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Hubbard v. Holt

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

August 16, 2017




         This is a civil rights case filed by the Plaintiff Patrick Hubbard under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Hubbard proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis ("IFP"). He is incarcerated in the Benton County Detention Center ("BCDC"). The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") modified the IFP statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, to require the Court to screen complaints for dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (a) are frivolous or malicious; (b) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (c) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the allegations of the Complaint (Doc. 1), Hubbard is incarcerated on pending criminal charges. Hubbard alleges his constitutional rights are being violated in the following ways: (1) guards are often physically or verbally abusive to inmates; (2) unsanitary conditions when thirty or more inmates are required to use the same toilet and sink; (3) inmates are overcharged for medical care ($20 for visits and $10 for prescriptions); (4) illegal housing of the mentally ill; (5) inadequate grievance procedure with no appeal process; (6) food is being served at room temperature; (7) inmate accounts are charged $1.50 per week for indigent supplies creating a negative balance for those without funds; (8) inmates are often placed in segregation for infractions that are not listed as rule violations, e.g. disrespecting staff; (9) malicious rules with no security purpose such as being locked out of your cell for 8 to 10 hours and not being allowed to have cups, bowls, commissary outside your cell during lock out periods; (10) taking away everyone's phone or commissary privileges based on the actions of one person; (11) loss of kiosk privileges in retaliation for complaints about a non-police official coming to Pope County Jail to pick Hubbard up and transport him to the BCDC and asking for an investigation of why Detective Eddie Weimer was allowed to sign a warrant he did not serve; (12) legal mail being opened outside his presence and a form removed; (13) being denied adequate healthcare by not being allowed to see the social worker or a psychologist for depression; (14) being fed last because an inmate laughed after being ordered to be quiet; and (15) being discriminated against. Hubbard has sued the Defendants in both their individual and official capacities.

         As relief, Hubbard seeks compensatory and punitive damages. He also asks that Defendants be ordered to put any money illegally obtained towards something constructive for the inmates such as television sets, board games, clothes, mats, etc.


         Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen a case prior to service of process being issued. A claim is frivolous when it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). However, the Court bears in mind that when "evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold 'a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, ... to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)).

         The claims Hubbard seeks to bring on behalf of others are subject to dismissal. These claims are: guards often physically abusing inmates; illegal housing of the mentally ill; and inmates being placed in segregation for infractions that are not listed as rule violations. A claim that an individual's constitutional rights have been violated is regarded as personal in nature. See Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 610-11 (1973); United States v. Mitchell, 915 F.2d 521, 526 n. 8 (9th Cir. 1990). Ordinarily, one individual cannot assert a claim on behalf of another individual. Johns v. County of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1997)("While a non-attorney may appear pro se on his own behalf, '[h]e has no authority to appear as an attorney for others than himself"). Plaintiff has not alleged that he was physically abused, is mentally ill, or was put in segregation for an infraction not listed as a rule violation. No constitutional claim is stated.

         Hubbard's claim that he was verbally abused or harassed is subject to dismissal. "Generally, mere verbal threats made by a state-actor do not constitute a § 1983 claim. The Constitution does not protect against all intrusions on one's peace of mind. Fear or emotional injury which results solely from verbal harassment or idle threats is generally not sufficient to constitute an invasion of an identified liberty interest." King v. Olmsted County, 117 F.3d 1065, 1067 (8th Cir. 1997). No claim of constitutional dimension is stated.

         Hubbard's claim about the alleged unsanitary conditions in connection with the use of a communal toilet are subject to dismissal. As a preliminary matter, Hubbard has not stated how any of the Defendants were personally responsible for these conditions. "Liability under section 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the deprivation of rights. To establish personal liability, [Hubbard] must allege specific facts of personal involvement in, or direct responsibility for, a deprivation of his constitutional rights." Clemmons v. Armontrout, 477 F.3d 962, 967 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Mayorga v. Missouri, 442 F.3d 1128, 1132 (8th Cir. 2006)); Mark v. Nix, 983 F.2d 138, 139-40 (8th Cir. 1993) (section 1983 liability requires some personal involvement or responsibility).

         The Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, but neither does it permit inhumane ones. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const, amend. VIM; see also Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991); Hall v. Dalton, 34 F.3d 648, 650 (8th Cir. 1994) ("[l]n this circuit, the standards applied to Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims have been the same"). "[P]unishment is cruel and unusual if it deprives inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Whitnack v. Douglas County, 16 F.3d 954, 957 (8th Cir. I994)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Jail or prison officials must provide reasonably adequate ventilation, sanitation, bedding, hygienic materials, food, and utilities. Prison conditions claims include threats to an inmate's health and safety. Irving v. Dormire, 519 F.3d 441, 446 (8th Cir. 2008)(citation omitted). To state an Eighth Amendment claim, the plaintiff must allege that prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference" towards conditions at the prison that created a substantial risk of serious harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).

         Hubbard does not allege that he was unable to use the toilet when he needed to. He does not allege his hygiene suffered as a result or that he contracted any disease. While he does allege there was an outbreak of staph infection at the facility in April and May of 2017, he does not allege the outbreak was in the pod he was confined to or that there was any evidence suggesting the outbreak was connected in anyway to the use of the communal toilet during lock out periods. Certainly, there is nothing in the Complaint suggesting that the Hubbard was deprived of a single identifiable human need. No claim is stated.

         With respect to the food being served at room temperature, Hubbard makes no other allegations regarding the food. He does not allege that this was an unsafe practice, that his diet was ...

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