188 F.3d 322 (5th Cir. 1999), 98-11041, Jones v Greninger

Docket Nº:98-11041.
Citation:188 F.3d 322
Party Name:James Stephen JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. M.L. GRENINGER; et al., Defendants, M.L. Greninger; Yolanda Cornelius; Ralph Figueroa, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:September 17, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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188 F.3d 322 (5th Cir. 1999)

James Stephen JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant,


M.L. GRENINGER; et al., Defendants, M.L.

Greninger; Yolanda Cornelius; Ralph Figueroa, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 98-11041.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 17, 1999

Page 323

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before JOLLY and SMITH, Circuit Judges, and STAGG, [*] District Judge.


James Stephen Jones appeals the district court's partial dismissal of his retaliation claims and the complete dismissal of his Eighth Amendment claim against various personnel at the Federal Correctional Institute at Seagoville, Texas. Jones alleges that the defendants have engaged in a conspiracy to deny his constitutional rights in retaliation for his filing of various grievances. Specifically, Jones alleges that the defendants have retaliated against him by limiting his right of access to the court. He further alleges that the defendants have violated his Eighth Amendment right to be protected from other inmates, by refusing to transfer him to another unit. The district court adopted the recommendations of the magistrate judge and entered judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) dismissing all of Jones's claims with prejudice, except the retaliation claim against Roberts. Jones filed a timely notice of appeal. Finding Jones has alleged no facts sufficient to sustain his claims, we affirm the judgment of the district court.



Initially, we must address the validity of the procedure that the district court followed upon receiving the appellees' 12(b) motion. The district court treated the appellees' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, filed after the answer, as a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Because a rule 12(b) motion must be filed before responsive pleadings, the appellees' motion was untimely. Rule 12(c) motions, however, may be filed after the pleadings are closed. Such motions will be treated as a motion for judgment on the pleadings based on a failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Thus, the district court did not err when it construed the defendants' motion as one for judgment on the pleadings. See National Ass'n of Pharmaceutical Mfrs. v. Ayerst Laboratories, 850 F.2d 904, 909 n. 4 (2d Cir.1988).


The court may dismiss a claim when it is clear that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Fee v. Herndon, 900 F.2d 804, 807 (5th Cir.1990). We review the district court's conclusion that the plaintiff failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted de novo. Giddings v. Chandler, 979 F.2d 1104, 1106 (5th Cir.1992). In analyzing the complaint, we will accept all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Doe v. Hillsboro Independent School Dist., 81 F.3d 1395, 1401 (5th Cir.1996). The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether he is entitled to offer evidence to support his claim. Id. Thus, the court should not dismiss the claim unless the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any set of facts or any possible theory that he could prove consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Vander Zee v. Reno, 73 F.3d 1365, 1368 (5th Cir.1996).



To state a valid claim for retaliation under section 1983, a prisoner must allege (1) a specific constitutional right, (2)

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the defendant's intent to retaliate against the prisoner for his or her exercise of that right, (3) a retaliatory adverse act, and (4) causation. McDonald v. Steward, 132 F.3d 225, 231 (5th Cir.1998). The inmate must allege more than his personal belief that he is the victim of retaliation. Johnson v. Rodriguez, 110 F.3d 299, 310 (5th Cir.) cert. denied, 522 U.S. 995, 118 S.Ct. 559, 139 L.Ed. 2d 400 (1997). Mere conclusionary allegations of retaliation will not be enough to withstand a proper motion for dismissal of the claim. Woods v. Smith, 60 F.3d 1161, 1166 (5th Cir.1995). "The inmate must produce direct evidence of motivation or, the more probable scenario, 'allege a chronology of events from which retaliation may plausibly be inferred.'" Id. (citation omitted). Further, if the inmate is unable to point to a specific constitutional right that has been violated, the claim will fail. Tighe v. Wall, 100 F.3d 41, 43 (5th Cir.1996) (dismissing an inmate's claim for failure to demonstrate a violation of a constitutional right); Woods, 60 F.3d at 1166 (stating "to state a claim, an inmate must allege the violation of a specific constitutional right").

Jones, in an extensive pleading, alleges that Roberts, Greninger, Cornelius, and Figueroa have engaged in retaliatory conduct against him as a result of his filing various grievances, by conspiring to deprive him of his right to access to the court. Although it is true that prison officials may not retaliate against or harass an inmate by denying him access to the courts, Jones is unable to demonstrate that the actions of the appellees have run afoul of this constitutional right.

It has long been recognized that prisoners generally enjoy the constitutional right of access to the court. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 97 S.Ct. 1491, 52 L.Ed. 2d 72 (1977); Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 483-85, 89 S.Ct. 747, 748, 21 L.Ed. 2d 718 (1969). This right of access for prisoners is not unlimited, however. Johnson v. Rodriguez, 110 F.3d 299, 310 (5th Cir.1997). It encompasses only a reasonably adequate opportunity to file nonfrivolous legal claims challenging their convictions or conditions of confinement. Id. citing Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 2182, 135 L.Ed. 2d 606 (1996). Inmates are "not guaranteed the wherewithal to transform themselves into litigating engines capable of filing everything from shareholder derivative actions to slip-and-fall claims." Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355, 116 S.Ct. 2174. Instead, they are guaranteed "the conferral of a capability--the capability of bringing contemplated challenges to sentences or conditions of confinement before the courts." Id.

Jones alleges that as a result of his recent...

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