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Obama v. Staley

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Little Rock Division

April 12, 2016

ISHMAEL HASSAN OBAMA ADC # 145160, Plaintiff,
JOHN STALEY, Defendant.


PATRICIA S. HARRIS, Magistrate Judge.


The following Proposed Findings and Recommendation have been sent to United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.


On February 5, 2015, plaintiff Ishmael Hassan Obama ("Obama"), an Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC") inmate housed at the Varner Super Max Unit, filed a pro se complaint alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Arkansas state law in the Circuit Court of Lonoke County, Arkansas, Case No. 43CV2016-68. Defendant John Staley, the Lonoke County Sheriff, removed the case to this Court on March 2, 2016.[1]

I. Screening

Before docketing the complaint, or as soon thereafter as practicable, the Court must review the complaint to identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." In Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (overruling Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1967), and setting new standard for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted), the Court stated, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004). A complaint must contain enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, not merely conceivable. Twombly at 570. However, a pro se plaintiff's allegations must be construed liberally. Burke v. North Dakota Dept. of Corr. & Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-1044 (8th Cir.2002) (citations omitted).[2]

II. Analysis

According to Obama's complaint, he was an ADC inmate when he arrived at the Lonoke County Detention Center on January 27, 2016, for a court appearance the next day. Obama asserts However, Staley paid the filing and administrative fees when the case was removed. he was chained to a bench for an hour and a half, before being placed into an overcrowded cell, where another inmate was urinating and defecating on the floor. Later that evening, Obama was moved to a hot cell which had only two bunks, which were already occupied, and he was therefore forced to sleep on a worn mattress on the floor. He claims he was bitten by ants, and kicked at rats which ran in and out of the cell. Obama also charges he was denied access to his personal property or a law library, despite his request for access.

Liberally construing Obama's complaint, he has raised federal claims that the conditions of his confinement amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, and that he was denied access to the courts. For the reasons set forth below, Obama's complaint should be dismissed.

Conditions of confinement

To prevail on a condition of confinement claim, inmates must show: (1) the condition was serious enough to deprive them of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, or to constitute a substantial risk of serious harm, and (2) officials were deliberately indifferent to the inmates' health and safety. Smith v. Copeland, 87 F.3d 265, 268 (8th Cir.1996); Frye v. Pettis County Sheriff Dept., 41 Fed.Appx. 906 (8th Cir. 2002)(unpub. per curiam).

Obama began his stay at the detention center on January 27, 2016. It is not clear exactly when he returned to the ADC, but, based on the dates Obama provided in his complaint, he was back by February 1, 2016. Although Obama vaguely complained that he suffered emotional and physical pain, he has described no real injury he sustained as a result of the conditions, and the short period of time he was exposed to the objectionable conditions is not a constitutional violation. See, e.g., Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003) (thirty-seven days without exercise was not a constitutional violation); Goldman v. Forbus, 17 Fed.Appx. 487, 488 (8th Cir. 2001) (unpublished opinion) (six nights sleeping on the floor and being sprinkled with urine two of the nights was not a constitutional violation); Smith, 87 F.3d at 269 (8th Cir.1996) (no constitutional violation when a pretrial detainee was subjected to raw sewage for four days); Williams v. Delo, 49 F.3d 442, 444 (8th Cir.1995) (four ...

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