The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge
On January 11, 2010, the Clerk of Court conditionally filed Plaintiff's Complaint on receipt of Plaintiff's filing fee, paid in full. Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to review by the Court to determine whether it or any of its claims are subject to summary dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Having reviewed the record, and otherwise being fully informed, the Court enters the following Order.
At the time the Complaint was filed, Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) in Boise, Idaho. Complaint (Docket No. 1) at 2. Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants have violated his civil rights and statutory law by interfering with delivery of his mail.
The Court is required to review complaints seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a claim that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Plaintiff brings claims under the civil rights statute. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991).
The Court has determined that Plaintiff has stated a colorable claim upon which he may proceed, subject to the exhaustion requirement and any other defenses that may be applicable. This Order does not guarantee that Plaintiff's claim will ultimately be successful, it merely finds that at least one claim will not be summarily dismissed at this stage. Defendants may still file a motion for dismissal or motion for summary judgment if the facts and law support such a motion. This Order is not intended to be a final or a comprehensive analysis of Plaintiff's claims. It is Plaintiff's burden to thoroughly set forth the legal and factual basis for each claim. The Court also finds there are claims that are not supported by sufficient factual allegations and will be dismissed. The Court's analysis follows.
1. First Amendment Claims
As a prison inmate, Plaintiff retains the First Amendment right to send and receive mail. See Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 407 (1989). "[H]owever,  these rights must be exercised with due regard for the 'inordinately difficult undertaking' that is modern prison administration." Id., citing Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84 (1987). A prison regulation affecting outgoing or incoming mail need not satisfy a "least restrictive means" test, but must be "'generally necessary' to a legitimate governmental interest." Abbott, 490 U.S. at 414.
Plaintiff here alleges that Defendants Radford and Armfield interfered with delivery of his mail in August of 2007. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Radford gave Plaintiff's legal mail to Defendant Armfield after it was delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, and did not deliver it to Plaintiff until nine days later. This allegation shows only isolated interference with mail service, and does not rise to the level of violation of a constitutional right. Although Plaintiff argues that Defendants have violated 18 U.S.C. § 1702, regarding obstruction of correspondence by mail, the Ninth Circuit has held that the statutory right to be free from interference with mail under 18 U.S.C. § 1702 does not apply in the prison context. Crofton v. Roe, 170 F.3d 957, 961 (9th Cir. 1999).
Plaintiff also contends that Defendants violated his First Amendment rights by failing to forward his mail while he was at another facility -- the Shoshone County Jail -- for a period of 39 days, awaiting a post conviction hearing. Plaintiff states that three items of legal mail were held at ICC during that time, for 40, 32, and 18 days, respectively. The Court finds that these delays in his receipt of mail, while Plaintiff was at Shoshone County Jail, again demonstrate only isolated interference, and not a violation of constitutional rights.
Plaintiff further argues that Defendant Radford violated his First Amendment rights by opening his legal mail. The detention, inspection, and censoring of mail by prison officials in order to uncover contraband has been held to further a legitimate penological interest. Mann v. Adams, 846 F.2d 589, 591 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 898 (1988). With respect to legal mail, a prison's authority to inspect is narrowed. Still, the courts have upheld a prison policy that provides for prison staff to open mail from attorneys in the presence of the inmate. Mann v. Adams, 846 F.2d 589, 590-91 (9th Cir.)(citations omitted). Also, a complaint ...