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Ferguson v. City of Cleveland

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 11, 2018

NATHANIEL FERGUSON, Pro Se, Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF CLEVELAND, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          SOLOMON OLIVER, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro Se Plaintiff Nathaniel Ferguson filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, Cuyahoga County Jail Warden Ivey, and “CPL” Clark. In the Complaint, Plaintiff asserts he was placed in segregation in the jail for three days for “horseplay.” He claims the restrictive conditions of segregation were harsh, and seeks monetary damages.

         Plaintiff submitted a Notice of Indigency (Doc. No. 1-2) in which he moves the Court to declare him indigent. The Court liberally construes this as a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. That Motion is granted.

         Background

         Plaintiff alleges he was placed in the segregation unit of the Cuyahoga County Jail from August 25, 2017 to August 28, 2017 for engaging in horseplay. He contends meals in segregation consisted of a bologna sandwich, and a bag of carrots. He indicates this is not a heart healthy diet.

         He further alleges his mail was held for the three days he was in segregation and he was not permitted visitation with family and friends during this time. Plaintiff asserts this is a violation of his civil rights and seeks one million dollars from each Defendant.

         Standard of Review

          Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the Court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). An action has no arguable basis in law when a Defendant is immune from suit or when a Plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. An action has no arguable factual basis when the allegations are delusional or rise to the level of the irrational or “wholly incredible.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992); Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1199.

         When determining whether the Plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the Complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, accept all factual allegations as true, and determine whether the Complaint contains “enough fact to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The Plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds for relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. Although a Complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, its “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the Complaint are true.” Id. The Court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). The Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-678 (2009), further explains the “plausibility” requirement, stating that “ 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, “the plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a Defendant acted unlawfully.” Id. This determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing Court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         Analysis

         “The Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners from the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'” Baker v. Goodrich, 649 F.3d 428, 434 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986)). Pretrial detainee claims, though asserted under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment, City of Revere v. Mass. Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983), are analyzed under the same rubric as Eighth Amendment claims brought by prisoners. See Roberts v. City of Troy, 773 F.2d 720, 723 (6th Cir.1985) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979)).

         The Supreme Court in Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991), set forth a framework for Courts to use when deciding whether certain conditions of confinement constitute cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. A Plaintiff must first plead facts which, if true, establish that a sufficiently serious deprivation has occurred. Id. Seriousness is measured in response to “contemporary standards of decency.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). Routine discomforts of prison life do not suffice. Id. Only deliberate indifference to serious medical needs or extreme deprivations regarding the conditions of confinement will implicate the protections of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 9. A Plaintiff must also establish a subjective element showing the prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Id. Deliberate indifference is characterized by obduracy or wantonness, not inadvertence or good faith error. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). Liability cannot be predicated solely on negligence. Id. A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when both the objective and subjective requirements are met. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).

         Plaintiff's allegations fail to demonstrate a sufficiently serious deprivation. The Eighth “ensures that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and ... ‘take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.' ” Id. at 832 (quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). This, however, does not mandate that a prisoner be free from discomfort or inconvenience during his or her incarceration. Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954 (6th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346). Prisoners are not entitled to unfettered access to the medical treatment of their choice, see Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992), nor can they “expect the amenities, conveniences and services of a good hotel.” Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232, 1235 (7th Cir. 1988); see Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 405 (6th Cir. 1999). In sum, the Eighth Amendment affords the constitutional minimum protection against conditions of confinement which constitute health threats, but does address those conditions which cause the prisoner to feel merely uncomfortable or which cause aggravation or annoyance. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9-10 (requiring extreme or grave deprivation). The conditions to which Plaintiff was subjected for three days, bologna sandwiches and restricted visitation and mail delivery, do not constitute health threats. While they were arguably uncomfortable and vexing, they were only briefly imposed and cannot be described as “barbarous” or in contravention of society's “evolving standards of decency.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981).

         Furthermore, Plaintiff fails to allege facts to meet the subjective component. The subjective component requires a showing that prison officials knew of, and acted with deliberate indifference to, an inmate's health or safety. Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-03. Deliberate indifference “entails something more than mere negligence.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. This standard is met if “the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 253-55 (6th Cir. 2010)(citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). The City of Cleveland is not identified anywhere in the Complaint and Plaintiff does not allege facts suggesting how the City is connected to conditions in the county jail. Plaintiff alleges Clark was responsible for sending him to segregation but does not suggest Clark directly participated in the activities described in the Complaint. Finally, Plaintiff does not allege facts to ...


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