United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
VINCENT W. BOYD, Plaintiff,
SEVIER, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
W. Boyd, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a motion to amend
his complaint and a proposed amended complaint against Warden
Mark Sevier and Westville Correctional Facility alleging that
his legal mail has been interfered with on two occasions.
(ECF 7.) It was not necessary for Boyd to file a motion
seeking leave to amend his complaint, as the court previously
granted Boyd leave to amend. (ECF 4).
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. Courts apply the same standard under
Section 1915A as when deciding a motion under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v. Kingston,
463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must state a claim
for relief that is plausible on its face. Bissessur v.
Indiana Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 602-03 (7th
Cir. 2009). “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 misconduct alleged.” Id. at 603.
Furthermore, “[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). To state
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).
7, 2018, Boyd placed a sealed piece of legal mail in the
outgoing mail box at the B-dorm of Westville Correctional
Facility. The envelope was marked as legal mail, and it
contained a motion addressed to the Marion County Superior
Court. Two days later, the mail was returned to him. It had
been opened and taped shut and had a note on it reading
“do not seal.” On September 13, 2018, Boyd
received legal mail, but before the mail was given to Boyd an
officer opened the mail and read the first few paragraphs.
Boyd has sued Warden Mark Sevier and Westville Correctional
Facility seeking one million dollars in damages.
initial matter, Westville Correctional Facility is a
building, not a person or policy-making unit of government
that can be sued pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See
Smith v. Knox County Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1040 (7th Cir.
2012); Sow v. Fortville Police Dep't, 636 F.3d
293, 300 (7th Cir. 2011).
Boyd has sued Warden Mark Sevier, but if Warden Sevier was
not personally involved in opening Boyd's mail, he cannot
be held liable for it. 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. The doctrine of respondeat
superior, which allows an employer to be held liable for
subordinates' actions in some types of cases, has no
application to § 1983 actions. Moore v. State of
Indiana, 999 F.2d 1125, 1129 (7th Cir. 1993). Boyd has
not alleged that Warden Sevier opened either the outgoing
mail he placed in the box on June 7, 2018, or the mail he
received on September 13, 2018. Thus, the complaint does not
state a claim against Warden Sevier.
Boyd had named the individuals personally involved in opening
his mail as defendants, his allegations do not state a claim.
An inmate has a general First Amendment right to send and
receive mail, but that right does not preclude prison
officials from examining the mail to ensure it does not
contain contraband. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S.
539, 576 (1974). An inmate's legal mail is entitled to
greater protections because of the potential interference
with his right of access to the courts and his right to
counsel. Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 782 (7th Cir.
there are no allegations that Boyd's right to send or
receive mail was violated - he is simply unhappy about being
required to leave outgoing mail unsealed and having a piece
of incoming mail reviewed before being delivered. Security
concerns, however, justify a prohibition against sealing
outgoing mail. See e.g., Harrison v. Cnty. of
Cook, Ill., 364 Fed.Appx. 250, 253 (7th Cir. 2010)
(upholding district court's dismissal of a claim based on
prison's refusal to allow outgoing mail to be sealed).
Boyd has not alleged that his right to counsel was infringed
in any way. And the one-time opening of his legal mail is
insufficient to state a claim for being denied access to the
courts, since he does not allege a detriment to any legal
claim. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343,
351 (1996); Jones v. Walker, 358 Fed.Appx. 708, 712
(7th Cir. 2009) (opening of one piece of inmate's legal
mail was insufficient to state constitutional claim where it
did not adversely impact his ability to litigate a specific
matter). Accordingly, Boyd's complaint does not state a
these reasons, the court:
(1) DENIES Vincent W. Boyd's motion to amend as MOOT;
(2) DIRECTS the clerk to file Vincent W. Boyd's proposed
amended complaint; and
(3) DISMISSES this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
because the complaint does not state a claim.