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Voyles v. Marquardt

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

November 21, 2014

MICHAEL EDWARD VOYLES, #167958, Plaintiff,


LINDA R. ANDERSON, Magistrate Judge.

This cause is before the Court sua sponte upon a review of the pleadings, as well as consideration of the sworn testimony given by Plaintiff Voyles at an omnibus or Spears [1] hearing conducted on July 17, 2014. Plaintiff was granted in forma pauperis [IFP] status by Order entered January 13, 2014 [12]. The Court conducted a Spears hearing in order to allow Voyles an opportunity to fully explain and augment the factual basis of his claims orally by giving sworn testimony regarding what he alleged in the written Complaint.

Jurisdiction of this case is based upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's sworn Complaint contains the following claim and request for relief, quoted as follows:

Statement of Claim

"Denied Due Process": Due to facts of not being able to use legal law books in library. Defendant Unknown Roberts is involved due to fact of being in consentment [ sic ] with Administrative staff here at MTC by not allowing inmate to view law books in library. Warden Jerry Buscher & Deputy Warden Ray Rice are also in agreement with the withholding of usage of law books in library. We the inmates at MTC do not even have a lawyer or counselor to assist in legal work or cases, which MTC has denied Petitioner Michael B. Voyles and all other inmates. Also our legal mail was and is being withheld through ILAP offices and all associated MTC staffs in consentment. [ sic ]


As a direct effect of violating inmates' rights, I ask that the proper relief to the fullest extent of this Court, to "rectify these violations." Provide us with what is guaranteed to us. I ask for an "Permanent Injunction" be placed on MTC as a whole and award the Petitioner Michael Voyles to the full extent together with all court cost allowed by law.

Plaintiff testified under oath at the omnibus hearing, amplifying the allegations of his Complaint. He explained his case against these Defendants as follows.

Plaintiff is incarcerated in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections [MDOC] in the East Mississippi Correctional Facility ["EMCF"] in Meridian, Mississippi. He has been housed at EMCF since August 2011. According to Plaintiff, the facility had a librarian, Ms. Tew, but she has now left. Defendant Ms. Roberts replaced Ms. Tew temporarily, but she takes orders from Ms. McLeod. Plaintiff testified that he is now trying to prosecute four civil cases, but he gets no help from the library. He does not have a current criminal proceeding. Ms. Roberts will not let him use the books that are in the library; he wants to be able to go to the library and read these law books. Ms. Roberts told him he would have to write Ms. McLeod for permission to use the books. Plaintiff testified that he did not get to file his civil cases in this Court as soon as he could have because nobody would help him for at least three months after Ms. Tew left. His roommate helped him in filing the Complaints. Plaintiff has not missed a specific deadline regarding any of his civil cases and he could not state facts showing how he was prejudiced by any delay in filing.

A district court may dismiss an IFP complaint as frivolous or for failure to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B). A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997). A pro se prisoner is entitled to develop his complaint factually before a proper frivolousness determination can be made. See Eason v. Thaler, 14 F.3d 8, 9-10 (5th Cir. 1994). The purpose of a Spears hearing was to "bring into focus the factual and legal bases of prisoners' claims." Id. at 9 (quoting Spears, 766 F.2d at 181).

Plaintiff sued Defendant Rice because he denied Plaintiff's ARP. He sued Defendant Scott Marquardt because he is the CEO of Management Training Corporation. Plaintiff wrote him about this situation but Marquardt did not respond. Plaintiff admitted that Marquardt does not work at EMCF and is not involved with the prison library.

Neither Ms. Roberts or McLeod have been served with process. Plaintiff made an oral motion to dismiss Ms. Roberts, and defense counsel agreed to accept process on behalf of Ms. McLeod.

Prisoners clearly have a constitutionally protected right of access to the courts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350 (1996), citing Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977). This includes having the "ability... to prepare and transmit a necessary legal document to court." Eason v. Thaler, 73 F.3d 1322, 1328 (5th Cir. 1996), quoting Brewer v. Wilkinson, 3 F.3d 816, 821 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1123 (1994). The right of access to the court is limited to allow prisoners the opportunity to file nonfrivolous claims challenging their convictions or their conditions of confinement. Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 325 (5th Cir. 1999). "Interference with a prisoner's right to access of the courts, such as delay, may result in a constitutional deprivation." Chriceol v. Phillips, 169 F.3d 313, 317 (5th Cir. 1999), citing Lewis, 518 U.S. 351-54.

Yet Bounds did not create an "abstract, freestanding right to a law library or legal assistance." Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351. A claim of access to the courts "is not valid if a litigant's position is not prejudiced by the alleged violation." Ruiz v. United States, 160 F.3d 273, 275 (5th Cir. 1998). A prisoner must allege and show that he has suffered some cognizable legal prejudice or detriment as a result of the challenged conduct. See Johnson v. Epps, 479 Fed.Appx. 583, 592 (5th Cir. 2012) citing Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. at 351. Only then does the prisoner's claim become one of constitutional magnitude. Walker v. Navarro County Jail, 4 F.3d 410, 413 (5th Cir. 1993). To prove his claims, a plaintiff must show real detriment - a true denial of access-such as the loss of a ...

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