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Markcum v. Tallent

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

November 18, 2019

MICHAEL EUGENE MARKCUM PLAINTIFF
v.
JANA TALLENT, Jail Administrator, Howard County Detention Center; DEPUTY JOHN ERIC; and SHERIFF BRIAN MCJUNKINS DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Susan O. Hickey Chief United States District Judge

         This is a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff Michael Eugene Markcum pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds in this matter pro se and in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1, 2, 3). 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 must screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on September 17, 2019. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleges that the following Defendants violated his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated in the Howard County Jail: Jana Tallent, Jail Administrator, Howard County Jail; Deputy John Eric; and Sheriff Brian McJunkins. (ECF No. 1).

         Plaintiff's Complaint asserts one claim against Defendants, in both their individual and official capacities. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff states that they denied him the ability “to eat hot food and healthy food, no gloves or hair net.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that the deprivations have been ongoing since January 3, 2019. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Tallent allows staff “to handle o[ur] food with no gloves or hairnet, our food is exposed in a rack in the hallway uncovered. When I worked outside they would put [the food] outside uncovered with bugs o[n] it. . . . It happens every day.” When Plaintiff was asked to describe the custom or policy that he believes caused the constitutional violation, Plaintiff states, “[b]ecause the sheriff knows what's going o[n] and never answers request or a grievance. Jana Tallent answers for her - letting them feed us cold food exposed food to bacteria. And to disease by not wearing gloves or hairnet.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Eric “will not answer request about our food and the way it has been handle. He also allows this to go on.” When asked to describe the custom or policy that he believes caused the constitutional violation, Plaintiff states, “[Defendant Eric] denies us our right to be served healthy food. By not keeping the healthy code. By leaving our food on a rack exposed, no one wears gloves or hairnets serving or preparing or food. Plus, he has seen our food setting outside and said nothing.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges Defendant McJunkins “is the sheriff it's also his job to maintain a healthy environment for us when it come to our food. I have been here awhile it has taking me long time to get paperwork from them to file this. He knows the health code but he doesn't up hold it here as far as our food.” When asked to describe the custom or policy that he believes caused the constitutional violation, Plaintiff states, “I believe because he is Sheriff he should lead by example. He allows his guards jail administrator and Deputy Sheriff to let people handle our food wrongfully and expose us to bacteria and diseases.” Id.

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. He states: “I would like to have 100, 000 from each one of the Defendants. All three of them to resign and to buy a heater box for the food make them uphold the health code and wear gloves.” Id.

         II. STANDARD

         Under the PLRA, the Court must screen the case prior to service of process. 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 Atl. 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 to support a claim. Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).

         III. DISCUSSION

         As set forth above, Plaintiff asserts individual and official capacity claims against all three Defendants with respect to his allegations that they denied him the ability “to eat hot food and healthy food.” Plaintiff states that the food was left exposed on a rack in the hallway or outside, allowing bugs to access the food and contaminating it with disease and bacteria. Finally, Plaintiff states ...


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