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Miller v. Easterling

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

June 10, 2019


         SECTION P



          Karen L. Hayes United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Moses Mack Miller, a prisoner at Richland Parish Detention Center proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed the instant proceeding on March 8, 201');">1');">1');">19, under 42 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1983. He names the following Defendants: Cameron Easterling, Lieutenant Bordelon, Sheriff Kevin Cobb, Warden Chad Lee, Nurse Daina Bordelon, Captain Randy Sewell, Secretary James LeBlanc, and Franklin Parish Detention Center.[1');">1');">1');">1" name="FN1');">1');">1');">1" id="FN1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1]

         For reasons that follow, the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's claims against Franklin Parish Detention Center, Secretary James LeBlanc, and Captain Randy Sewell. The Court should also dismiss Plaintiff's conditions-of-confinement claim against Warden Lee. The Court should stay Plaintiff's excessive force claims against Cameron Easterling and Lieutenant Bordelon pending the outcome of Plaintiff's ongoing criminal prosecution.

         The Court should retain Plaintiff's claims of lack of medical care against Nurse Daina and Warden Lee, as well as Plaintiff's First Amendment claim that he was unable to contact friends, family, and the "outside world."


         Plaintiff alleges that, on October 4, 201');">1');">1');">18, Officer Easterling assaulted, choked, and repeatedly punched him in the face after he requested an administrative remedy procedure form. [doc. # 1');">1');">1');">1, p. 3');">p. 3');">p. 3');">p. 3]. Plaintiff was, thereafter, handcuffed and escorted to the “nurses station, ” but before he arrived, Lieutenant Bordelon grabbed him, slammed him against the wall, elbowed him in the neck and head, slammed his face against a brick wall, knocked him unconscious, and broke his front tooth. Id. at 3-4.

         Plaintiff writes: “The next thing I noticed [was] that I couldn't breathe . . . . Id. at 4. Plaintiff was handcuffed, and Lieutenant Bordelon dragged him “down the hall by the collar of [his] sweatshirt to the nurses station.” [doc. #s 1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 4, 9; 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p. 1');">1');">1');">1]. Plaintiff alleges that although he was “weak and unable to sit up right, ” Nurse Daina refused to treat him, stating, “I'll see him later.” [doc. # 1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 4, 9]. Lieutenant Bordelon then dragged Plaintiff by his collar “back down the hall to the drunk tank . . . .” Id. Plaintiff and officers informed Warden Lee of the altercations, but the Warden refused to provide any medical treatment. [doc. #s 1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">10; 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, 2');">p. 2].

         The next day, Warden Lee placed Plaintiff in a holding cell for three weeks, where he was unable to contact anyone and lacked access to the law library, visitors, recreation, forms, motions, and medical treatment. [doc. #s 1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 5');">p. 5, 1');">1');">1');">10; 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p. 5]. He could only shower "once or twice a week." [doc. # 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p. 5');">p. 5]. Plaintiff wrote letters and requests to Warden Lee, but Warden Lee never responded. Id.

         On an unknown date, Plaintiff was transferred to his current place of confinement, and on April 1');">1');">1');">12, 201');">1');">1');">19, a nurse practitioner evaluated him, found "no major injuries," and prescribed a steroid. Id. at 4. On approximately April 24, 201');">1');">1');">19, the nurse practitioner prescribed an unidentified medication. Id. Plaintiff, however, remains in constant pain and desires an x-ray to evaluate the extent of his injuries.[2" name="FN2" id="FN2">2] Id.

         Plaintiff claims that, to cover up the excessive force, Sheriff Kevin Cobb retaliated against him by denying him medical treatment following the uses of force described above, shipping him to a disciplinary camp, and charging him with battery of a correctional officer, defiance, and aggravated disobedience.[3] [doc. #s 1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 4, 1');">1');">1');">10; 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p2');">p. 2-3]. Plaintiff maintains that the charges "and/or infractions arose from the October 4, 201');">1');">1');">18 uses of force." [doc. # 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p. 3');">p. 3');">p. 3');">p. 3]. His battery charge remains pending, but he was convicted of the two disciplinary violations. Id. Because of the latter two convictions, he lost six months of good-time credit. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that, although Captain Randy Sewell reviewed surveillance footage of the uses of force, Sewell “still” maintains that “the incident didn't happen the way” Plaintiff describes it. [doc. # 1');">1');">1');">1, p. 5');">p. 5].

