United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
HENRY HINTON, JR. PLAINTIFF
PIKE COUNTY, ET AL. DEFENDANTS
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause is before the Court on the plaintiff Henry Hinton,
Jr.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (docket entry
69), on Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker's Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”) regarding same (docket
entry 98), on the plaintiff's Motion for Extension of
Time to file his objections to the R&R (docket entry
100), and on the plaintiff's objections (docket entry
102). The Court has carefully considered the plaintiff's
motions and the Magistrate Judge's R&R, as well as
the plaintiff's objections to the R&R, and finds as
Judge Parker filed his R&R on April 11, 2017. On April
24, 2017, the plaintiff filed his motion for additional
time to file objections, and on April 26, 2017, he filed
his objections. Because both the motion for additional time
and the objections were timely filed, the Court shall grant
the plaintiff's motion for additional time.
plaintiff's Complaint, as clarified at his
Spears hearing, alleges events which took place
while the plaintiff was incarcerated at the Pike County Jail.
According to the plaintiff, he entered the jail as a pretrial
detainee on June 30, 2014, and was housed in the jail as a
pretrial detainee until October 6, 2015, when he was
convicted of multiple felonies, including possession of a
controlled substance with intent to distribute.
plaintiff further alleges that at the time of his arrest,
police officers seized $7, 746.00 from him. Thereafter, he
attended a forfeiture hearing in county court, during which
the money was deemed forfeited. The plaintiff asserts that
because he did not have access to a law library and other
legal assistance, he lost at the forfeiture hearing and
missed his opportunity to appeal the forfeiture ruling.
According to the plaintiff, if he had had access to a law
library or legal assistance, he would have prevailed at the
forfeiture hearing or on appeal because the State wrongfully
used his Alford plea to support the forfeiture. The
plaintiff claims that Sheriff Mark Sheppard, as the policy
maker, should have provided the plaintiff access to a law
library or legal assistance.
November 14, 2016, the plaintiff filed his Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment (docket entry 69), arguing that he has
established all of the elements of his
denial-of-access-to-court claim and that he is entitled to
summary judgment against defendant Sheriff Mark Sheppard.
Sheriff Sheppard did not respond to the Motion. In his
R&R, Magistrate Judge Parker does not recommend granting
the motion as unopposed, but instead examines its merits.
See L.U.Civ.R. 7(b)(3)(E); Hetzel v. Bethlehem
Steel Corp., 50 F.3d 360, 362 (5th Cir.
Court may grant summary judgment only if, viewing the facts
in a light most favorable to the non-movant, the movant
demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact
and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Woods v. Smith, 60 F.3d 1161, 1164 (5th
Cir. 1995). If the movant fails to discharge the burden of
showing the absence of a genuine issue concerning any
material fact, summary judgment must be denied. John v.
Louisiana, 757 F.2d 698, 708 (5th Cir. 1985).
The existence of an issue of material fact is a question of
law that the Court must decide, and in making that decision,
it must “draw inferences most favorable to the party
opposing the motion, and take care that no party will be
improperly deprived of a trial of disputed factual
issues.” Id. at 712. However,
“[c]onclusional allegations and denials, speculation,
improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and
legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for
specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.”
Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th
Motion for Summary Judgment (docket entry 69), the plaintiff
asserts that the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics illegally
used his Alford plea to support its forfeiture
claim. The plaintiff further asserts that had he been
provided access to a law library or legal assistance he would
have prevailed at the forfeiture hearing or on appeal.
the Supreme Court's decision in Bounds v. Smith,
430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977), prisoners possess a constitutional
right of access to courts, including 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 courts is limited to allow prisoners the
opportunity to file non-frivolous claims challenging their
convictions or conditions of confinement. Jones v.
Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 325 (5th Cir. 1999).
“Interference with a prisoner's right to access to
the courts, such as delay, may result in a constitutional
deprivation.” Chriceol v. Phillips, 169 F.3d
313, 317 (5th Cir. 1999)(citations omitted).
“[a] denial-of-access-to-the-courts claim 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); Henthorn v.
Swinson, 955 F.2d 351, 354 (5th Cir. 1992),
cert. denied, 504 U.S. 988 (1992)(citing
Richardson v. McDonnell, 841 F.2d 120, 122
(5th Cir. 1988)). It is only when a prisoner
suffers some sort of actual prejudice or detriment because of
the alleged denial of access to the courts that the
allegation becomes one of a constitutional nature. Walker
v. Navarro County Jail, 4 F.3d 410, 413 (5th
Cir. 1993); see also Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d
639, 642 (7th Cir. 1987). To prove his claim, a
plaintiff must show real detriment - a true denial of access,
such as the loss of a motion, the loss of a right to
commence, prosecute or appeal in a court, or substantial
delay in obtaining a judicial determination in a proceeding.
Oaks v. Wainwright, 430 F.2d 241, 242
(5th Cir. 1970).
support of his Motion for Summary Judgment, the plaintiff
submits (1) an order issued by the County Court of Pike
County ruling that the $7, 746.00 found in the
plaintiff's possession should be forfeited to the
Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics; (2) a letter the plaintiff
sent to the Pike County Circuit Clerk, in which he requests
assistance; and (3) the Circuit Clerk's response to the
plaintiff's letter. See Exhibits 69-1, 69-2, and
evidence submitted by the plaintiff does not establish an
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and does not
entitle him to a judgment as a matter of law. Mississippi
Code Annotated § 41-29-179(2) provides as follows:
If the owner of the property has filed an answer denying that
the property is subject to forfeiture, then the burden is on
the petitioner to prove that the property is subject to
forfeiture. However, if an answer has not been filed by the
owner of the property, the petition for forfeiture may be
introduced into evidence and is prima facie evidence that the
property is subject to forfeiture. The standard of proof
placed upon the petitioner in ...