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Shorter v. Stephon

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

November 4, 2019

Samuel Shorter, III, Plaintiff,
v.
Michael Stephon, Associate Warden Peoples, Defendants.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kevin F. McDonald, United States Magistrate Judge.

         The plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. 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 cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and submit findings and recommendations to the district court.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The plaintiff's complaint was entered on the docket on August 26, 2019 (doc. 1). By order filed August 28, 2019, the plaintiff was given a specific time frame in which to bring his case into proper form for judicial screening (doc. 7). The plaintiff complied with the court's order, bringing his case into proper form. In his initial complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he was moved into the Wateree dorm at Broad River Correctional Institution (“Broad River”) on March 25, 2019 (id. at 5). He alleged he was afraid of gang members in this dorm, and that the Warden and Associate Warden of the Broad River refused to move him to a different dorm. As a result, he alleged that he suffered severe anxiety and trouble sleeping (id.). On September 20, 2019, the undersigned issued an order informing the plaintiff that his complaint was subject to dismissal as drafted and providing him with fourteen days to file an amended complaint and correct the deficiencies noted in the order (doc. 12). On October 2, 2019, the plaintiff's amended complaint was entered on the docket (doc. 15). In it, he abandons his initial claims concerning prison dorm placement and gang fears, and now blames his anxiety and lack of sleep on his lack of outdoor recreation and sunlight (id.). On October 9, 2019, the undersigned issued a second order informing the plaintiff that his complaint, as amended, was subject to dismissal as drafted and providing him with the opportunity to file a second amended complaint and correct the deficiencies noted in the order (doc. 18). The plaintiff was informed that if he failed to file a second 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 a second amended complaint within the time provided; accordingly, the undersigned recommends that the instant matter be dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         As noted, the plaintiff is a state inmate in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”) at Broad River. His amended complaint contends that his constitutional rights have been violated because he has not been allowed outdoor recreation time since April of 2018[1], and that his window does not allow sunlight (doc. 15 at 4-5). The plaintiff indicates that he spoke with both Warden Stephon and A/W Peoples about his access to outdoor recreation and was informed that recreation was a privilege and not a right (id. at 5-6). The plaintiff's alleged injuries include suffering from anxiety and not being able to sleep (id.). The plaintiff seeks $100, 000.00 in damages (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. Nevertheless, the plaintiff's second amended complaint is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Eighth Amendment expressly prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII. To succeed on an Eighth Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment regarding the conditions of his confinement, a prisoner must prove that he was deprived of a basic human need and that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to that deprivation. See 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 Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)).

         The plaintiff alleges that Warden Stephon and A/W Peoples have prevented him from attending outdoor recreation and that upon request, the defendants informed him that recreation time was a privilege and not a right (id. at 5-6). Although the denial of out-of-cell exercise may violate the constitution over an extended period of time, Mitchell v. Rice, 954 F.2d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 1992), the plaintiff's amended complaint does not allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (noting that “a claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”) (citing Twombly v. Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. 544, 556-57 (2007)); Griffith v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., C/A No. 2:12-239-DCN, 2012 WL 2048200, at *1 (D.S.C. June 6, 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (noting that the plausibility standard requires more than “‘an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.'”). Indeed, although “it is well-established that there is a constitutional necessity for some out-of-cell exercise, it is equally recognized that penological considerations may justify restrictions.” Koon v. Ozmint, C/A No. 8:06-1072-RBH, 2007 WL 1585161, at *1 (D.S.C. May 21, 2007) (citing Mitchell v. Rice, 954 F.2d 187, 192 (4th ...


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