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Marshall v. Pohlman

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 22, 2017




         Before the Court is a complaint filed by the pro se pauper Plaintiff Madison Marshall, III (“Marshall”) filed against Defendant Sheriff James Pohlman. In accordance with Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the consent of the parties, this matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for all further proceedings and entry of judgment. R. Doc. 12. Upon review, the Court has determined that the complaint is frivolous. As such, for the following reasons, the Plaintiff's claims against Sheriff Pohlman are DISMISSED.

         I. Background

         On October 28, 2016, the Plaintiff Madison Marshall, III filed the instant complaint. R. Doc. 1. On November 1, 2016, the Court granted Marshall's request to proceed in forma pauperis. Marshall alleges that from August 19, 2016 through September 29, 2016 he was living in an unfit environment in the St. Bernard Parish jail. He alleges that the toilets did not function and that he had to smell urine for a week where he slept and ate. R. Doc. 1, p. 5. Marshall also states that he complained about the feeding situation as the plastic plates were filthy and dirty with black stains. Id. at p. 5, 8. Moreover, he complains that the showers were full of mold and mildew. Id. He further states that water leaked everywhere in the shower and that the only cleaning supplies were a mop and broom. Id. Marshall asserts that he filed complaints with the Ranking St. Bernard Deputys, but that he was ignored. Marshall seeks $500, 000 for the unsanitary practices and environments he was housed in as well as the unfit living quarters. Id. at p. 6.

         II. Standard of Review

         “[A] District Court may dismiss without prejudice a pro se litigant's complaint if it is frivolous or malicious.” Harris v. United States Dept. of Justice, 680 F.2d 1109, 1111 (5th Cir. 1982) (citing Mitchell v. Beaubouef, 581 F.2d 412, 416 (5th Cir. 1978)). As the Fifth Circuit in Harris explained:

The two stage procedure that has been adopted in this Circuit for processing prisoner pro se complaints filed in forma pauperis has full application in the present context for it gives adequate protection to those not represented by attorneys and comports with the explicit provisions of 28 U.S.C. [§] 1915. The District Court first decides whether the litigant meets the economic requirements to proceed in forma pauperis. Then, pursuant to [§] 1915[(e)(2)], the Court may dismiss the complaint if, upon giving it the liberal reading traditionally granted pro se complaints, it determines that it is unmeritorious, frivolous or malicious.

680 F.2d at 1111 (internal citations omitted); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also Phillips v. City of Dallas, 2015 WL 233336, at *4 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 14, 2015) (noting that “a district court may summarily dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it concludes that the action” is frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim).

         The Court has broad discretion in determining the frivolous nature of the complaint. See Cay v. Estelle, 789 F.2d 318 (5th Cir. 1986), modified on other grounds, Booker v. Koonce, 2 F.3d 114 (5th Cir. 1993). However, the Court may not sua sponte dismiss an action merely because of questionable legal theories or unlikely factual allegations in the complaint.

         A claim is frivolous only when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 213 (5th Cir. 1998). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an undisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Harper v. Showers, 174 F.3d 716, 718 (5th Cir. 1999). It lacks an arguable factual basis only if the facts alleged are "clearly baseless, " a category encompassing fanciful, fantastic, and delusional allegations. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28. Therefore, the Court must determine whether the plaintiffs' claims are based on an undisputably meritless legal theory or clearly baseless factual allegations. Reeves v. Collins, 27 F.3d 174, 176 (5th Cir. 1994); see Jackson v. Vannoy, 49 F.3d 175, 176-77 (5th Cir. 1995); Moore v. Mabus, 976 F.2d 268, 269 (5th Cir. 1992).

         III. Analysis

         A. Improper Defendant

         Marshall has named Sheriff Pohlman as defendants, seeking to hold him liable in his supervisory roles in the facility. However, a supervisory official cannot be held liable pursuant to § 1983 under any theory of respondeat superior simply because an employee or subordinate allegedly violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Alton v. Texas A&M Univ., 168 F.3d 196, 200 (5th Cir. 1999); see also Baskin v. Parker, 602 F.2d 1205, 1220 (5th Cir. 1979). Moreover, a state actor may be liable under § 1983 only if he “was personally involved in the acts causing the deprivation of his constitutional rights or a causal connection exists between an act of the official and the alleged constitutional violation.” Douthit v. Jones, 641 F.2d 345, 346 (5th Cir. 1981); see also Watson v. Interstate Fire & Cas. Co., 611 F.2d 120 (5th Cir. 1980).

         Marshall has not alleged that Sheriff Pohlman was personally involved in not properly providing a clean living facility. The only alleged connection Sheriff Pohlman appears to have with the case is that he should be in charge of the St. Bernard Parish Jail. Without some personal action or connection which would render Sheriff Pohlman liable under § 1983, Marshall's claims against Sheriff ...

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