MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CHARLES A. SHAW, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on remaining defendant Robert Warner's Motion for Summary Judgment.
Plaintiff, a prisoner at Farmington Correctional Center in Farmington, Missouri, filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warner, a Farmington functional unit manager. Plaintiff alleges that when he was being moved to administrative segregation on October 15, 2014, defendant Warner did not allow him to take his legal materials along to administrative segregation and instead had the materials placed in storage, which caused plaintiff to miss a court deadline. On review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court found that plaintiff stated a claim for denial of access to the courts.
II. Legal Standard
The standards applicable to summary judgment motions are well settled. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court shows "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
The initial burden is placed on the moving party.
Once the burden shifts, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations in his pleadings, but by affidavit and other evidence must set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c);
The Court finds the following facts for purposes of summary judgment.
1. At all times relevant to this action, defendant Warner was employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections as the Functional Unit Manager ("FUM") of Housing Unit 7 at Farmington Correctional Center ("FCC") in Farmington Missouri. (Compl., p. 8; Warner Aff., Ex. A ¶ 1; Pl. Dep., Ex. B, 12:22-24.)
2. At all times relevant to this action, plaintiff Benjamin Wagner ("plaintiff") was an inmate incarcerated at FCC. (Pl. Dep.10:18-24.)
3. On October 15, 2014, plaintiff was relocated from Housing Unit 7 and placed in administrative segregation in Housing Unit 5. (Ex. A ¶ 2.)
4. During this relocation, plaintiff's property was packed by Correctional Officer II Jesse McFall and plaintiff's cellmate at the time, offender Randy Reagan. (Pl. Dep. 14:3-21; Ex. C.)
5. After plaintiff's property was searched, it was then either taken to storage or to plaintiff's new cell in administrative segregation. (Ex. A ¶ 4.)
6. Defendant Warner was not a property officer. (Pl. Dep. 27:18-19.)
7. Defendant did not pack plaintiff's property. (Pl. Dep. 14:3-21; Ex. A ¶ 5.)
8. Defendant Warner did not search, pack, or handle in any way plaintiff's property during his move from Housing Unit 7 to Housing Unit 5. (Ex. A ¶ 5.)
9. Defendant Warner did not give any orders to any staff regarding the disposition or storage of plaintiff's property. (Ex. A ¶ 6.)
10. As the FUM of Housing Unit 7, defendant Warner has no possession, custody, or control over any property from offenders housed in Housing Unit 5, such as the plaintiff. (Ex. A ¶ 8; Pl. Dep. 27:25, 28:1-13.)
11. Plaintiff never requested any legal materials or any other property from defendant Warner. (Pl. Dep. 27:25, 28:1-9; Ex. A ¶ 10).
12. Even if plaintiff had requested his legal work from defendant Warner after he was transferred to Housing Unit 5, Warner would not have been able to give it to him as plaintiff was no longer in Warner's housing unit. (Ex. A ¶ 11.)
13. Once plaintiff was transferred to Housing Unit 5, he had no further interaction with defendant Warner until he was released back to general population. (Ex. A ¶ 12.)
14. The "court mandated filing date" that plaintiff's Complaint alleges he missed as a result of Warner's actions was in the case of
18. On December 12, 2014, the Ohio Court docketed five filings from plaintiff:
19. On December 17, 2014, the Ohio Court found that plaintiff's filings were not timely filed as the court had already held the final hearing on the matter on November 3, 2014, and that plaintiff had been sent an assignment notice on September 9, 2014 of the final hearing on November 3, 2014. (Ex. E, 29.)
20. Also on December 17, 2014, a Magistrate for the Ohio Court recommended that the divorce decree be granted. (Ex. E, pp. 30-41.)
21. The Magistrate's recommendations noted that plaintiff was absent from the November 3, 2014 hearing, but did not make any findings that plaintiff's absence from the hearing, or the untimeliness of plaintiff's court filings, had any impact on the outcome of the divorce action. (Ex. E, pp. 30-41.)
22. The Magistrate ordered that any written objections to her recommendation be filed within fourteen days of its filing on December 17, 2014. (Ex. E, p. 41.)
