United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Amarillo Division
SCOTT T. BEHLING, TDCJ-CID No. 664060, Plaintiff,
NFN FOLEY, et al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION DISMISSING CIVIL RIGHTS
MATTHEW J. KACSMARYK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
SCOTT T. BEHLING, acting pro se and while a prisoner
incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
Institutional Division, has filed suit pursuant to Title 42,
United States Code, Section 1983 complaining against the
above-referenced defendants and has been granted permission
to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons,
plaintiffs civil rights complaint is DISMISSED.
prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional
facility brings an action with respect to prison conditions
under any federal law, the Court may evaluate the complaint
and dismiss it without service of process, AH v.
Higgs, 892 F.2d 438, 440 (5th Cir. 1990), if it is
frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The same standards will
support dismissal of a suit brought under any federal law by
a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other
correctional facility, where such suit concerns prison
conditions. 42 U.S.C. 1997e(c)(1). A Spears hearing
need not be conducted for every pro se
complaint. Wilson v. Barrientos, 926 F.2d
480, 483 n.4 (5th Cir. 1991).
is a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) inmate
housed at the Clements Unit in Amarillo, Texas. Plaintiff
brings this suit against multiple defendants: Senior Warden
Foley, Assistant Warden Andrews, former Senior Warden Martin,
former Assistant Warden Beach, and Mail Room Supervisor
Geneta K. Glenn of the TDCJ Clements Unit. (ECF No. 18-1).
According to his complaint, plaintiff inherited a sum of
money upon the death of his father. This money was eventually
deposited into his inmate trust account following probate
proceedings. Plaintiff claims that defendant Glenn blocked
access to his inmate trust account funds through her
negligent handling of his legal mail.
to documents filed as attachments to his complaint, plaintiff
claims defendant Glenn failed to properly apply postage to a
critical document mailed to his probate attorney, and the
document was returned to his unit of incarceration. Plaintiff
further claims he was not notified in a timely fashion about
the return of his mail for insufficient postage. Plaintiff
further argues that all remaining defendants, based on their
positions as supervisors or former supervisors at the
Clements Unit, are responsible for failures of the mail room
staff to appropriately handle his legal mail. Although not
specifically stated, plaintiff also appears to argue
defendants are deliberately blocking his access to his inmate
trust account. Plaintiff also implies that defendants acted
in conspiracy with the United States Post Office to cause a
delay in his legal mail, but he does not name the United
States Post Office or any postal employee as a defendant.
Compare ECF No. 9, with ECF No. 3. The Court
interprets plaintiffs claims to state (1) a claim for denial
of access-to-the-courts based on defendants' failure to
properly handle plaintiffs legal mail, and (2) a claim for
deprivation of plaintiff s property interests without due
process of law based on the ability to access his inmate
of action may be stated under Title 42, United States Code,
section 1983 where prison officials intentionally withhold
mail destined for the courts, where there is the additional
allegation that the intentional delay of legal mail damaged
the prisoner's legal position. Jackson v.
Procunier, 789 F.2d 307 (5th Cir. 1986). Nevertheless,
conduct which is merely negligent does not meet the standard
for liability under section 1983. Daniels v.
Williams, MA U.S. 327, 331-34 (1986).
must demonstrate an actual injury stemming from the alleged
unconstitutional act. Dunham v. Wainwright, No.
A-15-CA-1018-RP, 2017 WL 571515, at *3 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 13,
2017), aff'd, 713 Fed.Appx. 334 (5th Cir. 2018)
(citing Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351-54 (1996);
Ruiz v. United States, 160 F.3d 273, 275 (5th Cir.
1998); Chriceol v. Phillips, 169 F.3d 313 (5th Cir.
1999))." 'Actual injury' is 'actual
prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing
litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline
or to present a claim.'" Dunham, 2017 WL
571515, at *3 (citing Lewis, 518 U.S. at 348). If a
litigant's position is not prejudiced by the claimed
violation, his claim of denial of access-to-the-courts is not
valid. Dunham, 2017 WL 571515, at *3 (citing
Henthorn v. Swinson, 955 F.2d 351, 354 (5th Cir.),
cert, denied, 504 U.S. 988 (1992)).
argues that defendant Glenn had the affirmative obligation to
place the proper amount of postage on his legal mail. Even by
his complaint, plaintiff indicates that the failure to
properly handle his legal mail was based on negligence.
Plaintiff makes no allegations of intentional misconduct by
defendant Glenn, nor does he allege any facts that give the
Court a reason to interpret his claim as one of intentional
all remaining defendants are sued in their capacity as
supervisors of the Clements Unit or defendant Glenn. "A
supervisory official may be held liable under section 1983
for the wrongful acts of a subordinate 'when [the
supervisory official] breaches a duty imposed by state or
local law, and this breach causes plaintiffs constitutional
injury.'" Smith v. Brenoettsy, 158 F.3d 908
(5th Cir. 1998)(quoting Smith v. Adams, 537 F.2d
829, 831 (5th Cir. 1976). To hold a supervisory official
liable, the plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) the supervisor
either failed to supervise or train the subordinate official;
(2) a causal link exists between the failure to train or
supervise and the violation of the plaintiffs rights; and (3)
the failure to train or supervise amounts to deliberate
indifference. Hinshaw v. Doffer, 785 F.2d 1260, 1263
(5th Cir. 1986). For an official to act with deliberate
indifference, he "must both be aware of facts from which
the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm exists, and he must also draw the
inference." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
837 (1994); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991).
Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for any of the
supervisor defendants under this standard.
Court further finds that any failure by the defendant Glenn
to follow the proper procedure to complete the postage
process is at most a negligent act, and the negligent
deprivation of property by prison officials does not create a
civil rights claim. See Daniels v. Williams, 474
U.S. 327, 328, 332-33 (1986) ("[T]he Due Process Clause
is simply not implicated by a negligent act of an official
causing unintended loss of or injury to life, liberty, or
property."); Ortiz v. Giles ...