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Solomon v. Runion

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

May 18, 2018



          Susan O. Hickey United States District Judge

         This is a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff Clifton O. Solomon pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on April 24, 2018.[1] (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) was granted the same day. (ECF No. 3). On April 26, 2018, the Court directed Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint to clarify his claims including alleged conditions of confinement. (ECF No. 7). On May 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 8).

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Miller County Detention Center (“MCDC”) awaiting trial on pending criminal charges. (ECF No. 8, p. 3). Plaintiff is asserting claims related to the conditions of the jail, as well as failure to respond to his grievances. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he personally sent a maintenance request to Warden Walker, Captain Adams and Lieutenant Miller.[2] (ECF No. 8, p. 4). Plaintiff further alleges that Sergeant Griffie intercepted his request and told Plaintiff that if he did not like the conditions of the jail, he could “bond out.” (Id.) In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states he is suing Defendants only in their official capacity.[3](Id.) Plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiff also states in his claim for relief a request for “hot food and fix all Reported things Black mold is not good for us.” (ECF No. 8, p. 7).


         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)). However, 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).


         According to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Defendant Runion is the Sheriff of Miller County, Defendant Walker is the Warden at the MCDC, and Defendants Adams, Griffie and Hanning are employed as officers at the MCDC. As previously stated, Plaintiff sues these Defendants solely in their official capacity.

         Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of state 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 a defendant acted under color of state law and they 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). Under section 1983, a defendant may be sued in either his individual capacity, or in his official capacity, or claims may be stated against a defendant in both his individual and his official capacities. Gorman v. Bartch, 152 F.3d 907, 914 (8th Cir. 1998). With respect to official capacity claims, they are “functionally equivalent to a suit against the employing governmental entity.” Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home, 627 F.3d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 2010). In other words, Plaintiff's official capacity claims against Defendants are treated as claims against Miller County. See Murray v. Lene, 595 F.3d 868, 873 (8th Cir. 2010).

         “[I]t is well established that a municipality [or county] cannot be held liable on a respondeat superior theory, that is, solely because it employs a tortfeasor.” Atkinson v. City of Mountain View, Mo., 709 F.3d 1201, 1214 (8th Cir. 2013). To establish Miller County's liability under section 1983, “plaintiff must show that a constitutional violation was committed pursuant to an official custom, policy, or practice of the governmental entity.” Moyle v. Anderson, 571 F.3d 814, 817 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         Here, Plaintiff has not identified any policy, custom or practice of Miller County that was the moving force behind his allegations in the Amended Complaint regarding the jail's conditions or grievances.[4] Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against any Defendant in their official capacity.

         IV. ...

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