United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS JUDGE
a civil rights case filed by the Plaintiff, Daniel D.
Fletcher, under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma
pauperis ("IFP"). He is currently incarcerated
in the Arkansas Department of Correction, Delta Regional
Unit. At all times relevant to this complaint, Plaintiff was
incarcerated in the Washington County Detention Center
("WCDC"). He was convicted of a parole violation on
January 23, 2017.
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).
to the allegations of the Complaint (Doc. 1), on April 20,
2017, Corporal Howerton, during a pat-down search, used his
thumb "to stick [Plaintiffs] anal opening not once but
twice ... with enough force that it penetrated a little even
with cloth[e]s on." On April 21, 2017, during a search
of the barracks, a strip search was conducted. During the
strip search, Plaintiff alleges that instead of having him
squat and cough, Corporal Corley had Plaintiff "turn
around ... bend over at the waist and spread [his] butt
che[e]ks so [Corporal Corley] could stare at [Plaintiffs]
anal opening for several minutes." With respect to
Sheriff Helder, Sergeant Byrd, Lieutenant Reeser, and
Lieutenant Foster, Plaintiff alleges his grievance about
Corporal Howerton and Corporal Corley that he submitted on
April 23, 2017, did not get answered until June 18, 2017.
Plaintiff maintains this violates his right to an unbiased
and fair grievance procedure and demonstrates total
indifference to his rights.
sues the Defendants in both their individual and official
capacities. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and
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." Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Court
bears in mind, however, 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
of Plaintiff's claims are subject to dismissal. First,
the claims regarding the visual body-cavity search are
subject to dismissal. Convicted prisoners do not forfeit all
their constitutional protections. See Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 523 (1984). Prisoners are to
"be accorded those rights not fundamentally inconsistent
with imprisonment itself or incompatible with the objectives
of incarceration." Id. However,
"imprisonment carries with it the circumscription or
loss of many significant rights - The curtailment of certain
rights is necessary, as a practical matter, to accommodate a
myriad of institutional needs and objectives of prison
facilities, chief among which is internal security."
Id. at 524 (internal quotation marks and citations
general, the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches
of persons. U.S. Const, amend. IV. "[P]rison inmates are
entitled to Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable
searches of their bodies, although a prison inmate has a far
lower expectation of privacy than do most other individuals
in our society." Levine v. Roebuck, 550 F.3d
684, 687 (8th Cir. 2OO8)(internal quotation marks and
respect to strip searches, the Supreme Court in Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559 (1979), held the Fourth
Amendment was not violated by the practice of conducting
visual body-cavity searches of pretrial detainees following
contact visits. The Court cautioned that the searches must be
conducted in a reasonable manner and that searches conducted
in an abusive fashion could not be condoned. Id. at
560. Here, Plaintiff is a convicted prisoner and would have a
lower expectation of privacy than the pretrial detainees at
issue in Bell.
has alleged that the visual body cavity search was done as
part of a routine search of the entire pod. Although he
alleges the visual search went on for a minute or two, this
is hardly the abusive fashion the Supreme Court had in mind
in Bell. The search was done in the same place as
the other searches. Plaintiff was not singled out. He was not
physically touched. The facts alleged in the Complaint do not
state a plausible Fourth Amendment claim against Corporal
Plaintiff's claims regarding the grievance procedure are
subject to dismissal. "[P]risoners have the
constitutional right to petition the Government for redress
of their grievances, which includes a reasonable right of
access to the courts." Hudson, 468 U.S. at 523
(citing Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969)).
However, it is well settled that inmates have no substantive
constitutional right in detention center officials following
grievance procedures. See, e.g., Buckley v. Barlow,
997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. I993)(no constitutional violation
in failing to process all of the grievances submitted by a
prisoner); see also Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d
844, 847 (8th Cir. 2OO3)(no federal constitutional liberty
interest in having prison officials follow state law or
prison regulations). Clearly, if there is no constitutional
right to have all grievances processed or responded to, there
is no constitutional right to have grievances processed more
quickly. Plaintiffs constitutional right of access to the
courts was not impinged by Defendants' actions as is
demonstrated by his filing of this action. Plaintiff has not
stated a claim of constitutional dimension against Sheriff
Helder, Sergeant Byrd, Lieutenant Reeser, and Lieutenant
Plaintiff's official capacity claims are subject to
dismissal. "Claims against individuals in their official
capacities are equivalent to claims against the entity for
which they work." Gorman v. Bartch, 152 F.3d
907, 914 (8th Cir. I998)(citation omitted).
"Official-capacity liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
occurs only when a constitutional injury is caused by a
government's policy or custom, whether made by its
lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said
to represent official policy." Gladden v.
Richbourg,759 F.3d 960, 968 (8th Cir. 2OI4)(internal
quotation marks and ...