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Simmons v. Williams

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 6, 2019

Nathaniel Simmons, Plaintiff,
Charles Williams; Thomas Robertson; Alyson Gladwell; Stephanie Marshall; Stanley Terry; Clarissa Jones; Juanita Moss; Bell; Myers; Beard; Willie F. Smith; Sherman L. Anderson; Jennifer Franklin; Shakira Williams; Michelle Chambers; Tim E. Rogers; Deborah Richter; Victoria Norman; Ashley Maddox; Cynthia Darden; Kennard Dubose; Bryan P. Stirling, Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Nathaniel Simmons, a self-represented state prisoner, filed 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.). Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court finds this action is subject to summary dismissal if Plaintiff does not amend the Complaint to cure the deficiencies identified herein.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Kershaw Correctional Institution of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, purports to bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech and Association Clauses, the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 3, 11.) Plaintiff alleges that various conditions of his confinement constitute cruel and unusual punishment, and that the named defendants were deliberately indifferent in causing those conditions. Those conditions include lack of recreation and exercise; lack of fresh air and sunlight; unsanitary dorms, cells, and showers; lack of showers, haircuts, shaves, and laundry; stale, molded, cold, contaminated, and inadequate portions of food; lack of responses to grievances and staff requests; lack of clothes, accessories, wash rags, and razors; and lack of, or refusal of, medical treatment, including mental health treatment. (Id. at 13-17.) He claims these conditions have caused him back, hip, and joint pain; skin conditions; chest pains; dizziness; stomach pain; indigestion; hunger; weight loss; loss of sleep; and mental anguish. (Id. at 17.) He expressly raises claims against all of the defendants in their individual and official capacities for violating the constitutional provisions listed above, and he seeks unspecified injunctive relief and damages. (Id. at 3-10, 18.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se 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 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 to state a claim. 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 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         The court concludes that the Complaint is subject to summary dismissal because Plaintiff fails to provide sufficient factual allegations to support his claims that the named defendants violated his constitutional rights. 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)). 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).

         But here, Plaintiff fails to allege any facts about the named defendants that would show that they had any involvement in the purported constitutional violations. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (providing that a plaintiff in a § 1983 action must plead that the defendant, through his own individual actions, violated the Constitution); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985) (“In order for an individual to be liable under § 1983, it must be ‘affirmatively shown that the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights. The doctrine of respondeat superior has no application under this section.' ”) (quoting Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977)). Because Plaintiff does not explain how the named defendants were involved in the purported violation of Plaintiff's rights, Plaintiff fails to meet the federal pleading standards. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (requiring that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (stating Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, but it requires more than a plain accusation that the defendant unlawfully harmed the plaintiff, devoid of factual support).

         Consequently, Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 19159(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff is hereby granted twenty-one (21) days from the date this order is entered (plus three days for mail time) to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) that corrects the deficiencies identified above.[1] If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint ...

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