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Adams v. Neeld

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

March 21, 2019

KENNETH RAY ADAMS, JR. PLAINTIFF
v.
NEELD, Corporal, Saline County Detention Facility DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of the date of this Recommendation. If you do not file objections, Judge Moody can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing all of the evidence in the record. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         Kenneth Ray Adams, Jr. (“Adams”) is a pretrial detainee in the Saline County Detention Facility (“SCDF”). He has filed a pro se § 1983 Complaint and Amended Complaint alleging that Defendant Corporal Neeld (“Neeld”) violated his constitutional rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Docs. 2 & 5.[1] Before Adams may proceed with this action, the Court must screen his allegations.[2]

         II. Discussion

         A. Adams's Claims

         Adams alleges that, on July 6, 2018: (1) Neeld opened, outside Adams's presence, a large envelope containing “confidential and legal documentations” regarding Adams's claim for social security benefits; and (2) Adams later discovered that three documents were missing, all of which contained his social security number, home address and case claim number.[3] Doc. 2 at 4-5.

         According to Adams, the envelope was mailed to him at the SCDF by his sister, and it contained documents from a caseworker at the Social Security Administration. The envelope was not marked as “confidential or legal mail.” Doc. 5 at 1. He contends that the loss of his documents makes him accessible to identity theft, invasion of privacy, and fraud, and could “ruin [his] credit report.” Id. at 2. Adams said he believes Neeld seized the documents because Adams: (1) is African American and mentally disabled; and (2) has had some “racial[] disputes” at the SCDF. Id. at 1.

         Adams claims that the mishandling of his mail violated his constitutional rights and amounted to “discrimination” against him based on his race and disability. Adams sues Neeld in his official and individual capacity, and seeks compensatory damages and a declaratory judgment that his rights have been violated. Doc. 2 at 2, 5-6; Doc. 5 at 2.

         B. Constitutional Violations

         1. Official Capacity Claim

         As a matter of law, Adams's “official capacity” claim must be construed as a claim against Neeld's employer, Saline County. See Parrish v. Ball, 594 F.3d 993, 997 (8th Cir. 2010); Jenkins v. County of Hennepin, Minnesota, 557 F.3d 628, 631-32 (8th Cir. 2009). Saline County cannot be held vicariously liable, in a § 1983 action, for the acts of its employees. See Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-94 (1978). Instead, it can only be held liable if its policies, customs, and practices caused Adams's injury. See Jenkins, 557 F.3d at 632; Grayson v. Ross, 454 F.3d 802, 810-11 (8th Cir. 2006).

         Because Adams does not allege that a Saline County policy, practice, or custom caused his injury, he has failed to plead a viable official-capacity claim against Neeld. Accordingly, that claim should be dismissed.

         2. Individual Capacity Claims

         Adams alleges a one-time incident of his incoming mail being opened, with three documents being either lost or destroyed. The law is settled that “an isolated incident [of incoming legal mail being opened], without any evidence of improper motive or resulting interference with [the inmate's] right to counsel or to access to the courts, does not give rise to a constitutional violation.” Gardner v. Howard,109 F.3d 427, 431 (8th Cir. 1997); see also Holloway v. Pigman,884 F.2d 365, 367 (8th ...


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