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Burfitt v. Lawless

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

December 2, 2019

BRION LAWLESS, et al., Defendants.

          BARRETT, JUDGE



         Plaintiff, a prisoner who is currently incarcerated at the Toledo Correctional Institution (ToCI) in Toledo, Ohio, initiated this pro se civil rights action, which the Court construes as filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Plaintiff alleges that defendant Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) employees “Brion Lawless, ” “Linnea Mahlman, ” “Tyler Parish, ” “Lieutenant Haywood, ” and “Lieutenant Bowers” violated plaintiff's rights while he was housed at SOCF. By separate Order, plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         This matter is now before the Court for a sua sponte review of the complaint to determine whether the complaint or any portion of it should be dismissed because it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 § 804, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); § 805, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         I. Screening of Complaint

         A. Legal Standard

         In enacting the original in forma pauperis statute, Congress recognized that a “litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989)). To prevent such abusive litigation, Congress has authorized federal courts to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint if they are satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious. Id.; see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and 1915A(b)(1). A complaint may be dismissed as frivolous when the plaintiff cannot make any claim with a rational or arguable basis in fact or law. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328-29 (1989); see also Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1198 (6th Cir. 1990). An action has no arguable legal basis when the defendant is immune from suit or when 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, 504 U.S. at 32; Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1199. The Court need not accept as true factual allegations that are “fantastic or delusional” in reviewing a complaint for frivolousness. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 471 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328).

         Congress also has authorized the sua sponte dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1). A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be “liberally construed” and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). By the same token, however, the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Hill, 630 F.3d at 470-71 (“dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim” under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)).

         “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 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, but need not “accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Although a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A pleading that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Id. at 557. The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (citations omitted).

         B. Plaintiff's Complaint

         In his complaint, plaintiff asserts claims for alleged violations of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (See Doc. 1-2, at PageID 104).

         Plaintiff first alleges that, after a confrontation with an officer at SOCF in September 2017, he was placed in extended restrictive housing. He asserts that when he obtained his personal property in October or November 2017 his CD player and CDs were missing. Plaintiff alleges that he filed grievances regarding the missing property but that his grievances were “spitefully” denied. Plaintiff asserts that defendant Mahlman deliberately denied him property to which he was entitled in restrictive housing. (Doc. 1-2, at PageID 104, 107).

         Plaintiff next alleges that, in August 2018, he was placed in segregation for an altercation with another inmate. Plaintiff asserts that during the altercation excrement was thrown at him and he used his blanket as a shield. Plaintiff alleges that after the altercation he was placed in K2 block because the “hole” was full and was denied a shower. Plaintiff asserts that defendant Mahlman denied his complaint against the pack-up officer, who is not named as a defendant, [2] for putting the soiled blanket in with plaintiff's clean property. (Doc. 1-2, at PageID 107).

         Next, plaintiff alleges that defendant Lawless became a “c/o [corrections officer]” in 2017, and that plaintiff has witnessed Lawless destroy the property of and write conduct violations against other inmates. (Doc. 1-2, at PageID 107). Plaintiff also alleges that he has written several complaints against Lawless for tampering with plaintiff's legal mail. (Doc. 1-2, at PageID 107). Plaintiff further alleges that on an unspecified date defendants Lawless and Parish interrupted him in his cell while he was trying a new style of prayer. Plaintiff claims that Parish announced that he had heard that plaintiff liked to assault corrections officers and that Lawless then said that he had heard about that and had also heard that plaintiff “got fucked up for it too.” (Doc. 1-2, at PageID 107). Plaintiff ...

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