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Walker v. Troutt

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

July 24, 2017


          Honorable Gershwin A. Drain, District Judge


          BARBARA D. HOLMES United States Magistrate Judge

         By Order entered July 21, 2016 (Docket Entry No. 8), this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Court.

         Presently pending before the Court is the motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 52) filed by Defendant Sonya Troutt. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion. For the reasons set out below, the undersigned Magistrate Judge recommends that the motion be granted and this action be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Zachary Walker (“Plaintiff”) is currently a prisoner confined within the Florida Department of Corrections.[1] During 2016, he was confined in the Sumner County Jail (“Jail”) in Gallatin, Tennessee after he was arrested and charged with violation of his probation. While at the Jail, he was informed that Bay County, Florida had issued a detainer for him for criminal proceedings in Florida and that he would be transferred to Bay County, Florida when his confinement in Sumner County ended. On January 25, 2017, Plaintiff was released from the Jail and transferred to Bay County, Florida.[2]

         While at the Jail, Plaintiff filed this pro se and in forma pauperis lawsuit on July 5, 2016, against Jail Administrator Sonya Troutt (“Defendant”), seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional right of access to the courts. By Order entered July 7, 2016 (Docket Entry No. 3), the Court ordered Plaintiff to submit an amended complaint clarifying the basis for his lawsuit. Plaintiff thereafter filed an amended complaint (Docket Entry No. 7), and the Court found that Plaintiff stated a colorable constitutional claim that his right of access to the courts was being violated by the Jail's policies and directed that process issue to Defendant. See Docket Entry No. 8 at 4-5.

         Although the Court found that the lawsuit was adequate to survive initial frivolity review, Defendant challenged the sufficiency of Plaintiff's pleadings through a series of motions to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Docket Entry Nos. 18, 31, and 37. In response, Plaintiff repeatedly sought to amend his pleadings. See Docket Entry Nos. 22, 26, 36, and 39. The motions to dismiss were denied without prejudice, and Plaintiff was given leave to amend his complaint a final time. See Order entered October 26, 2016 (Docket Entry No. 40).

         In his final amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he began making requests to Jail staff for “legal documents for extradition” on March 22, 2016. See Third Amended Complaint (Docket Entry No. 42) at 2. He alleges that over the course of the next several months, he made unsuccessful requests for “legal paperwork that shows the federal laws for extradition, ” “a copy of the constitution, ” and “a copy of all the extradition laws including the time laws from when I signed my extradition papers.” Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff asserts that he has concurrent criminal sentences in both Florida and Tennessee, going back to at least 2011, and has violated his probation in both states because of a “change of address.” Id. at 4. Believing that he may not be receiving the proper credits towards his Florida sentence for the time of his confinement in Sumner County, he asserts that he needed the requested legal information to “get all of my jail credit and also fight my extradition” Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Troutt is personally responsible and that he was told to consult with his attorney about the requested information, to get on the internet, or to use the legal research tool that was being installed at the Jail. Id. at 2-5. Plaintiff seeks the following relief: 1) a transfer to a facility that has an adequate law library and persons trained in the law; 2) credit towards his Florida sentence for the time served at the Jail; and 3) $25, 000.00 for “pain and suffering, mental anguish.” Id. at 3.

         Upon Defendant's answer, a scheduling order was entered that provided the parties with a period for pretrial discovery. See Docket Entry Nos. 43 and 46. All deadlines in the scheduling order have now expired. Plaintiff's most recent filing with the Court was on March 3, 2017, when he filed a change of address notice indicating his transfer to the Bay County Jail. See Docket Entry No. 51.


         Defendant seeks summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the merits of Plaintiff's constitutional claim. Defendant contends that Plaintiff testified during his deposition that he was actually provided with copies of case law, copies of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions, and with stamps, envelopes, pens, pencils, and paper at the Jail. Defendant contends that Plaintiff testified that he was able to search case law, statutes, and other legal materials when the electronic kiosks located in the Jail were upgraded with a legal research tool on or about August 16, 2016. Defendant contends that Plaintiff also acknowledged that he was represented by two different criminal defense attorneys at the relevant time and that it would be impossible for Defendant to have provided him with all the laws regarding extradition. Relying on the declaration of Assistant Jail Administrator Doug Canter (Docket Entry No. 52-1) and excerpts from Plaintiff's deposition (Docket Entry No. 52-2), Defendant contends that the undisputed evidence shows that Plaintiff was provided with meaningful access to the courts and that he did not suffer any actual injury that would support a First Amendment claim.

         By Order entered April 25, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 55), Plaintiff was given a deadline of June 16, 2017, to respond to the motion for summary judgment and was advised that his failure to file a timely response could result in the dismissal of this action. When the copy of the Court's April 25, 2017, Order sent to Plaintiff at the Bay County Jail was returned as undeliverable, the Court directed the Clerk to resend a copy of the order to Plaintiff at his Florida Department of Corrections address, an address that was provided to the Court by Defendant. See Order entered May 8, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 57). Plaintiff has not filed any type of response to the motion for summary judgment.

         III. ...

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