         Plaintiff seeks relief from all defendants in their individual and (presumably)[4] official capacities. He seeks declaratory relief, punitive damages, reimbursement for court costs, $350, 000.00 from each defendant, and medical treatment for his head, neck, shoulder, and tooth. Id. at 6-7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, 1');">1');">1');">12. He also asks the Court to discharge Warden Lee from his employment. [doc. # 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p. 5');">p. 5].

         Law and Analysis

         1');">1');">1');">1. Preliminary Screening

         Plaintiff 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, his complaint is subject to preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">15A.[5] See Martin v. Scott, 1');">1');">1');">156 F.3d 57');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">78, 57');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">79-80 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1998) (per curiam). Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, his Complaint is also subject to screening under § 1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">15(e)(2). Both § 1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">15(e)(2)(B) and § 1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">15A(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 on 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, 1');">1');">1');">19');">490 U.S. 31');">1');">1');">19, 325 (1');">1');">1');">1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7. Courts are also afforded the unusual power to pierce the veil of the factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id.

         A complaint fails to state a claim on 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, 57');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70 (2007');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 2');">556 U.S. 662, 67');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">78 (2009). A claim is facially plausible when it contains sufficient factual content for the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 67');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">78 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 57');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70). Plausibility does not equate to possibility or probability; it lies somewhere in between. Id. Plausibility simply calls for enough factual allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence to support the elements of the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         Assessing whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, supra. A well-pled complaint may proceed even if it strikes the court that actual proof of the asserted facts is improbable and that recovery is unlikely. Twombly, supra.

         Likewise, a complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted if it appears that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proven consistent with the allegations of the complaint. In making this determination, the court must assume that all of the plaintiff's factual allegations are true. Bradley v. Puckett, 1');">1');">1');">157');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1022, 1');">1');">1');">1025 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1998). However, the same presumption does not extend to legal conclusions. Iqbal, supra. A pleading comprised of “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” does not satisfy Rule 8. Id. “[P]laintiffs must allege facts that support the elements of the cause of action in order to make out a valid claim.” City of Clinton, Ark. v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp, 2 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">148');">632 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">148, 1');">1');">1');">152-53 (5th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">10). Courts are “not free to speculate that the plaintiff ‘might' be able to state a claim if given yet another opportunity to add more facts to the complaint.” Macias v. Raul A. (Unknown) Badge No. 1');">1');">1');">153, 23 F.3d 94');">23 F.3d 94, 97');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1994).

         A hearing need not be conducted for every pro se complaint. Wilson v. Barrientos, 26 F.2d 480');">926 F.2d 480, 483 n.4 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1991');">1');">1');">1). A district court may dismiss a prisoner's civil rights complaint as frivolous based upon the complaint and exhibits alone. Green v. McKaskle, 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">788 F.2d 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">16, 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">120 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1986).

         “To state a section 1');">1');">1');">1983 claim, a plaintiff must (1');">1');">1');">1) allege a violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) demonstrate that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” Whitley v. Hanna, 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">726 F.3d 631');">1');">1');">1');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">726 F.3d 631');">1');">1');">1, 638 (5th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">13) (internal quotation marks omitted). Consistent with the standard above, a “[S]ection 1');">1');">1');">1983 complaint must state specific facts, not simply legal and constitutional conclusions.” Fee v. Herndon, 2d 804');">900 F.2d 804, 807');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1990).

         2. Franklin Parish Detention Center

         Plaintiff names Franklin Parish Detention Center (“FPDC”) as a defendant. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1');">1');">1');">17');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7(b)(3) provides that the “[c]apacity to sue or be sued is determined . . . by the law of the state where the court is located . . . .” Under Louisiana law, an entity must qualify as a “juridical person, ” which is “an entity to which the law attributes personality, such as a corporation or partnership.” La. Civ. Code art. 24. Here, FPDC does not qualify as a juridical person. Accordingly, the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's claims against it.

         3. Heck v. Humphrey and Wallace v. Kato

         Plaintiff alleges that Officer Easterling and Lieutenant Bordelon utilized excessive force. Plaintiff, however, was charged with battery of a correctional officer, [6] and he concedes that the pending charge "arose from the October 4, 201');">1');">1');">18 uses of force." [doc. ...

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