652 F.3d 681 (6th Cir. 2011), 09-2404, Siggers v. Campbell

Docket Nº:09-2404.
Citation:652 F.3d 681
Opinion Judge:KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Darrell SIGGERS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Ellen CAMPBELL; Andrew Jackson; N. Minton; Patricia Caruso, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Darrell A. Siggers, New Haven, Michigan, pro se.
Judge Panel:Before: MOORE, COLE, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:July 27, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 681

652 F.3d 681 (6th Cir. 2011)

Darrell SIGGERS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Ellen CAMPBELL; Andrew Jackson; N. Minton; Patricia Caruso, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 09-2404.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

July 27, 2011

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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ON BRIEF:

Darrell A. Siggers, New Haven, Michigan, pro se.

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Before: MOORE, COLE, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge.

Michigan prisoner Darrell Siggers filed this lawsuit against several Michigan prison officials, alleging First Amendment retaliation and conspiracy to violate his constitutional rights, among other things. He claims that the defendants improperly rejected his incoming mail and filed two false misconduct reports against him. In an opinion on December 10, 2008, the district court dismissed most of Siggers's claims on the ground that they were unexhausted, leaving only Siggers's " claims against Campbell relating to the September 12, 2006, mail rejection." Dist. Ct. Dkt. (" Doc." ) 46 (Opinion and Order at 12). On September 25, 2009, the district court granted summary judgment against Siggers on these claims, as well. Siggers now appeals. We AFFIRM the district court's December 10, 2008, dismissal, but we REVERSE the district court's grant of summary judgment against Siggers on the retaliation claim against Campbell because Siggers has never received any of the discovery materials that he requested on September 24, 2007, making it premature for the district court to rule on the merits of Campbell's summary judgment motion. We REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

Darrell Siggers is serving a life sentence in Michigan for first-degree murder and carrying or possessing a gun while committing or attempting to commit a felony. He filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against four prison officials on June 11, 2007, alleging several violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Fair and Just Treatment Clause of the Michigan Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 17. The defendants are: Ellen M. Campbell, a mailroom clerk at the Mound Correctional Facility in Michigan; Andrew J. Jackson, the warden of the Mound facility; N. Minton, a Lieutenant at the Mound facility; and Patricia L. Caruso, the Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Campbell, Jackson, and Minton are sued in their individual and official capacities; Caruso is sued only in her official capacity. Siggers's claims against these individuals are as follows: (1) Campbell violated his rights by improperly rejecting his incoming mail and improperly intercepting and opening his outgoing mail on numerous occasions, Doc. 1 (Complaint at ¶ 56); (2) Minton wrote " bogus and unsubstantiated" misconduct reports against him, improperly put him in " the hole," and caused him to be transferred improperly to another prison, id. at ¶ 58; (3) Campbell and Minton conspired to retaliate against him for exercising his right to access the courts 1, id. at ¶ 60; (4) Jackson violated his rights " by complicity and acquiescence in the actions of [ ] Campbell and Minton," id. at ¶ 62; and (5) Caruso violated his rights because, " by virtue of Respondent [ sic ] Superior/Vicarious Liability, [she] is responsible for the actions of [ ] Campbell, Minton and Jackson," id. at ¶ 64. Over the course of two decisions, the district court dismissed all of Siggers's claims, as discussed in greater detail below.

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A. Michigan's Regulation Of Prisoner Mail And Property

The basic facts behind Siggers's claims involve the prison's rules regarding the types of mail that may be sent and received by prisoners. Mail is highly regulated in the Michigan prison system. Policy Directive 05.03.118 2 contains the primary set of rules; in general, prisoners may " send and receive uncensored mail to or from any person or organization unless the mail violates this policy [directive] or Administrative Rule 791.6603." Michigan Department of Corrections Policy Directive (" P.D." ) 05.03.118, ¶ D (effective 6/6/05). Mail may be prohibited " if it is a threat to the security, good order, or discipline of the facility, may facilitate or encourage criminal activity, or may interfere with the rehabilitation of the prisoner." Id. " This includes ... 3. Mail containing physical contraband, which is defined as any property that a prisoner is not specifically authorized to possess or that is from an unauthorized source. This includes postage stamps, except that a prisoner may receive a single stamped self-addressed envelope from an attorney, a court or a legitimate religious organization." Id.

