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Blakney v. Ray

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

September 9, 2019

Larry Blakney, Plaintiff,
v.
Patricia Ray, Captain McFadden, Defendants.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kevin F. McDonald, United States Magistrate Judge

         The plaintiff, a pretrial detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Constitutional rights (doc. 1). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in this case and submit findings and recommendations to the district court.

         The plaintiff's complaint was entered on the docket on July 9, 2019 (doc. 1). By orders filed July 12, 2019, and July 29, 2019, the plaintiff was given a specific time frame in which to bring his case into proper form for judicial screening (docs. 7; 12). The plaintiff complied with the Court's Order, bringing his case into proper form. By Order filed on August 13, 2019, the plaintiff was informed that his complaint was subject to summary dismissal because it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (doc. 16). In the same Order, the plaintiff was informed that he could attempt to cure the defects in his complaint by filing an amended complaint within fourteen days (doc. 16 at 4-5). The plaintiff was informed that if he failed to file an amended complaint or cure the deficiencies outlined in the Order, the undersigned would recommend that his claims be dismissed (id.). The plaintiff has failed to file an amended complaint within the time provided; accordingly, the undersigned recommends that the instant matter be dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff is a pretrial detainee in the Darlington County Detention Center (“DCDC”) (doc. 1 at 1). The plaintiff alleges that the defendants placed him on lockdown for thirty (30) days (id. at 4). While on lockdown, the plaintiff contends he was denied access to showers and hygiene and was not allowed to clean his “living area” (id.). The plaintiff alleges that these actions by the defendants constituted cruel and unusual punishment and violated his First and Fifth Amendment Rights (id.). For injuries, the plaintiff contends that he has bumps under his armpits and a rash in his genital area (id. at 6). The plaintiff seeks a “disposition” that the defendants violated his rights and money damages for mental distress he has suffered (id.).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the in forma pauperis statute. This statute authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that the action “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Further, the plaintiff is a prisoner under the definition of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), and “seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Thus, even if the plaintiff had prepaid the full filing fee, this Court is charged with screening the plaintiff's lawsuit to identify cognizable claims or to dismiss the complaint if (1) it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         As a pro se litigant, the plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (per curiam). 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, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         This 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)). A civil action under § 1983 “creates a private right of action to vindicate violations of ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States.” Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 361 (2012). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (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).

         DISCUSSION

         As noted above, the plaintiff filed the instant action pursuant to § 1983, seeking damages from the defendants. For the reasons that follow, the instant matter is subject to summary dismissal.

         The plaintiff's conditions of confinement claims-alleged as cruel and unusual punishment-are insufficient to state a claim for relief and are subject to summary dismissal. At all relevant times herein, the plaintiff was a pretrial detainee; thus, his claims are evaluated under the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment (which is used to evaluate conditions of confinement claims for individuals convicted of crimes). See City of Revere v. Mass. Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 243-44 (1983). In any event, “[the] due process rights of a pretrial detainee are at least as great as the [E]ighth [A]mendment protections available to the convicted prisoner.” Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988). To state a claim that conditions of confinement violate constitutional requirements, a plaintiff must show that he was deprived of a basic human need and that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to that deprivation. Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1379 (4th Cir. 1993). The first prong of the Strickler analysis requires an objective showing that the deprivation was sufficiently serious, such that significant physical or emotional injury resulted from it, while the second prong is a subjective test requiring evidence that prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Id. (citing and partially quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)).

         The plaintiff's complaint, even liberally construed, does not meet the first Strickler prong: he has failed to allege that being on lockdown for thirty days without access to shower or to hygiene caused him significant physical or emotional injury. Indeed, while the plaintiff's complaint indicates that he was “mentally disturbed” by the conditions and had bumps under his arms and a rash in his genital area, these injuries are at best de minimis injuries which do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. See Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 657, 674 (1977) (“There is, of course, a de minimis level of imposition with which the Constitution is not concerned.”); see Thompson v. Brown, C/A No. 3:11-318-TMC-JRM, 2011 WL 6012592, at *3 (D.S.C. Nov. 8, 2011) (finding no constitutional violation when the plaintiff failed to show that “his living conditions caused him anything more than de minimis injuries”), Report and Recommendation adopted by 2011 WL 6012550 (D.S.C. Dec. 2, 2011). The plaintiff's complaint also fails to plausibly allege the second Strickler prong, that the defendants acted with a culpable state of mind. The plaintiff's complaint contains only conclusory allegations that the defendants placed him lockdown, but none that they acted with the mind-set to punish him or cause him harm (see doc. 1 at 4, 5-6).[1] As such, the plaintiff's complaint is subject to summary dismissal as drafted because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         RECO ...


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