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Keller v. Bradley

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

December 17, 2015

Stephen Russell Keller, #121351, Plaintiff,
v.
Mr. Bradley, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Malone, Mr. Quinn, G.C.D.C. Operations Staff, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

Stephen Russell Keller ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, apparently alleging a violation of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff is a detainee[1] in the Greenville County Detention Center ("GCDC"). He files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This case is subject to summary dismissal.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that he is detained in dorm 2A of Building 4 at the GCDC. [Doc. 1.] Liberally construed, he alleges there is a kiosk in each dorm for detainees to use to communicate with the prison staff. [ Id. ] In his dorm, beginning on November 8, 2015, when he attempted to log in to the kiosk, the response was "you are not allowed to log into this kiosk, you are currently assigned to a different location.'" [ Id. ] He appears to allege that when other detainees in his dorm have attempted to log into the kiosk, they received the same message. [ Id. ] The problem with the kiosk allegedly was reported to the prison officials; however, no person had attempted to correct the problem as of November 16, 2015. [ Id. ]

Plaintiff alleges that detainees use the kiosk to communicate with prison officials about the following issues and for the following reasons: medical, dental, and mental health; order canteen; communicate with chaplain, food services, laundry; read the inmate handbook; communicate with legal; locate a bondsman listing; and change visitation list. [ Id. ] He contends that while the kiosk has been inoperable, "we as inmates" were unable to properly communicate with prison officials about those matters. [ Id. ] Further, he alleges "we as inmates are left totally in the dark only in this dorm." [ Id. ]

For his relief, Plaintiff requests that the kiosk be repaired immediately. [ Id. ] He also seeks "some type of reparations for being unable to communicate properly as needed with staff." [ Id. ]

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) DSC, the undersigned is authorized to review the Complaint for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that the action "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, " is "frivolous or malicious, " or "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Further, Plaintiff is a prisoner under the definition in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), and "seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Thus, even if Plaintiff had prepaid the full filing fee, this Court is charged with screening Plaintiff's lawsuit to identify cognizable claims or to dismiss the Complaint if (1) it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

As a pro se litigant, Plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ( per curiam ). However, even under this less stringent standard, the pro se pleading remains subject to summary dismissal. The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which Plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), or construct Plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

DISCUSSION

The Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which "is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'" Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). A civil action under § 1983 "creates a private right of action to vindicate violations of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States." Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1501 (2012). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

Although the Court must liberally construe the pro se Complaint and Plaintiff is not required to plead facts sufficient to prove his case as an evidentiary matter in the Complaint, the Complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (explaining that a plaintiff may proceed into the litigation process only when his complaint is justified by both law and fact). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379, 388 (4th Cir. 2014).

This case should be dismissed because Plaintiff does not sufficiently allege standing due to his own lack of injury in fact. And, he does not sufficiently allege a substantial risk of serious injury to himself in the future. To file a lawsuit in federal court, a plaintiff must have Article III standing. See Libertarian Party of Virginia v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013). There are three essential elements of standing: injury in fact, causation, and a substantial likelihood that the requested relief will remedy the alleged injury in fact. Fisher v. King, 232 F.3d 391, 396 n.5 (4th Cir. 2000). If a prisoner alleges that he is under a constant threat of serious harm to his future health which prison officials are aware of and disregard, such a plaintiff may state a § 1983 claim before actual injury occurs. See Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 49-50 (2008) (an inmate may file a lawsuit without waiting for injury to occur if the conditions present a risk sure or very likely to cause serious illness or needless suffering and give rise to sufficiently imminent dangers); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (finding that "the question under the Eighth Amendment is whether prison officials, acting with deliberate indifference, exposed a prisoner to a sufficiently substantial risk of serious damage to his future health...'").

In this case, Plaintiff does not allege any injury that he has suffered, or is at risk to suffer, due to the kiosk in his dorm being inoperable for eight days. At most, Plaintiff seems to worry that he (and other detainees) will be unable to communicate with prison officials about important issues, such as his health, diet, and legal concerns if the kiosk is not repaired. These allegations are not sufficient to confer standing. See McConnell v. Federal Elec. Comm'n, 540 U.S. 93, 226 (2003) (noting that "a threatened injury must be certainly impending to constitute injury in fact'"); Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Serv. (TOC), 528 U.S. 167, 198 (2000) (noting that for a plaintiff to demonstrate standing at the pleading stage "[g]eneral allegations of injury may suffice..." and that a plaintiff must demonstrate how he personally was harmed and his subjective apprehensions of the threat of injury are not sufficient); see also Martin v. Keitel, 205 F.Appx. 925 (3rd Cir. 2006) (holding that sua sponte dismissal of a prisoner's 1983 action was appropriate because even if the defendants violated his rights in the past, the prisoner is not entitled to a declaration to that effect because he failed to "... allege facts from which it appears there is a ...


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