United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge.
a state inmate, filed this civil rights action pro
se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants
the North Carolina General Assembly and the Governor of North
Carolina. The court construed plaintiff's complaint as
alleging a denial of access to courts in violation of the
First Amendment to the United States Constitution. On
November 2, 2016, the court dismissed plaintiff's
complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Plaintiff
appealed the court's dismissal of his complaint. On
January 20, 2017, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
dismissed plaintiff's appeal for lack of jurisdiction and
remanded the action to this court with instructions to allow
plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed his
amended complaint on March 13, 2017. The matter now is before
the court for a frivolity review of plaintiff's amended
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
1915 provides that courts shall review complaints in which
prisoners seek relief from a governmental entity or officer
and dismiss such complaints when they are
“frivolous.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). A
complaint may be found frivolous because of either legal or
factual deficiencies. First, a complaint is frivolous where
“it lacks an arguable basis . . . in law.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
Legally frivolous claims are based on an “indisputably
meritless legal theory” and include “claims of
infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not
exist.” Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 74 (4th
Cir. 1994) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327). Under
this standard, complaints may be dismissed for failure to
state a claim cognizable in law, although frivolity is a more
lenient standard than that for failure to state a claim under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Neitzke,
490 U.S. at 328. Second, a complaint may be frivolous where
it “lacks an arguable basis . . . in fact.”
Id. at 325. Section 1915 permits federal courts
“to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual
allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual
contentions are clearly baseless.” See Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992) (citing
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327).
alleges that he is being denied access to courts because he
does not have access to a law library or legal materials. The
State is required to provide its inmates meaningful access to
the courts. Smith v. Bounds, 430 U.S. 817, 823
(1977). In order to state a claim for denial of access to the
courts, the inmate must show actual injury or that a
defendant's conduct hindered his efforts to pursue a
legal claim. See, e.g., Lewis v. Casey, 518
U.S. 343, 351-52 (1996); Michau v. Charleston
County, 434 F.3d 725, 728 (4th Cir. 2006). The United
States Supreme Court held in Lewis that inmates must
be provided “a reasonably adequate opportunity to
present claimed violations of fundamental constitutional
rights to the courts.” Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351
(quotation omitted). The right to access the courts extends
to direct criminal appeals, habeas corpus proceedings, and
civil rights actions challenging conditions of confinement.
Id. at 354-55. The actual injury requirement
mandates that an inmate “demonstrate that a
nonfrivolous legal claim had been frustrated or
impeded.” Id. at 353. The Court did not extend
the holding to include the right to “litigate
effectively once in court.” Id. at 354
(disclaiming language in Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S.
817, 825 (1977), suggesting otherwise).
plaintiff asserts that he was injured by the alleged denial
of access to the courts in connection with a civil action
which is pending in this court-Wright v. Lassiter,
No. 5:13-CT-3245-D (E.D. N.C. filed Oct. 7, 2013). In that
action, Judge James C. Dever III directed North Carolina
Prisoner Legal Services (“NCPLS”) to review
plaintiff's claims to determine whether it would
represent plaintiff for any possible settlement conference or
trial. Id. (Feb. 28, 2017). NCPLS then entered a
notice of appearance on plaintiff's behalf on March 31,
2017. Id. (Mar. 31, 2017). To the extent plaintiff
expresses a preference of having a law library as opposed to
representation by NCPLS, this court has held that the plan
whereby NCPLS provides legal assistance to inmates in the
custody of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety
adequately protects the inmates' constitutional right of
access to the courts as required by Bounds. See
Wrenn v. Freeman, 894 F.Supp. 244, 247-49 (E.D. N.C.
1995). Thus, plaintiff failed to state a claim pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
also asserts that he has suffered injury as a result of being
denied access to courts because he has had “four
lawsuits in N.C. State Federal Court [which] were all
non-frivolous but didn't have the necessary tools to
fight the case . . . ” and because he lost his petition
for a writ of habeas corpus in Wright v. Monette,
No. 5:13-HC-2064-BO (E.D. N.C. Feb. 24, 2014). To present a
claim involving denial of access to the courts, an inmate
cannot rely on conclusory allegations, but must identify with
specificity an actual injury resulting from official conduct.
See Cochran v. Morris, 73 F.3d 1310, 1317 (4th Cir.
1996). “Ultimately, a prisoner wishing to establish an
unconstitutional burden on his right of access to the courts
must show ‘actual injury' to ‘the capability
of bringing contemplated challenges to sentences or
conditions of confinement before the courts.'”
O'Dell v. Netherland, 112 F.3d 773, 776 (4th
Cir. 1997) (quoting Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355).
“[T]he predicate claim [must] be described well enough
to apply the ‘nonfrivolous' test and to show the
‘arguable' nature of the underlying claim is more
than hope.” Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S.
403, 416 (2002) (footnote omitted).
case, plaintiff provides no factual support for his
conclusory assertions that his lack of access to the court
impeded his litigation in the alleged four civil actions or
his habeas proceedings. Simply put, plaintiffs conclusory
allegations are insufficient to state a constitutional access
to courts claim. See Christopher, 536 U.S. at 416;
Cochran, 73 F.3d at 1317 (finding dismissal of
access to court claim proper where inmate relied on
conclusory allegations and failed to identify any actual
injury). Thus, plaintiff failed to state a claim pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
summary, the court DISMISSES this action without prejudice
for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The ...