Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Third Circuit Affirm Dismissal of Prisoner's Denial of Court Access Claim

Per Caldwell v. Beard, Slip Copy, 2008 WL 5397645 (3d Cir.Dec. 29, 2008):

Prisoners have a right of access to the courts. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996). Importantly, however, where an inmate does not allege an actual injury to his ability to litigate a claim, his constitutional right of access to the courts has not been violated. See id. at 352-53. An actual injury is shown only where a nonfrivolous, arguable claim is lost. See Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002). Caldwell's access to the courts claim is based on alleged interference with his ability to respond to an order of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, filed on November 20, 2006. That order directed Caldwell to file within 14 days a Statement of Matters complained of on Appeal in connection with his second Post Conviction Relief Act petition. See Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925(b). Caldwell claimed that the Department of Corrections' policy of not delivering mail on Saturdays delayed his receipt of the order until November 28, 2006. He also asserted that he was prevented from using the law library on December 1, 2006, and was “[s]topped ... from mailing out the Documents of Matters Complained of on Appeal” on December 3, 2006. Importantly, however, nowhere in his original complaint, his amended complaint, or his objections to the Report and Recommendation did Caldwell allege that he was prevented from mailing his Rule 1925(b) statement on Monday, December 4, 2006, which presumably would have constituted a timely response. See Smith v. Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole, 683 A.2d 278, 281 (Pa.1996) (applying prisoner mailbox rule to “ pro se prisoners in our Commonwealth.”). Accordingly, Caldwell failed to state a claim for denial of access to the courts.

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