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Easton v. Leoperd

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

April 19, 2019

Michael Easton, Plaintiff,
v.
Lt. Kristi Leoperd, Defendant.

          ORDER AND NOTICE

          Shiva V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.

         Michael J. Easton (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint against Lt. Kristi Leoperd (“Leoperd”) alleging violations of his constitutional rights. 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 violations of his 5th, 8th, and 18th Amendment rights due to: (1) “God awful conditions, ” (2) “safety, ” (3) “food unsanitized, ” (4) “jumped in B block, ” and (5) being held past his 20-day extradition period twice. [ECF No. 1 at 4-5]. He alleges he suffered a “nasty scar” on his forehead and seeks monetary damages. [ECF No. 1 at 6].

         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 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.

         To state a plausible claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [1] an aggrieved party must sufficiently allege he was injured by “the deprivation of any [of his or her] rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the [United States] Constitution and laws” by a “person” acting “under color of state law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see generally 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1230 (3d ed. 2014).

         To assert a viable § 1983 claim against a public official, a causal connection or affirmative link must exist between the public official and his/her conduct. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (providing a plaintiff in a § 1983 action must plead that the defendant, through his own individual actions, violated the Constitution); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976) (a § 1983 plaintiff must show he suffered a specific injury as a result of specific conduct of a defendant, and an affirmative link between the injury and that conduct); 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)); Vinnedge, 550 F.2d at 928 (for an individual to be liable under § 1983, it must be affirmatively shown the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights).

         Further, Plaintiff must show Leoperd acted with deliberate indifference. See Hill v. Nicodemus, 979 F.2d 987, 991 (4th Cir. 1992). Generally, to establish a claim based on alleged deliberate indifference, a detainee 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). 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 anyone unwillingly to such a risk. In other words, the prisoner must show that the risk of which he complains is not one that today's society chooses to tolerate.” Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 36 (1993).

         As written, Plaintiff's complaint fails to connect Leoperd to any of the alleged constitutional deprivations, to allege deliberate indifference, or to allege sufficient facts to state a viable ...


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