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Allen v. Parish

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 2, 2018

ROBERT EUGENE ALLEN
v.
ST. TAMMANY PARISH, ET AL.

         SECTION: “I” (1)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JANIS VAN MEERVELD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Robert Eugene Allen, a state pretrial detainee, filed this pro se and in forma pauperis civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against St. Tammany Parish, the St. Tammany Parish Jail, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Board of Supervisors, and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith. In this lawsuit, plaintiff challenged various conditions of his former confinement in the St. Tammany Parish Jail.[1]

         To better understand the factual bases of plaintiff's claims, the Court held a Spears hearing on July 31, 2017. See Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985). “[T]he Spears procedure affords the plaintiff an opportunity to verbalize his complaints, in a manner of communication more comfortable to many prisoners.” Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005-06 (5th Cir. 1998). The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has observed that a Spears hearing is in the nature of a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e) motion for more definite statement. Eason v. Holt, 73 F.3d 600, 602 (5th Cir. 1996). Spears hearing testimony becomes a part of the total filing by the pro se applicant. Id.

         Based on plaintiff's complaint and Spears hearing testimony, the Court finds that he is making the following allegations in this lawsuit:

         Plaintiff was arrested on February 27, 2017, and detained in various holding cells at the St. Tammany Parish Jail with approximately twenty-eight other inmates for fifteen days.[2] He alleged that this was improper, in that it violated the minimum jail standards set forth in the Louisiana Administrative Code. Specifically, he stated that the code provides that new and renovated holding cells are to house no more than eight inmates with a minimum of thirty square feet of floor space per person. He conceded that he did not know whether the holding cells at the St. Tammany Parish Jail qualified as “new and renovated” under the code, but he noted that they are located in a new section of the jail. He further stated that the code provides that inmates are to be housed in the holding cells for no more than forty-eight hours before being classified and transferred to regular housing.

         He testified that each holding cell had only one toilet/sink combination. He further stated that no fresh drinking water was available in the holding cells other than the water that barely dribbled from a mold-covered water fountain or faucet. At meals, the only options for drinks were strong Kool-Aid or milk.

         He further testified that inmates had to sleep directly on the concrete floor without a mattress.

         Subsequent to the Spears hearing, plaintiff amended his complaint in the following respects:

• Plaintiff advised the Court that he had attempted to resolve this matter in the state courts; however, he was unable to pay the required filing fees.[3]
• After the Spears hearing, plaintiff learned that jail officials allowed the inmates in the holding cells outside for a thirty-minute “yard call.”[4]
• On August 4, 2017, the kiosk in the general population area was out of order. When it resumed operating, the law library function would not work. Plaintiff alleged that this was a form of retaliation for his lawsuit.[5]
• After the Spears hearing, plaintiff was diagnosed with diabetes, a condition he attributes to the fact that he had to lay on the concrete floor of the holding cells. He also suffers from kidney pain and a “‘possible' enlarged pancreas.”[6]
• After being transferred from the St. Tammany Parish Jail, plaintiff was diagnosed with a “gastrointestinal bacterial infection, ” a condition he attributes to unsanitary conditions he experienced at the St. Tammany Parish Jail.[7]

         I. Screening Standards

         Federal law mandates that federal courts “review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).[8] Regarding such lawsuits, federal law further requires:

         On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint -

(1) 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(b).

         Additionally, with respect to actions filed in forma pauperis, such as the instant lawsuit, federal law similarly provides:

Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court ...

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