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Brown v. May

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

July 27, 2019

Tequan L. Brown, Plaintiff,
v.
Jim May; Jeffery Long; Jeffery Scott; Bryan P. Stirling; Charles Williams, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Tequan L. Brown, a self-represented state prisoner, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff files this action in forma pauperis under 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.) for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction (ECF No. 3) and Defendant Bryan P. Stirling's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 62). Stirling filed a response to Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction (ECF No. 19) and Plaintiff filed a reply. (ECF No. 45). Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the court advised Plaintiff of the summary judgment and dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to the defendant's motion. (ECF No. 63.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion (ECF No. 72), and Stirling filed a reply (ECF No. 79). Having reviewed the record presented and the applicable law, the court finds Stirling's motion to dismiss should be granted and Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction should be terminated in light of that recommendation.

         BACKGROUND

         The following allegations are taken as true for purposes of resolving Stirling's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff is an inmate currently confined at the McCormick Correctional Institution of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”). Plaintiff is housed in Statewide Protective Custody (“SWPC”), a housing unit for inmates with special security concerns. Plaintiff was placed in SWPC on August 26, 2016 because other inmates threatened Plaintiff. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13-14, 22, 32, ECF No. 55 at 5, 7, 9.)

         Plaintiff raises two claims against Defendant Stirling. First, Plaintiff claims Stirling has been deliberately indifferent to threats on Plaintiff's life by other SWPC inmates. Plaintiff has received specific threats on his life because Plaintiff provided information to federal and state law enforcement officials in a high-profile murder investigation. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 19, 21, 35-36, 46, ECF No. 55 at 5-7, 10). Specifically, three other inmates in SWPC have told Plaintiff that a gang has a bounty on his head, and one of those inmates, Timothy R. Rainey, [1] told Plaintiff that Rainey received $5, 000 to stab Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36. ECF No. 55 at 10.) Rainey tried to hit Plaintiff in the face with a lock in a sock, and another inmate twice came into Plaintiff's cell with knives. (Id. ¶ 38, ECF No. 55 at 11.) Separately, Plaintiff also informed SCDC's Jeffery Scott, the Assistant Chief of Police Services, of these encounters. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 39, ECF No. 55 at 3, 11.) Plaintiff informed Scott and Defendant Stirling, the Director of SCDC, that Rainey was threatening Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 43, ECF No. 55 at 12.) Plaintiff believes Rainey is still currently a threat to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 52, 70, 79, ECF No. 55 at 15, 21, 25.)

         Second, Plaintiff claims Stirling has been deliberately indifferent to the conditions of the SWPC facility. Plaintiff alleges that inmates in SWPC are on lock-down for twenty-three to twenty-four hours per day, sometimes go five to six days without a shower, are not allowed to have religious services, are not given legal research tools, and are limited to one phone call per day. (Id. ¶ 50, ECF No. 55 at 14.) He further alleges that SWPC inmates are also denied access to rehabilitation programs, GED programs, drug treatment, and social services, and are not allowed to earn work credits or good conduct credits. (Id. ¶ 51, ECF No. 55 at 14-15.) Plaintiff seeks an injunction requiring SCDC to provide these programs, services, and benefits to inmates in SWPC. (Id. ¶ 79, ECF No. 55 at 25.)

         Plaintiff filed this action on December 12, 2018. As to Defendant Stirling, [2] Plaintiff raises claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of failure to protect and deliberate indifference to conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff also seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction requiring SCDC to remove Rainey from SWPC. (ECF No. 3.)

         DISCUSSION

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) examines the legal sufficiency of the facts alleged on the face of the complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). 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, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially plausible when the factual content allows the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The court “may also consider documents attached to the complaint, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c), as well as those attached to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic.” Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Blankenship v. Manchin, 471 F.3d 523, 526 n.1 (4th Cir. 2006)).

         Further, while the federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see, e.g., Erickson, 551 U.S. 89, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a federal claim, nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Defendant Stirling's Motion to Dismiss

         Stirling argues Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The court agrees.[3]

         To bring a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a prisoner must exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), specifically 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Section 1997e(a) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” This requirement “applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Generally, to satisfy this requirement, a plaintiff must avail himself of every level of available administrative review. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731 (2001); but see Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850 (2016) (describing limited circumstances where exhaustion may be excused). The exhaustion requirement will not be excused even where the plaintiff alleges he is in imminent danger. See McAlphin v. Toney, 375 F.3d 753, 755 (8th Cir. 2004); Arbuckle v. Bouchard, 92 Fed.Appx. 289, 291 (6th Cir. 2004). Those remedies neither need to meet federal standards, nor are they required to be plain, speedy, and effective. Porter, 534 U.S. at 524 (quoting Booth, 532 U.S. at 739). Satisfaction of the exhaustion requirement requires “using all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006) (quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th ...


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