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Gilyard v. Eldridge

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

February 10, 2017

DIANNA ELDRIDGE, et al., Defendants.


          James H. Payne United States District Judge.

         This 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.

         Count I[1]

         Plaintiff 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 disbursement.

         On 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, 2014.

         Count II

         Plaintiff 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.

         Plaintiff 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.

         Count III

         Plaintiff 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.

         On 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.

         Eldridge 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.

         Plaintiff 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.

         Standard ...

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