Cir. 2012) (“Relief for the denial of
access to the courts is intended to remedy rights denied in a
separate case due to the impediment. . . . [T]he right is
ancillary to the underlying claim, without which a plaintiff
cannot have suffered injury by being shut out of
court.”) (internal citation omitted). Though the
alleged policy seems questionable and the alleged actions of
the jail staff appear troubling, Holleman makes no mention
that he has suffered any prejudice in his post-conviction
case - nor does he suggest there has been any other concrete
injury as a result of his inability to access his legal
most, Holleman explains that his post-conviction proceedings
were briefly delayed as a result of the defendants'
policies and practices. However, a mere delay in litigation
is insufficient to demonstrate injury. “[A] delay
becomes an injury only if it results in actual substantial
prejudice to specific litigation.” Johnson v.
Barczak, 338 F.3d 771, 773 (2003) (quotation mark
omitted). In Johnson, the Seventh Circuit found that
a delay of more than a year did not constitute actual injury
because there was no indication that the adjudication of his
post-conviction proceeding was adversely impacted by the
delay. Id. The same is true here. Because Holleman
has not alleged any actual injury in the state
post-conviction proceeding, he “cannot prevail on his
access-to-courts claim.” Ortiz v. Downey, 561
F.3d 664, 671 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350 (1996).
the facts alleged here do not permit me to plausibly infer
that Holleman's inability to access his legal materials
resulted in any actual injury to his post-conviction
proceeding, the complaint does not state a claim for which
relief can be sought. However, because it cannot be
determined whether Holleman will suffer any future injury in
that case, the dismissal will be without prejudice. Should
Holleman suffer any future actual injury, he will be free to
re-file a new case at that time.
complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The clerk is