United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
CHRISTOPHER M. HALL PLAINTIFF
SHERIFF TIM HELDER, Washington County, Arkansas; SERGEANT JEB BYRD; and DEPUTY JOEL MINOR DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a civil rights case filed by the Plaintiff Christopher Hall
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro
se. He has sought leave to proceed in forma
pauperis ("IFP") (Doc. 2). Plaintiff is
incarcerated in the Washington County Detention Center
the Court for screening is the Complaint (Doc. 1) filed by
Plaintiff on September 11, 2017. 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
to the allegations of the Complaint, on August 15, 2017,
Plaintiff submitted, via the electronic kiosk, a request for
a special tray because he "converted [his]
religion." Plaintiff does not indicate what religion he
converted to. Three days later, Plaintiff alleges he received
a response stating that the form he needed to sign to obtain
a special tray would be brought to him by Sergeant Byrd.
Plaintiff alleges that no form was brought to him.
August 21, 2017, Plaintiff alleges he told Deputy Minor that
he wanted a § 1983 form because his religious rights
were being violated. Deputy Minor then brought Plaintiff the
form for a special diet tray, and Plaintiff completed it. As
of August 26, 2017, Plaintiff indicates nothing had been done
to honor his request for a special diet tray.
August 30, 2017, Corporal Mulvaney indicated that after
researching the issue he found that the Plaintiffs form
requesting a special diet was placed in the booking file
without Plaintiff having been added to the special diet list.
Corporal Mulvaney indicated that a sergeant should have been
notified so that an entry could have been made in the
computer indicating Plaintiff was approved for a special
diet. The mistake had been corrected, Plaintiff was placed on
the special diet list, and Plaintiff started receiving the
special diet on August 30, 2017.
alleges his religious rights were violated from August 15,
2017, to August 30, 2017, when he began receiving a special
tray. Plaintiff has sued the Defendants in both their
individual and official capacities. As relief, he seeks
compensatory damages in an unspecified amount.
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
1983 provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation,
under color of law, of a citizen's "rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws" of the United States. In order to state a claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the
defendant acted under color of state law and that he violated
a right secured by the Constitution. West v. Atkins,
487 U.S. 42 (1988); Dunham v. Wadley, 195 F.3d 1007,
1009 (8th Cir. 1999). The deprivation must be intentional;
mere negligence will not suffice to state a claim for
deprivation of a constitutional right under § 1983.
Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986);
Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344 (1986).
Plaintiffs allegations do not state a plausible claim. At
best, the allegations are that Defendants Byrd and Minor were
negligent in not responding quickly enough to Plaintiffs
request for a religious diet. Negligence does not rise to the
level of conduct that is actionable under § 1983.
See, e.g., Myers v. Morris, 810 F.2d 1437 (8th Cir.
1987) (citing Davidson, 474 U.S. at 348;
Daniels, 474 U.S. at 330-31). Short delays in
processing requests for religious diets do not violate the
First Amendment. See e.g., Parkell v. Senato, 224
F.Supp.3d 388, 398 (D. Del. 2016), aftd in part, vacated
in part, remanded on other grounds, No.
17-1101, 2017 WL 2954599 (3d Cir. July 11, 2017) (recognizing
short term delays in processing requests were reasonable, but
two-year delay at issue in that case violated the First
Amendment); see also Tapp v. Proto, 404 Fed.Appx.
563, 565 (3d Cir. 2010) (short two-week delay in providing
acceptable kosher meals did not impinge free exercise
rights); Heim v. Moore, No. 3:cv-11-0270, 2012 WL
1118636, *4 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 3, 2012) ("Where a delay in
providing an inmate with a religious diet is brief and caused
by ordinary administrative delay, the inmate's religious
rights are not violated"); Mestre v. Wagner,
No. 10-7141, 2012WL299626, *6(E.D. Pa. Feb. 1,
2012)(seven-week delay in providing religious diet did not
violated the First Amendment; officials are allowed a
reasonable time to process a request for a religious diet).
a constitutional violation had existed, there is no basis on
which Sheriff Helder could be held individually liable. He is
not alleged to have taken any action with respect to
Plaintiffs request, the provision of the appropriate form, or
the entry of the approval of the religious diet in the
computer. "Liability under section 1983 requires a
causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the
deprivation of rights. To establish personal liability of the
supervisory defendant, [Plaintiff] 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)).
the official-capacity claims are without merit because no
constitutional injury has occurred here.
"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 capacity.'" Grayson v.
Ross,454 F.3d 802, 811 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Moneli v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.,436 U.S. 658,
694 (1978)). Further, the ...