With respect to a prisoner's outgoing mail, " [g]eneral population prisoners ... shall be permitted to send sealed mail, subject to [several paragraphs in this directive]." P.D. 05.03.118, ¶ R (effective 6/6/05).

Outgoing mail of any prisoner may be opened and inspected if it is determined by the facility head or designee that there are reasonable grounds to believe the mail is being sent in violation of Paragraph D. However, mail which is clearly identified as being sent to the business address of one of the following may be sealed by the prisoner and shall not be opened or otherwise inspected by staff prior to mailing ...:

1. A licensed attorney....

2. State or federal courts.

3. Federal, state or local public officials.

4. The Director or any other Central Office staff.

5. Staff at the institution in which the prisoner is housed.

P.D. 05.03.118, ¶ S (effective 6/6/05) (emphasis in original).

Incoming mail is similarly regulated. Prisoners may elect to have incoming legal mail receive special handling, but " [a]ll incoming mail that is not receiving special handling ... shall be opened ... and inspected ... to determine if it contains money, controlled substances or other physical contraband. All physical contraband shall be confiscated prior to delivery of the mail to the prisoner. The mail's written content also shall be skimmed and, if it appears from skimming the content that the mail may violate this policy, the item shall be read to determine if it is allowed." Id. at ¶ CC (emphasis in original). " All incoming mail from one prisoner to another shall be read." Id. When a prisoner elects to receive special handling of legal mail, however, that mail " shall be opened and inspected for money, controlled substances and other physical contraband in the prisoner's presence. The content of the mail shall not be read or skimmed." Id. at ¶ EE.

Many other types of incoming mail are prohibited. " Whenever mail addressed to a prisoner is believed to be in violation of this policy, a Notice of Package/Mail Rejection (CSJ-316) shall be completed and promptly sent to the prisoner. The Notice shall identify the specific item believed to

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be in violation of this policy and why the item is believed to be in violation." P.D. 03.05.118, ¶ JJ (effective 6/6/05). Furthermore, if the prisoner disagrees with the Notice, he or she is entitled to a hearing:

Unless the prisoner waives his/her right to a hearing in writing, and the prisoner and staff agree on the appropriate disposition of the mail, a prompt hearing shall be conducted pursuant to Administrative Rule 791.3310 to determine if the mail violates this policy for the reason(s) identified in the Notice of Package/Mail Rejection and, if so, the appropriate disposition of the mail....

If a hearing is conducted, an Administrative Hearing Report (CSJ-144) shall be completed by the hearing officer....

Id. at ¶ ¶ KK-LL (emphasis in original). After this, " [a] prisoner who disagrees with the outcome of a hearing may file a grievance as set forth in P.D. 03.02.130 ‘ Prisoner/Parolee Grievances[.]’ " Id. at ¶ SS.

Beyond these rules, P.D. 04.07.112,3 which governs " Prisoner Personal Property," is also relevant. " Subject to other limitations set forth in this policy, prisoners may purchase, possess and wear personal clothing, and purchase and possess other personal property items, only as set forth in [several attachments to P.D. 04.07.112]." P.D. 04.07.112, ¶ D (effective 11/15/04). Among the permitted forms of property is legal property, which includes

1. Books, photographs, diagrams, documents, pleadings and any other written materials reasonably necessary to a prisoner's pending litigation, or reasonably necessary to another prisoner's pending litigation provided there is a current, valid agreement for legal assistance with the other prisoner in accordance with PD 05.03.116 " Prisoners' Access to the Court and Legal Assistance" and applicable Director's Office Memoranda....

Id. at ¶ M. It also includes " 3. Example or sample pleadings that will assist in litigation." Id. In 2002, the Administrator of what was then the Department's Office of Policy and Hearings, Richard B. Stapleton, sent an email to all wardens in the Michigan prison system interpreting P.D. 04.07.112 to clarify " when a prisoner can receive through the mail motions, briefs, pleadings and similar legal documents in which another prisoner is identified as a party." Doc. 19-4 at 2 (Stapleton Email). Stapleton instructed the wardens as follows:

Please advise mail room staff and other appropriate staff at your facility that such items fall within the definition of " legal property" contained within PD 04.07.112 " Prisoner Personal Property" . These documents, if received in the mail for a prisoner at your facility, cannot be rejected solely on the basis that another prisoner is identified as a party. This is true even if there is no authorized legal assistance agreement between the prisoners involved. There must be other clear proof that the documents violate Department policy.

Id. B....

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