United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
E. DOWDELL CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
the Court is James Michael Phillips' amended pro
se civil rights complaint (Doc. 8). He contends
Defendants cancelled the Tulsa County Jail's Westlaw
subscription, in violation of his First Amended right to
access courts. Having reviewed the amended complaint sua
sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court finds it
fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted.
filed his original civil rights complaint on December 26,
2018. (Doc. 1). He also filed a motion to proceed in
forma pauperis. (Doc. 2). By a Memorandum Opinion and
Order entered May 1, 2019, the Court granted the motion;
dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim under 28
U.S.C. § 1915; and sua sponte granted leave to
file an amended complaint. (Doc. 7). Plaintiff filed an
amended complaint on June 10, 2019. (Doc. 8). He again
asserts prison officials denied his right of access to
courts. The amended complaint alleges the following facts,
which the Court accepts as true for the limited purpose of
2018, Plaintiff was detained at the David L. Moss Criminal
Justice Center (the “Jail”) in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
(Doc. 8 at 6). Plaintiff was awaiting trial on an Oklahoma
robbery charge, case no. CF-2015-4665. (Id.). He
elected to represent himself in that case and was using the
Jail's Westlaw subscription to assist in his own defense.
(Id. at 6, 8). Plaintiff was also preparing a state
habeas petition challenging an unrelated conviction in
Kansas. (Id. at 6). On or about July 23, 2018,
Plaintiff visited the law library and discovered the
Jail's Westlaw subscription had been cancelled.
(Id.). Plaintiff complained that without Westlaw,
inmates could not access any case law or current statutes.
(Id.). Jail Administrator David Parker assured
Plaintiff the subscription would be renewed in three to four
about August 30, 2018, Parker informed Plaintiff that the
Jail would not renew its Westlaw subscription. (Doc. 1 at 6).
In lieu of Westlaw, an employee of the Tulsa County
Sheriff's Office was assigned to perform legal research
for inmates using Google, an internet search engine.
(Id.). Plaintiff believed Google was inappropriate.
(Id. at 7). To demonstrate his point, Plaintiff
asked Parker to retrieve a specific case, which he could not
locate. (Id.). Plaintiff provided notice of the
inadequate law library to the Tulsa County Board of
Commissioners and Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado.
(Id. at 7-8). Defendants did not immediately respond
or restore Westlaw. (Id.). Plaintiff contends the
inadequacy of the law library impeded his ability to present
a pro se defense his Oklahoma robbery case.
(Id. at 8-9). He was convicted of the Oklahoma
robbery charges. (Id. at 9).
further alleges that the stress of not having Westlaw caused
him to experience worry, anxiety, weight loss, sleeplessness,
mood swings, difficulty concentrating, crying, social
isolation, and paranoia. (Doc. 1 at 9). The amended complaint
seeks over $114, 000 in damages from Parker; Regalado; and
the Tulsa Count Board of Commissioners. (Id. at 1,
Accepting the Untimely Pleading
initial matter, Plaintiff sent a letter dated June 5, 2019
asking the Court to screen his untimely Amended Complaint on
the merits. (Doc. 9). The Amended Complaint was due on May
31, 2019, but Plaintiff filed it on June 10, 2019. (Doc. 7;
see also Doc. 8). Plaintiff explains that he had an
issue with postage at his new prison. (Doc. 9 at 1). The
Court finds good cause to grant Plaintiff's request, and
the Amended Complaint will be deemed timely.
Review of the Amended Complaint
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), federal courts must
engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners
seek redress from a government entity or officer.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must
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. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b). To avoid dismissal for failure to
state a claim, a complaint must present factual allegations,
assumed to be true, that “raise a right to relief about
the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint must
contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. A court
must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint
as true, and must construe the allegations in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Id. at 555. However,
“when the allegations in a complaint, however true,
could not raise a [plausible] claim of entitlement to relief,
” the cause of action should be dismissed. Id.
plaintiff is pro se, his “pleadings are to be
construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). If the
court can “reasonably read the pleadings to state a
valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should
do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper
legal authority, … confusion of various legal
theories, … poor syntax and sentence construction, or
… unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.”
Id. However, the generous construction “does
not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging
sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be
based.” Id. The Court need not accept
“mere conclusions characterizing pleaded facts, ”
see Bryson v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390
(10th Cir. 1990), and it will not “supply
additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's
complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's
behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170,
1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997).
The Amended Complaint Still ...