United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
H. Payne United States District Judge.
action is before the Court on Defendants' motion to
dismiss (Dkt. 21). Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the
Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) who is incarcerated
at North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Oklahoma,
brings this action under the authority of 42 U.S.C. §
1983, seeking relief for alleged constitutional violations
during his incarceration at Mack Alford Correctional Center
(MACC) in Stringtown, Oklahoma. The defendants are Dianna
Eldridge, MACC Law Library Supervisor; Tommy Sharp, MACC
Deputy Warden; Trent Bourland, MACC Medical Officer/Former
Warden's Assistant; and Cindy Lowe, MACC Acting
Warden's Assistant. Plaintiff alleges the defendants
acted individually and in concert to deny him his right of
access to the courts.
claims Defendant Dianna Eldridge intentionally prevented him
from having law library access during numerous lockdowns,
resulting in dismissal of his appeal in the Oklahoma Court of
Criminal Appeals (OCCA). He asserts Eldridge was aware of
Plaintiff s August 4, 2014, filing deadline, but she did not
notify her supervisor. On August 2, 2014, Plaintiffs mailing
for the OCCA was ready, after Eldridge allegedly had delayed
sending it to the trust fund officer for postage
disbursement. Eldridge said she would write a letter to the
OCCA to explain why the missed deadline was not Plaintiffs
fault. On August 4, 2014, the date of the filing deadline,
Eldridge gave Plaintiff the letter and the
August 20, 2014, the law library was closed by the assistant
warden, the warden's assistant, and security staff.
Plaintiff was detained, then told to leave the law library,
and his legal materials were confiscated. Defendant Eldridge
did not notify the warden's assistant that the OCCA
required Plaintiff to provide extra copies of his petition in
error. Plaintiffs appeal was denied on August 21,
next alleges Defendant Warden's Assistant Trent Bourland
physically prevented Plaintiffs access to the law library and
confiscated his legal work. On August 20, 2014, Plaintiff was
in the law library when it was shaken down by security staff
Bourland ordered security staff to search Plaintiffs legal
work. Bourland then locked the law library door and told
Plaintiff he would get his paperwork back when it was cleared
by security staff. Later that day, Plaintiff had his case
manager call Defendant Eldridge, but the case manager was
told that Defendant Deputy Warden Tommy Sharp had closed the
law library until further notice.
claims he had advised the warden's assistant that he
needed to get his documents to the OCCA. Plaintiff had his
legal work on his person and was not physically in the law
library when the warden's assistant ordered that the
legal work be confiscated and locked in the law library.
Plaintiff was physically blocked from the law library,
denying him access to the material he needed for his appeal.
alleges in Count III that Defendants Dianna
Eldridge, Tommy Sharp, and Cindy Lowe acted in concert to
prevent Plaintiffs access to the court. After August 20,
2014, Defendant Bourland's position was changed from
warden's assistant to medical administrator. Defendant
Lowe, the new acting warden's assistant, took over
Bourland's duties in the law library.
August 22, 2014, after attempting informal resolution with
his case manager, Plaintiff filed a Request to Staff with
Defendant Sharp. Sharp's response denied that Plaintiffs
legal work was confiscated. Plaintiff then attempted to file
a formal grievance with Defendant Lowe, the warden's
assistant. The grievance was addressed to the warden, but
Lowe intercepted it and refused to give it to the warden.
Instead, she took it to Defendant Eldridge's office, and
Eldridge and Lowe called Plaintiff into the office and
attempted to coerce him into dropping his complaint. Eldridge
and Lowe claimed Plaintiff had not provided verification of
his court deadline.
and Lowe then allegedly promised Plaintiff they would call
the courthouse and get the OCCA's dismissal reversed.
When Plaintiff reminded them that he had verified the OCCA
deadline in accordance with policy, Eldridge and Lowe became
angry and told him his grievance was denied. Plaintiff asked
to get his grievance back, but he only received a form
stating the grievance was being returned unanswered for
failing to have a DOC number on the grievance and for failing
to verify the court deadline. Plaintiff contends the DOC
number was on the form, and he did verify the deadline. Lowe
returned the grievance form to Plaintiff two days later.
further complains the warden, who is the reviewing authority,
never was given the opportunity to respond to the grievance,
because Defendants Eldridge and Lowe were determined to
subvert Plaintiffs action. Plaintiff also claims Defendant
Shaip lied to him, and Sharp worked with Eldridge and Lowe to
derail the grievance.