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Savage v. Lamartiniere

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

September 20, 2019




         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have fourteen (14) days after being served with the attached Report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions, and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge which have been accepted by the District Court.



         This matter comes before the Court on Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of defendants Joseph Lamartiniere and Marcus Jones (R. Doc. 16). The motion is opposed. See R. Doc. 38.

         The pro se plaintiff, an inmate confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (“LSP”), Angola, Louisiana, filed this proceeding pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that his constitutional rights were violated due to retaliation.[1] He prays for monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief.

         Defendants Lamartiniere and Jones first seek dismissal on jurisdictional grounds, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, of the plaintiff's § 1983 claims against them for compensatory damages in their individual capacities. In this regard, the defendants are correct that the plaintiff is not entitled to recover compensatory damages from the defendants in this case. Specifically, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), “[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner ... for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.” The plaintiff does not suggest in his Complaint that he has suffered any physical injury as a result of the events alleged. As such, he will be limited to a recovery of nominal or punitive damages if successful. See Hutchins v. McDaniels, 512 F.3d 193, 198 (5th Cir. 2007). In order to recover punitive damages, the plaintiff is required to make a showing that the defendants violated his constitutional rights with “evil intent” or “callous indifference.” See Allen v. Stalder, 201 F. App'x. 276 (5th Cir. 2006), citing Williams v. Kaufman County, 352 F.3d 994, 1015 (5th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, the plaintiff's § 1983 claims asserted against the defendants in their individual capacities, for compensatory damages, are subject to dismissal.

         The defendants next assert, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court clarified the standard of pleading that a plaintiff must meet in order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, supra, at 555. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, supra, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, supra. “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.” Id. It follows that, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.' ” Id. at 679. “Where a Complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Id. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the Complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Further, “[a] document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed' ... and ‘a pro se Complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Id. (citation omitted). Notwithstanding, the court need not accept “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or “naked assertions [of unlawful conduct] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, supra, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In his Complaint, as amended[2], the plaintiff alleges that he filed a grievance regarding his medical treatment on December 26, 2017. On April 17, 2018, the plaintiff was issued a false disciplinary report for sexual assault on another inmate. The plaintiff was escorted by defendant Jones to administrative segregation and defendant Jones ordered the plaintiff to submit a urine sample. Defendant Jones informed the plaintiff that his urine tested positive for methamphetamine. The plaintiff explained to defendant Jones that the results were inaccurate because the plaintiff did not use drugs and had never tested positive for drugs in over 25 years of incarceration. Defendant Jones responded, “I believe you, Savage, but I'm just a pawn in this scheme. You got to get your business straight with Assistant Wardens Joseph Lamartiniere and Kevin Benjamin because they are mad about the grievance you filed against the Treatment Center for inadequate medical care.”

         The plaintiff then requested that his urine sample be taken to the Treatment Center to confirm his assertion that the positive results were inaccurate. Defendant Jones forwarded the plaintiff's sample to the lab for further testing. On April 18 or 19, 2018, the lab informed defendant Jones that the plaintiff's urine sample was negative for methamphetamine. Defendant Jones then contacted defendants Lamartiniere and Benjamin who instructed defendant Jones to rewrite the contraband report and omit any reference to the additional test of the plaintiff's urine sample. Defendants Lamartiniere and Benjamin then advised the disciplinary board to dismiss the plaintiff's disciplinary report for contraband and proceed with a revised version.

         On April 19, 2018, the plaintiff appeared before the disciplinary board and was advised that the violation for contraband was dismissed. The hearing was deferred to a later date so that the plaintiff could prepare a defense on the revised report. On May 7, 2018, the plaintiff was found guilty of the charge brought in the revised report and sentenced to a low privileged (drug) dorm.

         Turning to the plaintiff's claim that false disciplinary charges were levied against him in retaliation for the grievance filed in December of 2017, it is prohibited for prison officials to take action against an inmate in retaliation for the inmate's exercise of his constitutional rights. See Woods v. Smith, 60 F.3d 1161, 1165 (5th Cir. 1995). The purpose of allowing retaliation claims under § 1983 is to ensure that prisoners are not unduly discouraged from exercising their constitutional rights. Morris v Powell, 449 F.3d 682, 686 (5th Cir. 2006). Claims of retaliation by prison inmates, however, are regarded with skepticism, lest the federal courts potentially embroil themselves in every adverse action that occurs within a penal institution. Woods v. Smith, supra, 60 F.3d at 1166. Accordingly, to prevail on a claim of retaliation, a prisoner must establish (1) that he was exercising or attempting to exercise a specific constitutional right, (2) that the defendant intentionally retaliated against the prisoner for the exercise of that right, (3) that an adverse retaliatory action, greater than de minimis, was undertaken against the prisoner by the defendant, and (4) that there is causation, i.e., that “but for” the retaliatory motive, the adverse action would not have occurred. Morris v. Powell, supra, 449 F.3d at 684. See also Hart v. Hairston, 343 F.3d 762, 764 ...

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