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Norris v. Sterling

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

February 6, 2019

Garron LaDon Norris, #281530, Plaintiff,
v.
Director Brian Sterling; Warden Mr. Joyner; and Major Mr. Ray, in their official capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER AND NOTICE

          SHIVA V. HODGES COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Garron LaDon Norris (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint alleging a violation of his constitutional rights against Director Brian Sterling, Warden Mr. Joyner, and Major Mr. Ray (collectively “Defendants”). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff alleges he was housed in Lee Correctional Institution on April 15, 2018, when the inmates rioted. [ECF No. 1 at 5]. Plaintiff claims he was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Id. Plaintiff contends Defendants are liable because they were aware of a staffing shortage and that one female staff member was responsible for securing approximately 500 men. Id. at 6. Plaintiff states eight men died and twenty-two were injured. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. Id.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff filed his complaint 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. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).

         Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). 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 the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Analysis

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that a plaintiff must do more than make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677‒78 (2009); Bell Atlantic 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, and the reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678‒79.

         The doctrine of supervisory liability is generally inapplicable to § 1983 suits, such that an employer or supervisor is not liable for the acts of his employees, absent an official policy or custom that results in illegal action. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); Fisher v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Authority, 690 F.2d 1133, 1142-43 (4th Cir. 1982). The Supreme Court explains that “[b]ecause vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; see Slakan v. Porter, 737 F.2d 368, 372-74 (4th Cir. 1984) (finding officials may be held liable for the acts of their subordinates, if the official is aware of a pervasive, unreasonable risk of harm from a specified source and fails to take corrective action as a result of deliberate indifference or tacit authorization). Plaintiff's complaint provides insufficient allegations to demonstrate Defendants personally violated his constitutional rights or that they were deliberately indifferent to their subordinates' actions that posed a constitutional risk of injury to Plaintiff. See Carter v. Morris, 164 F.3d 215, 221 (4th Cir. 1999) (outlining the requirements to hold a supervisor liable for constitutional injuries inflicted by their subordinates). Accordingly, Plaintiff's complaint should be summarily dismissed. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628 (9th Cir. 1988) (noting “[s]weeping conclusory allegations against a prison official will not suffice”; an inmate must set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's participation).

         NOTICE CONCERNING AMENDMENT

         Plaintiff may attempt to correct the defects in his complaint by filing an amended complaint by February 19, 2019, along with any appropriate service documents. Plaintiff is reminded that an amended complaint replaces the original complaint and should be complete in itself. See Young v. City of Mount Ranier,238 F.3d 567, 572 (4th Cir. 2001) (“As a general rule, an amended pleading ordinarily supersedes the original and renders it of no legal effect.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If Plaintiff files an amended complaint, the undersigned will conduct screening of the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. If Plaintiff fails to file an ...


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