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Blevins v. Cupp

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

March 2, 2018

DANIEL LEE BLEVINS, PLAINTIFF
v.
LT. CUPP and SHERIFF RON BROWN, DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          P. K. HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The case is before the Court for preservice screening under the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court has the obligation to screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on February 1, 2018. (ECF No. 1). He was directed to file an Amended Complaint, and did so on February 20, 2018. (ECF No. 7). He alleges his constitutional rights were violated when he was incarcerated in the Crawford County Detention Center. (ECF No. 1, 7). Plaintiff alleges that on August 17, 2017, Defendants opened his legal mail without Plaintiff being present. Plaintiff alleges they cut open the envelope, put scotch tape over the postmark, and “told me the sender done it.” (ECF No. 7 at 4).

         Plaintiff proceeds against all Defendants in their official capacities only. (ECF No. 7 at 4). Plaintiff did not indicate what damages he seeks. (ECF No. 7 at 7).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen the case prior to service of process being issued. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (1) are frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or, (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         A claim is frivolous if “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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “In 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)). Even a pro se Plaintiff must allege specific facts sufficient to support a claim. Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff failed to state any plausible official capacity claims. Under Section 1983, a defendant may be sued in either his individual capacity, or in his official capacity, or in both. In Gorman v. Bartch, 152 F.3d 907 (8th Cir. 1998), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals discussed the distinction between individual and official capacity suits. As explained by the Court in Gorman:

“Claims against government actors in their individual capacities differ from those in their official capacities as to the type of conduct that is actionable and as to the type of defense that is available. See Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 112 S.Ct. 358, 116 L.Ed.2d 301 (1991). Claims against individuals in their official capacities are equivalent to claims against the entity for which they work; they require proof that a policy or custom of the entity violated the plaintiff's rights, and the only type of immunity available is one belonging to the entity itself. Id. 502 U.S. at 24-27, 112 S.Ct. at 361-62 (1991). Personal capacity claims, on the other hand, are those which allege personal liability for individual actions by officials in the course of their duties; these claims do not require proof of any policy and qualified immunity may be raised as a defense. Id. 502 U.S. at 25-27, 112 S.Ct. at 362.”

Gorman, 152 F.3d at 914.

         Here, Plaintiff failed to allege that his rights were violated by a custom or policy of Crawford County, and the Court can infer none from a single incident of opened mail. He therefore failed to state a plausible official capacity claim.

         If Plaintiff had intended to state a personal capacity claim, his Complaint also failed to state a plausible personal ...


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