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Kelley v. Cannon

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 27, 2018

Roger Leon Kelley, Plaintiff,
Al Cannon, Sheriff Director; Chief Executive Tom Cusimano, Summitt Food Service, Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Roger Leon Kelley, a self-represented state pretrial detainee, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and §1915A. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). By order dated March 2, 2018, the court provided Plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint to correct deficiencies identified by the court that would warrant summary dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to § 1915 and § 1915A. (ECF No. 11.) On March 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 13.) Having reviewed the Amended Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court concludes the Amended Complaint still fails to state a viable claim and should be summarily dismissed without prejudice and issuance and service of process.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff, an inmate at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County, South Carolina, alleges that Summitt Food Service (“Summitt”) began serving food at the detention center on September 1, 2017. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 5 at 5, 7.) Plaintiff alleges that since then, Summitt has served inadequate amounts of food that fall below the federal minimum standards for caloric intake for inmates. (Id. at 7.) He also alleges that much of the food is spoiled, and it is often served late. (Id.) Separately, Plaintiff alleges the detention center has black mold, mildew, and poor ventilation that is hazardous to humans and known by Defendant Al Cannon. (Id. at 5-6.) Finally, Plaintiff claims these deprivations are an attempt to get a guilty plea out of an innocent person, referring to himself. (Id. at 9.) He alleges these deprivations are the result of reckless and deliberate indifference to his rights and amount to punishment. (Id. at 6-7.) He purports to raise these claims pursuant to the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and he seeks damages for his injuries. (Id. at 4, 9.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Amended Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), including 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Amended Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit, and is also governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the court to review a complaint filed by a prisoner that seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2009). Section 1915A requires, and § 1915 allows, a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints, which are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, 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 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684 (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         The Amended 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)). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (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). Plaintiff appears to allege his right to due process was violated by the defendants because they were deliberately indifferent to the conditions of the detention center. However, for the reasons identified below, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint against Defendants Cannon and Cusimano should be summarily dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) & § 1915A(b)(1).[1]

         Claims of pretrial detainees against detention center officials regarding conditions of confinement are evaluated under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than under the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 & n.16 (1979); Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988). “The due process rights of a pretrial detainee are at least as great as the eighth amendment protections available to the convicted prisoner; while the convicted prisoner is entitled to protection only against punishment that is ‘cruel and unusual, ' the pretrial detainee, who has yet to be adjudicated guilty of any crime, may not be subjected to any form of ‘punishment.' ” Martin, 849 F.2d at 870; see also Hill v. Nicodemus, 979 F.2d 987, 991 (4th Cir. 1992). However, “the fact that [the] detention interferes with the detainee's understandable desire to live as comfortably as possible and with as little restraint as possible during confinement does not convert the conditions or restrictions of detention into ‘punishment.' ” Bell, 441 U.S. at 537.

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that the standard for determining whether detention center officials have violated a pretrial detainee's right to due process is deliberate indifference. See Hill, 979 F.2d at 991. Although these claims are analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment, case law interpreting the standard of “deliberate indifference” under the Eighth Amendment is instructive. See, e.g., Brown v. Harris, 240 F.3d 383, 388 (4th Cir. 2001) (stating that whether the plaintiff is a pretrial detainee or a convicted prisoner, the “standard in either case is the same-that is, whether a government official has been ‘deliberately indifferent to any [of his] serious medical needs' ”) (quoting Belcher v. Oliver, 898 F.2d 32, 34 (4th Cir. 1990)).

         Generally, to establish a claim based on alleged deliberate indifference, an inmate must establish two requirements: (1) objectively, the deprivation suffered or injury inflicted was “sufficiently serious, ” and (2) subjectively, the prison officials acted with a “sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996). “What must be established with regard to each component ‘varies according to the nature of the alleged constitutional violation.' ” Williams, 77 F.3d at 761 (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992)). Objectively, the court must assess “whether society considers the risk that the prisoner complains of to be so grave that it violates contemporary standards of decency to expose ...

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