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Williams v. Mississippi Department of Corrections

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

April 20, 2015

LONDON WILLIAMS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBRA M. BROWN, District Judge.

Before the Court is the pro se prisoner complaint of London Williams, Jr., who challenges the conditions of his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court notes that Williams was incarcerated when he filed this suit. For the reasons below, Williams' complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, counting as a "strike" under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

I.

Factual Allegations and Procedural Posture

While pursuing post-conviction collateral relief in state court after his conviction for incest, Williams enlisted the help of an inmate, Eric Powell, to pursue appellate and post-conviction collateral relief in state court. On January 29, 2013, Defendant Kathryn McIntyre, a technician on staff with the Inmate Legal Assistance Program ("ILAP"), issued Powell a Rule Violation Report for drafting legal documents for other inmates. Powell challenged the Rule Violation Report through the Mississippi Department of Corrections Administrative Remedy Program but was denied relief on April 1, 2013.

By approximately May 2, 2013, Williams had drafted the documents necessary to initiate the post-conviction collateral review process in state court. On May 9, 2013, some of Williams' legal files, including those drafted by Powell, were confiscated and placed in storage.

During the period of May 13, 2013, to May 17, 2013, Williams requested that ILAP photocopy his post-conviction pleadings so he could file them in state court. Defendant McIntyre, however, stated that she could not copy any part of the trial transcripts, which Williams had attached as exhibits.

The confiscated files were returned to Williams on June 2, 2013. Williams again submitted his documents to ILAP for copying and mailing on July 9, 2013. An ILAP staff member asked Williams whether Powell prepared the documents. Williams, without answering the question directly, responded that he could not write legible print and did not know how to prepare his own legal papers. He then requested that the staff member observe as he sealed the envelope for mailing (in compliance with Mississippi Department of Corrections policy on legal mail). The staff member denied that request but mailed Williams' request for post-conviction collateral relief the same day.

The Mississippi Supreme Court denied Williams' application for post-conviction relief on August 7, 2013. Under Miss. R. App. P. 27(h), a motion for rehearing by Williams is a required part of the appellate process and was due on August 21, 2013, fourteen days after the Mississippi Supreme Court denied the application for post-conviction relief. On August 28, 2013, Williams submitted a motion to extend the deadline to seek rehearing, and requested to seal the envelope while a staff member observed. The ILAP staff member refused to seal the envelope in Williams' presence but mailed the motion to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Mississippi Supreme Court denied the motion on September 6, 2013, because it did not seek a permissible type of relief under Miss. R. App. P. 27(h).

On August 29, 2013, ILAP staff issued Powell a Rule Violation Report for assisting inmates with legal work. On September 1, 2013, Williams submitted a request for ILAP assistance in typing and preparing his state motion for rehearing. His request was denied on September 4, 2013, however, because ILAP staff only provides that level of assistance to illiterate inmates.

Williams filed a grievance on September 12, 2013, regarding the refusal by ILAP staff to assist in drafting his state court appellate and post-conviction documents. His grievance was denied as untimely on September 23, 2013. Williams resubmitted the grievance on September 30, 2013, but the grievance was again rejected as untimely filed. Williams then sent a request to Superintendent Earnest Lee on September 26, 2013, seeking emergency assistance with his state legal matters, and to report the behavior of ILAP staff. ILAP Director Richard Pennington responded first on October 11, 2013, denying emergency assistance because Williams showed no detriment. On November 4, 2013, Superintendent Lee responded and also denied Williams' request.

On March 12, 2014, Williams submitted his petition for a writ of habeas corpus to ILAP staff for copying and mailing to federal court. He was not allowed to seal his mail in the presence of staff but the staff member sent the mail, which the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi received and filed on March 20, 2014. On April 10, 2014, Williams submitted a motion to extend the deadline to submit a brief in support of his federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He was not permitted to seal the envelope while ILAP staff observed but the staff member nonetheless mailed the motion to the Southern District of Mississippi, which court filed the motion on April 15, 2014.

The State filed a motion to dismiss Williams' petition for a writ of habeas corpus on May 2, 2014. On May 23, 2014, an ILAP staff member refused to let Williams observe while his Memorandum of Law in Support of Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus was sealed. The staff member mailed the memorandum that day, and the Southern District Court filed it on May 28, 2014. The State responded to the memorandum on June 6, 2014.

Williams responded to the State's motion to dismiss on June 26, 2014, and the State replied in support of its motion. The Magistrate Judge presiding over the habeas corpus petition issued a Report and Recommendation on September 4, 2014, finding that the petition should be dismissed as untimely filed, as it was filed some 212 days after the August 12, 2013, federal habeas corpus deadline. Williams objected to the Report and Recommendation on October 15, 2014, and the State responded to the objection. The Southern District Court ...


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