United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Anthony Shamel Hopkins, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Jones United States District Judge.
plaintiff, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that prison officials interfered with his right to access the
court by confiscating legal documents from his cell. He has
now filed an Amended Complaint. After review of the record, I
conclude that Hopkins's action must be summarily
alleges the following facts in his pro se Complaint.
December 8, 2015, while Hopkins was incarcerated at Bland
Correctional Center (“Bland”), a state trooper
served him with thirty-four felony indictments issued by a
grand jury of the Henry County Circuit Court. Thereafter,
Hopkins was placed in segregated confinement for security
reasons and was transferred ten days later to a segregation
unit at Keen Mountain Correctional Center (“Keen
Mountain”), another prison facility operated by the
Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”)..
December 22, a property officer delivered Hopkins'
personal property to him, including the indictments that had
been served on Hopkins at Bland. The next day, Intelligence
Officer A. McGlothlin allegedly told Hopkins that he was
taking the indictments and confiscated all Hopkins'
paperwork without giving a reason.
Hopkins was released from segregation on December 29,
Investigator Arms returned his paperwork except for the
indictments and a related capias. On January 22, 2016,
Hopkins filed an informal complaint about Arms'
confiscation of the legal paperwork. In response, Arms stated
that Hopkins could view the indictments in the presence of
staff, but could not possess them in his cell. On February 5
and again on February 11, 2016, Hopkins wrote a request to
view the indictments, but allegedly received no response. He
also wrote to Keen Mountain Warden Kiser and to VDOC Director
Harold Clarke, asking for help to retrieve his indictments.
Clarke told Hopkins to utilize the grievance procedure, and
he allegedly did so.
police investigators served additional felony indictments on
Hopkins on February 17 and 23, 2016, bringing the total to
forty-eight indictments. Arms confiscated all of these
documents and would not allow Hopkins to keep them in his
cell. State court records indicate that the charges pending
against Hopkins are for serious offenses, including multiple
counts of abduction, malicious wounding, sexual offenses, and
use of a firearm to commit a felony. Hopkins notified the
court on October 12, 2016, that he is now confined at the
Western Virginia Regional Jail (“the jail”) in
filed this lawsuit on May 4, 2016, against Clarke, Kiser,
McGlothlin, and Arms, and submitted the Amended Complaint in
August. He sues McGlothlin and Arms for depriving him of his
property interest in the indictments, for not allowing him to
prepare for court or trial, and for cruel and unusual
punishment, and he sues the other defendants for failing to
intervene. He contends that in the seven months since the
confiscation of the indictments, he “could have been
studying for [his] defense, ” that his inability to do
so “is crippling [him] from clearing [his] name”
and is “messing with [his] mind, ” because he
does not know “what's going on with [his] life [and
has] got nothing to go off of.” (Am. Compl. 11, ECF No.
23.) He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief
directing the defendants to allow him to possess the
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the
court determines the action or claim is “frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). An inmate's
complaint may be summarily dismissed under this section if it
fails to allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Giarratano
v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In determining whether
the complaint states a claim, a court must view the factual
allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, but
“need not accept as true unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.”
Giarrantano, 521 F.3d at 302 (internal quotations
extent that Hopkins seeks injunctive relief to obtain
possession of his legal documents in his cell at Keen
Mountain, his complaint must be summarily dismissed. His
transfer from Keen Mountain to the jail has rendered moot his
claims for injunctive relief relating to conditions at Keen
Mountain. See, e.g., Cty. of Los Angeles v. Davis,
440 U.S. 625, 631 (1979); Williams v. Griffin, 952
F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991) (finding prisoner's
transfer rendered moot his claims for injunctive and
declaratory relief); Magee v. Waters, 810 F.2d 451,
452 (4th Cir. 1987) (holding that transfer of a prisoner
rendered moot his claim for injunctive relief). The
defendants, who are VDOC employees, have no authority to
dictate whether or not Hopkins may possess copies of the
indictments in his cell at the jail. Therefore, I will
dismiss Hopkins's claims for injunctive relief. I also
conclude, for other reasons, that Hopkins has no claim for
monetary damages arising from the Keen Mountain policy
preventing him from possessing the indictments in his cell.
Hopkins has not stated facts to support a claim that this
policy interfered with his constitutional right to access the
courts. Such a claim requires facts showing how lack of
unlimited access to the indictments resulted in specific harm
to his prosecution of any particular nonfrivolous legal
claim. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996);
Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1386 (4th Cir.
1993). Vague and conclusory allegations that a prison policy
caused mere delays or inconveniences to an inmate's legal
work cannot support a denial of access claim.
Strickler, 989 F.2d at 1383. Rather, the complaint
must state with specificity “the underlying cause of
action, whether anticipated or lost, ” and ...