945 F.2d 1041 (8th Cir. 1991), 90-2931, Smith v. Boyd

Docket Nº:90-2931.
Citation:945 F.2d 1041
Party Name:Clark Lee SMITH, Appellant, v. Julian BOYD; Laverta Barns; Gloria Blocker; Dav Kovac, Appellees.
Case Date:September 25, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 1041

945 F.2d 1041 (8th Cir. 1991)

Clark Lee SMITH, Appellant,


Julian BOYD; Laverta Barns; Gloria Blocker; Dav Kovac, Appellees.

No. 90-2931.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 25, 1991

        Submitted May 13, 1991.

        Clark Lee Smith, pro se.

        Edward J. Hanlon, St. Louis, Mo. (James J. Wilson and Edward J. Hanlon, on the brief), for appellee.

        Before McMILLIAN, FAGG, and MAGILL, Circuit Judges.

Page 1042

        MAGILL, Circuit Judge.

        Clark Lee Smith appeals from the district court's 1 order sua sponte dismissing his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). We affirm.

        Smith was a pretrial detainee at the St. Louis Municipal Jail. He filed a pro se complaint claiming that between December 1988 and May 1989, jail officials violated his civil rights by (1) tampering with his mail; (2) harassing him in retaliation for his complaints about jail conditions; (3) denying him meaningful access to the courts; and (4) denying him social services afforded other prisoners.

        Smith's mail-tampering claim alleged that jail officials inspected his nonprivileged mail, returned one letter, and failed to deliver two others. Smith's harassment claim was based on his transfer from one housing tier to another within the jail following a dispute over access to the jail's law library. Smith was scheduled to visit the library on Mondays and Fridays. The dispute arose when the library was closed on a Monday holiday, and Smith asked social worker Laverta Barns for a make-up day. Barns denied his request, and after Smith threatened Barns and Superintendent Julian Boyd with a lawsuit, Barns transferred Smith to another housing tier.

        In support of his access-to-the-courts claim, Smith asserted that he attempted to smuggle a complaint against Boyd and Barns out of the jail with another prisoner. Jail employees discovered the complaint and confiscated it. Smith also allegedly asked social worker Gloria Blocker to permit him to make a legal telephone call and to notarize some legal documents for him. After failing to respond for almost one month, Blocker notarized Smith's documents but refused his request for a legal call. According to the complaint, Blocker told Smith that inmates are not allowed legal telephone calls because the jail has attorney request forms available. Finally, Smith asserted his legal mail was delayed when Blocker refused to come to his cell to pick it up.

        Smith's denial-of-social-services claim alleged that other prisoners were allowed legal telephone calls, but he was not. Smith stated he complained about this to both Blocker and her supervisor, Dav Kovac. Smith sought compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief against each of the defendants. He was permitted to proceed in forma pauperis, and defendants were required to answer the complaint.

        Defendants denied the allegations, and the case was set for trial. Prior to trial, however, the district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court ruled that Smith's requests for injunctive relief were moot because he was no longer confined in the jail; rejected his claim that prison officials violated his constitutional rights by inspecting his nonprivileged mail; and concluded that his harassment claim did not allege a clear violation of constitutionally or federally protected rights. Concerning Smith's access-to-the-courts claim, the court found the allegations did not set forth a constitutional violation because Smith failed to follow established mail procedures, and he was...

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