23. On December 29, 2014, plaintiff timely filed a "Defendant's Objection & Notice of Appeal" of the Magistrate's recommendations. (Ex. E, pp. 42-44.)
24. On April 8, 2015, plaintiff filed a Memorandum with the Ohio Court requesting that it order the Missouri Department of Corrections to deduct transcript fees and court costs from his offender account. (Ex. E, p. 70.)
25. On April 13, 2015, the Ohio Court denied plaintiff's request concerning transcript fees and court costs, stating in part that "the Highland County Common Pleas Court does not have jurisdiction over the Missouri Department of Corrections." (Ex. E, p.72.)
26. On April 24, 2015, the Ohio Court approved and adopted the Magistrate's recommendations in full and the divorce decree became final. (Ex. E, p. 73.)
27. Plaintiff testified in his deposition that if he had been able to timely file the documents identified in paragraph 18 above, he "would have had a chance to state my claim;" address discrepancies in the petition; "I believe that I would have recovered partial — part of my assets;" and "there's at least a chance I would have been able to have at least phone calls or — and a visit once or twice a year from my son." (Pl. Dep. 33:3-14.)
Defendant Warner moves for summary judgment on plaintiff's denial of access to the courts claim, arguing that the claim fails because (1) plaintiff was not attempting to litigate a claim challenging his sentence or conditions of confinement, (2) plaintiff fails to show he has suffered an actual injury, and (3) plaintiff fails to allege, and is unable to show, that defendant acted with intentional motivation to restrict plaintiff's access to the courts. Warner also asserts that plaintiff fails to establish Warner's personal involvement in any alleged constitutional violation. Finally, Warner asserts that he is entitled to qualified immunity.
The Court agrees with defendant Warner that plaintiff cannot assert a claim for denial of access to the courts based on defendant's alleged interference with plaintiff's divorce case. In
To have a cognizable injury for standing purposes, however, a prisoner claiming denial of access to the courts must show that the allegedly frustrated claim was (1) a direct appeal of the conviction for which he was incarcerated; (2) a petition for writ of habeas corpus, or (3) an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "to vindicate basic constitutional rights."
Applying these principles to the present case, plaintiff's claim that he was not able to file papers in his divorce case because of Warner's alleged interference asserts the "impairment of an other litigating capacity" that is unrelated to plaintiff's underlying conviction, a habeas corpus petition, or a § 1983 action concerning conditions of confinement. Even if plaintiff suffered an injury in the nature of lost marital assets or the chance for greater child custody rights, the injury requirement associated with the right of access to the courts "is not satisfied by just any type of frustrated legal claim."
Numerous cases have held that the constitutional right of access to the courts does not extend to litigation involving divorce cases.
Plaintiff's assertion that he establishes a denial of access to the courts because there is a fundamental right under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for an individual to obtain a divorce,
Defendant Warner has shown there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute, and has established as a matter of law that plaintiff fails to show the existence of a constitutional violation based on Warner's alleged interference with plaintiff's attempt to litigate in his divorce action. Warner is therefore entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's denial of access to the courts claim. Because plaintiff fails to establish the existence of a constitutional violation, it is not necessary for the Court to address defendant Warner's additional arguments in support of summary judgment, or the issue of qualified immunity.
V. Other Motions
Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) of his claims against five other defendants in the original petition, and a motion for an order directing the Clerk of the Court to return a portion of the filing fee in this matter that plaintiff contends was improperly withheld from his inmate account by the Missouri Department of Corrections. The Court has carefully considered these motions, which are fully briefed, and finds that both are without merit and should be denied. Plaintiff's other pending motions will be denied as moot.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant defendant Warner's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for denial of access to the courts.
An appropriate judgment will accompany this Memorandum and Order.
E.D. Mo. L.R. 4.01(E).
Plaintiff did not respond to defendant Warner's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Fact. Plaintiff did dispute three paragraphs of defendant Warner's Affidavit, which provides support for portions of the Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts. As a result, for purposes of this motion plaintiff is deemed to have admitted all of Warner's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts that he has not disputed by means of disputing the supporting paragraphs of Warner's Affidavit.