United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
TERENCE C. KERN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a civil action. Plaintiff Marquise Leland White, a state
inmate, appears pro se and in forma pauperis. This matter is
before the Court on Plaintiff's amended complaint (Dkt.
9), filed November 4, 2019. For the reasons that follow, the
Court finds that the amended complaint is subject to being
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted. Plaintiff may file a second amended complaint,
within 30 days from the entry of this order, should he be
able to cure the deficiencies identified in this order.
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), federal courts must
engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners
seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
The PLRA's screening provision requires the court to
identify any cognizable claim and dismiss any claim which is
frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b). Similarly, when a court permits a litigant to
proceed with a civil action in forma pauperis, “the
court shall dismiss the case at any time” for these
same reasons. Id. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court must
accept as true all the well-pleaded factual allegations in
the complaint and construe the complaint in plaintiff's
favor. United States v. Supreme Court of N.M., 839 F.3d 888,
899 (10th Cir. 2016); Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214,
1217 (10th Cir. 2007). In addition, the court must liberally
construe a complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff. Kay, 500
F.3d at 1218. This simply means the court should overlook
basic drafting errors and, “if [the] court can
reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which
the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so.” Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). But the rule
of liberal construction “does not relieve the plaintiff
of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a
recognized legal claim could be based.” Id.
these standards, the court ultimately must decide whether the
complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). But “when the allegations in a complaint,
however true, could not raise a [plausible] claim of
entitlement to relief, ” the complaint should be
dismissed. Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 558.
Plaintiff's allegations and claims in the amended
brings this action against four defendants, all of whom are
associated with the District Court of Tulsa County: (1) Don
Newberry, the Court Clerk, (2) Allison Higgins, a Deputy
Court Clerk, (3) Alisa Scraper, a Deputy Court Clerk, and (4)
Jason Adams, a supervisor in the criminal and traffic
division of the Court Clerk's office. Dkt. 9, at 1.
Plaintiff claims all four defendants violated his First,
Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights to access the courts,
to equal protection of the law, and to due process of law.
Dkt. 9, at 2. He alleges (1) that Higgins and Scraper made
errors in March and May 2017 when they docketed his
application for postconviction relief, and (2) that Newberry
and Adams, in their roles as supervisors, failed to
acknowledge and correct those errors. Dkt. 9, at 2-7. The
following facts are drawn from the amended complaint.
March 2017, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Lawton
Correctional Facility (LCF). Dkt. 9, at 3. Under Oklahoma
law, an application for postconviction relief must be
submitted on Form 13.11 and must be
“authenticated” or “verified.”
Id. at 2-3 (citing Okla. Stat. tit. 22, §§
1080, 1081 and Rule 5.6, Rules of the Oklahoma Court of
Criminal Appeals, Title 22, Ch. 18, App. (2019)). Pro se
inmates may obtain a blank Form 13.11 from the LCF's law
library. Id. at 2 n.1. On March 22, 2017, Eden
Clark, a notary public employed by the LCF, witnessed
Plaintiff sign six documents: one “Affidavit for Post
[C]onviction relief” (Form 13.11), one “Pauperis
Affidavit” (Form 13.3), and four affidavits containing
Plaintiff's sworn statements. Dkt. 9, at 3. Plaintiff
“included [these] six documents in a large box
container filled with nearly a thousand pages of other
documents comprising the Plaintiff's Post Conviction
Pleadings and prepared the documents to be submitted to the
Tulsa County Court Clerk by mail.” Id. Prison
officials submitted Plaintiff's box container to the
United States Postal Service (USPS) on March 22, 2017, with
the required $20.35 postage affixed, and Plaintiff obtained a
postal tracking number. Id.; Dkt. 1, at 29. Records
Plaintiff obtained from the USPS show that the box container
was delivered to the Tulsa County Courthouse on March 24,
2017, at 8:39 a.m. Dkt. 9, at 3; Dkt. 1, at 32-33.
March 22, 2017, Plaintiff also submitted a second package to
prison officials for mailing to the Tulsa County Courthouse.
Dkt. 9, at 4. The second package was an envelope containing
“a complete unnotarized ‘copy set' of each
original pleading that [was] included in the Plaintiff's
box container.” Id. In the same envelope,
Plaintiff enclosed a letter requesting a file-stamped copy of
each pleading he submitted in the box container. Id.
Prison officials submitted the second package to the USPS on
March 22, 2017, with the requisite $6.77 postage affixed.
Id. Plaintiff did not receive a tracking number for
the second package and could not obtain information from the
USPS regarding when it was delivered to the courthouse.
Id. Based on “[o]ther documents docketed by
the court clerk on 3/28/17, as well as outgoing mail logs
from the [LCF], ” Plaintiff believes that the second
package was delivered to the Tulsa County Courthouse on the
same day as the box container, March 24, 2017. Id.
March 24, 2017, Plaintiff gave two envelopes to prison
officials for mailing to the Tulsa County Courthouse. Dkt. 9,
at 5; Dkt. 1, at 52. One envelope contained a personal letter
to the judge; the other envelope contained a written request
for a file-stamped copy of Plaintiff's motion under seal.
Dkt. 9, at 5-6 & n.6; Dkt. 1, at 52.
March 28, 2017, in State v. White, Tulsa County No.
CF-2006-240, Defendant Allison Higgins docketed (1)
Plaintiff's application for postconviction relief, (2)
Plaintiff's pauperis affidavit, (3) Plaintiff's
motion under seal, and (4) Plaintiff's motion for
evidentiary hearing. Dkt. 9, at 4 n.4; see also Dkt.
