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Gladu v. Maine Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 1, 2018




         Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections, commenced this action with a complaint in which he alleged that Defendants violated his constitutional rights because they denied him access to medical literature through the library service at the Maine State Prison.

         Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), which application the Court granted (ECF No. 5). In accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Additionally, Plaintiff's complaint is subject to screening “before docketing, if feasible or … as soon as practicable after docketing, ” because he is “a prisoner seek[ing] redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).[1]

         On September 13, 2018, I recommended the Court dismiss the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A, because the United States Constitution does not require that Defendants provide inmates with a medical reference library. (Recommended Decision, ECF No. 9.) On September 24, 2018, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint.[2](ECF No. 10.) In his amended complaint, Plaintiff supplements his pleadings to allege that the prison library participates in the inter-library loan system, through which system he could access medical reference material, but Defendants continue to deny him access to medical literature.

         Because Plaintiff potentially asserts a claim distinct from the claims asserted in the original complaint, the Recommended Decision is withdrawn. Upon review of the original complaint and the amendment to the complaint, I recommend the Court dismiss all claims except Plaintiff's mail-related claim regarding access to medical reference material.

         Standard of Review

         The federal in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, is designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal courts for those persons unable to pay the costs of bringing an action. When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, however, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines, ” inter alia, that the action is “frivolous or malicious” or “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). “Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such complaints.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).

         In addition to the review contemplated by § 1915, Plaintiff's complaint, as amended, is subject to screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act because Plaintiff currently is incarcerated and seeks redress from governmental entities and officers. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (c). The § 1915A screening requires courts to “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim …; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Although a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), this is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim, Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980). To allege a civil action in federal court, it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that a defendant acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively allege facts that identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a remedy. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Factual Background

         In his original complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he asked the librarian at the Maine State Prison, Defendant Weddle, to provide him with “medical reference materials” related to specific medical conditions, that Defendant Weddle denied his request and advised him to request a consultation with the medical department, and that Defendants Mathiau, Liberty and Thornell upheld Defendant Weddle's decision in the context of Plaintiff's related grievance. (Complaint ¶¶ 9 - 17.) Plaintiff suggested the requested information is related to his pending litigation regarding the quality of the medical care he has received while incarcerated. (Id. ¶13.) Plaintiff specifically asserted that the medical reference materials are necessary “to assist him in advocating for better medical care and treatment.” (Id. ¶ 19.)

         In his amendment, Plaintiff alleges Defendants will not permit Plaintiff to obtain medical reference material through the inter-library loan system, and will not permit him to receive or purchase the material from a third party. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff contends the prison denied access due to “a blanket ban on any and all medical or mental health reference material” because, according to prison officials, access to such material “leads to prisoners making demands for unnecessary testing and ...

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