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Niles v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

October 22, 2010

ARTHUR L. NILES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (Doc. 1) THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Arthur L. Niles is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which provides a remedy for violation of civil rights by federal actors. This action was filed on February 12, 2010.

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

II. Complaint Allegations

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. The incidents alleged in the complaint occurred while Plaintiff was housed at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California. On May 31, 2008, Plaintiff was in protective custody in the Special Housing Unit. Defendant Robinson secured Plaintiff in handcuffs and took him downstairs to be shaved by the barber. Defendant Robinson then escorted inmate Bobby King, who was not restrained in handcuffs, to the holding cell where Plaintiff was waiting to be taken back to his unit. As soon as Defendant Robinson opened the door to the holding cell, inmate King "violently assaulted" Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, Comp., p. 5.)

As a result of the assault by inmate King, Plaintiff alleges he suffered a painful neck injury and great mental and emotional distress. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff filed a claim for administrative settlement with United States Bureau of Prisons on May 20, 2009. No response had been received by November 25, 2009. (Id. at 6.)

Plaintiff alleges that inmate King was considered to be "unmanageable and dangerous." (Id. at 4-5.) Additionally, Defendants knew, or should have known, that inmate King "was dangerous and uncontrollable, and was subject to recurrent violent psychotic episodes." (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff brings this action against Defendants Federal Bureau of Prisons ("FBP"), Smith, Bell, Karge, and Robinson for negligence in failing to use sufficient security when escorting inmate King to the holding cell which resulted in the assault on Plaintiff. Plaintiff is seeking damages of $50,000, costs, and other relief as the Court may deem just and proper. (Id. at 6.)

For the reasons stated below Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim. Plaintiff shall be given the opportunity to file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies described by the Court in this order. In the paragraphs that follow, the Court will provide Plaintiff with the legal standards that appear to apply to his claims. Plaintiff should carefully review the standards and amend only those claims that he believes, in good faith, are cognizable.

III. Discussion

A. Bivens Action

Plaintiff is a prisoner in federal custody and is seeking relief pursuant to Bivens, which recognized a private action where federal officers are alleged to have violated the constitutional rights of citizens. Correctional Services Corporation v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 66 (2001). A Bivens action will not lie against the United States, agencies of the United States, or federal agents in their official capacity. See FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 486 (1994). Although sovereign immunity does not bar damages actions against federal officials in their individual capacities, an individual may not be held liable in a Bivens action on the theory respondeat superior. Terrell v. Brewer, 935 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). Plaintiff must plead that the official has violated the Constitution through his own individual actions. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1948. In other words, to state a claim for relief, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

1. Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Under Bivens, a plaintiff may bring suit against a federal employee alleging a violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Malesko, 534 U.S. at 67. To constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, prison conditions must involve "the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). A prisoner's claim does not rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation unless (1) "the prison official deprived the prisoner of the 'minimal civilized measure of life's necessities,'" and (2) "the prison official 'acted with deliberate indifference in doing so.'" Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 744 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted)). In order to find a prison official liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying humane conditions of ...


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