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Christmas v. Leblanc

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division

January 29, 2018

RAYSHAUN J. CHRISTMAS, Plaintiff
v.
JAMES LEBLANC, ET AL., Defendants

          DEE D. DRELL, JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes, United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is a civil rights complaint (42 U.S.C. § 1983) filed by pro se Plaintiff Rayshaun J. Christmas (“Christmas”) (#433850). Christmas was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 4). Christmas is an inmate in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections (“DOC”), incarcerated at the David Wade Correctional Center (“DWCC”) in Homer, Louisiana. Christmas complains that Defendants Major McFarland and Lt. Hayes failed to protect him from an attack by another inmate when he was housed at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana.

         This matter has been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of the Court.

         I. Background

         Christmas alleges he stopped Major McFarland after pill call to inform him that Christmas and another inmate were involved in a fist fight about a cell phone on their shared tier, Birch-B1. (Doc. 13, p. 5). The inmate threatened to kill Christmas if he returned to the B1 tier. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). Major McFarland responded that he did not have time at that moment to deal with the issue. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). Christmas then told Lt. Hayes about the problem. Lt. Hayes also advised Christmas that he did not have time to address the problem at that moment because a shift change was imminent. (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         Christmas then exited his tier and went to visit a friend on the Birch-A1 tier. (Doc. 13, p. 6). When Christmas was leaving the Birch-A1 tier, he was attacked by the inmate that had threatened him, and Christmas suffered serious injuries. (Doc. I, pp. 5-6). Christmas received a disciplinary charge for being on the Birch-A1 tier.

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Christmas's complaint is subject to screening under §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.

         Christmas is a prisoner who has been permitted to proceed in forma pauperis. As a prisoner seeking redress from an officer or employee of a governmental entity, Christmas's complaint is subject to preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. See Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, 579-80 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, Christmas's complaint is also subject to screening under § 1915(e)(2). Both §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b) provide for sua sponte dismissal of the complaint, or any portion thereof, if the Court finds it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         A complaint is frivolous when it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

         B. Christmas cannot show Defendants acted with deliberate indifference or that Defendants' actions caused his injuries.

         Prison officials have a duty to protect inmates from violence by other inmates, and to take reasonable measures to protect their safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994). However, not every injury “by one prisoner at the hands of another ... translates into constitutional liability for prison officials responsible for the victim's safety.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Prison officials can be held liable for their failure to protect an inmate only when they are deliberately indifferent to a known substantial risk of serious harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Newton v. Black, 133 F.3d 301, 308 (5th Cir. 1998). A plaintiff must show that he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm and that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his safety or his need for protection. Neals v. Norwood, 59 F.3d 530, 533 (5th Cir. 1995).

         An official is deliberately indifferent to an inmate's health and safety only if he knows that the inmate faces a “substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847; see Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 326 (5th Cir. 1999). The United States Fifth Circuit has explained that “[d]eliberate indifference is a conscious choice to endanger constitutional rights.” Mesa v. Prejean, 543 F.3d 264, 274 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Snyder v. Trepagnier, 142 F.3d 791, 799 (5th Cir. 1998)). “Deliberate indifference cannot be inferred merely from a negligent or even a grossly negligent response to a substantial risk of harm.” Thompson v. ...


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