1, at 47 (copy of state court docket sheet). Plaintiff
alleges Higgins erred in docketing (1) his application for
postconviction relief, which was approximately 30 pages, and
(2) his motion under seal, which was five pages, because for
each pleading Higgins docketed only one page-the first
“cover” page of each pleading. Dkt. 9, at 4-6, 9;
Dkt. 1, at 44, 46. After noticing these docketing errors,
Plaintiff, through his counselor at the LCF, contacted the
Tulsa County Clerk's office by phone. Dkt. 1, at 51.
Plaintiff spoke with Samantha, a clerk for Tulsa County
District Judge Sharon Holmes. Id. Samantha told
Plaintiff that “she had the box.” Id.
18, 2017, Defendant Alisa Scraper “finally acknowledged
reception of the Plaintiff's box container.” Dkt.
9, at 6. Scraper docketed the pleadings from the box
container, in five separate volumes, as “Brief of
Petitioner in Support of his Petition for Post-Conviction
Relief.” Dkt. 9, at 6; Dkt. 1, at 44, 47-48. When
Plaintiff “saw the pleadings from the box container
online, ” Dkt. 1, at 51, he noticed that “several
original documents comprising the various styled pleadings of
the Plaintiff's petition for post conviction relief . . .
[were] missing, altered, or defective, ” Dkt. 9, at 6.
In addition, Plaintiff observed that Scraper filed, in volume
2 of 5, some documents that he did not include in the box
container-specifically, “two, four-page affidavits and
attached photographs executed by Takisha White-Quitto before
Notary Public Cathy Foster on 4/11/17.” Dkt. 9, at 6-7.
According to Plaintiff, Myechia Love hand-delivered the
White-Quitto affidavits and photographs to the Tulsa County
Courthouse and gave them to Samantha sometime in May 2017.
Id. at 7; Dkt. 1, at 71. Plaintiff alleges that,
sometime after Love delivered the White-Quitto affidavits,
the notary seals on the affidavits were removed. Dkt. 9, at
7. Plaintiff further alleges that Scraper denied receiving
any hand-delivered documents in support of Plaintiff's
application for postconviction relief. Id.
2018, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendant Don Newberry
informing Newberry that the single page Higgins docketed, on
March 28, 2017, as Plaintiff's application for
postconviction relief “should be considered an
inauthentic or unverified application.” Dkt. 9, at 7.
Plaintiff received a response, dated June 14, 2018 and signed
by a deputy clerk, stating that “the original document
of the Application for Post-Conviction Relief filed stamped
March 28, 2017” was “only one page long and there
are not any holes in it that we would find if it had been
stapled to any other pages, ” and that “none of
the other document[s] [Plaintiff] filed with [the office] on
March 28, 2017 where [sic] 30 pages long.”
Dkt. 1, at 46; Dkt. 9, at 7-8. After receiving this letter,
Plaintiff wrote a second letter to Newberry, explaining that
he sent a single page of the application as a “cover
page” to be file-stamped and returned to him while he
sent his complete, verified application for filing by
including it in the box container. Dkt. 1, at
87-89. According to Plaintiff, “[b]etween
3/24/17, and 5/17/17, [t]hough the Court Clerk had possession
of Plaintiff's [box container], [t]he Tulsa County Court
Clerk refused to offer any information acknowledging
reception of [the box container] or any explanation regarding
the filing status of the Plaintiff's pleadings other than
‘pending.'” Dkt. 9, at 5-6.
before September 14, 2018, Plaintiff presented his concerns
about Defendants' alleged docketing errors to the
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA). Dkt. 9, at 7. On
September 14, 2018, the OCCA “remanded [the] matter to
Tulsa Count[y] District Court Judge James Caputo” with
directions to address Plaintiff's “complaints
regarding the preparation of the Post Conviction appeal
record in the Plaintiff's felony case as well as
documents included in the pagination of the certified record
which the Plaintiff maintains are altered, missing, and
defective.” Dkt. 9, at 7. Judge Caputo conducted an
evidentiary hearing on September 27, 2018, and heard
testimony from Defendant Jason Adams and District Attorney
James Dunn. Id. at 8. Plaintiff filed three motions
in state district court on October 10, 2018, seeking relief
relating to the alleged docketing errors. Id. On
October 11, 2018, Judge Caputo “entered an order
allegedly addressing the Plaintiff's concerns regarding
the missing, and defective documents in support of [his]
petition for post conviction relief.” Id.
Plaintiff alleges Judge Caputo “did not take into
account any of [his] factual evidence or exhibits”
before entering the order. Id. Plaintiff
subsequently filed several motions with the OCCA, raising
concerns about the adequacy of the state district court's
order. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the OCCA, like the
state district court, failed to adequately consider his
exhibits “before declaring the pagination of the record
in the Plaintiff's criminal matter complete.”
on these factual allegations, Plaintiff asserts that the
Defendants' actions “whether by neglect, omission,
or mistake violated [his] rights” to due process, to
equal protection and to access the courts and caused him
“emotional pain, suffering and distress.” Dkt. 9,
at 10-11. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief,
compensatory damages in the amount of $500 from “each
defendant jointly and severally, ” punitive damages in
the amount of $1, 250, 000 from each defendant, and the costs
of this action. Dkt. 9, at 11-12. Plaintiff demands a jury
trial and asserts he “ha[s] been and will continue to
be irreparably injured by the conduct of the defendants
unless this [C]ourt grants the declaratory and injunctive
relief which [Plaintiff] seeks.” Id. at 11.