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Jasmaine v. Futrelle

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

March 2, 2017



          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, a state inmate, filed this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is before the court for a frivolity review of plaintiff's particularized complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Also before the court are plaintiff's motions for copies (DE 98, 100). The issues raised are ripe for adjudication.

         A. Frivolity Review

         On November 12, 2015, plaintiff filed a complaint in which she alleged that defendants were violating her religious rights and were also deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that she “has what is called ‘Gender Identity [Disorder]' (‘GID')”, and that these defendants “refuse to let her have the [appropriate] treatment.” (Compl. pp. 16-18). Citing De'lonta v. Johnson, 8 F.3d 520');">708 F.3d 520 (4th Cir. 2013), the court determined that plaintiff's claims survived frivolity review. (December 15, 2015 Order (DE 14)). After the initial review of her complaint, plaintiff filed numerous amendments to her claims, as well are numerous requests for injunctive relief which elaborated upon her core claim (DE 11, 16, 24, 25, 51, 57, 60, 69). Many of plaintiff's proposed amendments were dismissed as futile, and her requests for injunctive relief have consistently been denied. (See, e.g., March 1, 2016 Order (DE 48)). In addition to their futility, many of plaintiff's proposed amendments named defendants without specifically alleging their personal involvement or describing how their conduct injured her. In this posture, the court determined that “plaintiff's allegations, as they are now comprised, are rambling and disjointed, thereby largely violate Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” (May 20, 2016 Order (DE 89) at 2). Accordingly, plaintiff given the following instructions:

plaintiff is directed to particularize her allegations by filing one amended complaint specifically stating the injury stemming from defendants' actions or inactions and the alleged facts to support her claim. Plaintiff further is on notice that she must connect the named defendants with the alleged conduct which resulted in the alleged constitutional violation. Finally, plaintiff is on notice that any amended pleading will constitute the complaint in its entirety, and the court will not comb her previous filings to glean any misplaced claims.

(Id. at 2-3). Plaintiff has since filed her particularized complaint, and the court notes that plaintiff's particularized claims remain rambling and disjointed. Likewise, despite the entry of several court orders explaining why certain claims lack merit, plaintiff continues to re-assert them. Thus, plaintiff has arguably failed to comply with the directives of this court. Likewise, her particularized complaint still arguably fails to comply with Rule 8. Regardless, the court now conducts a frivolity review of the claims contained in plaintiff's particularized complaint.

         Section 1915 provides that courts shall review complaints in which prisoners seek relief from a governmental entity or officer and dismiss such complaints when they are “frivolous.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). A complaint may be found frivolous because of either legal or factual deficiencies. First, a complaint is frivolous where “it lacks an arguable basis . . . in law.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Legally frivolous claims are based on an “indisputably meritless legal theory” and include “claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.” Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 74 (4th Cir. 1994) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327). Under this standard, complaints may be dismissed for failure to state a claim cognizable in law, although frivolity is a more lenient standard than that for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328. Second, a complaint may be frivolous where it “lacks an arguable basis . . . in fact.” Id. at 325. Section 1915 permits federal courts “to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992) (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327).

         1. Deliberate Indifference

         Plaintiff asserts that defendants Futrelle, Owens, Byrd, Daughety, and Daniels are deliberately indifferent to her serious medical need of GID. (Am. Compl. (DE 99) at 11-13, 15, 17, 28-34, 37-48, 50-74, 86-91). As the court noted in its initial review of plaintiff's original complaint, these allegations are sufficient to survive frivolity review. De'lonta, 708 F.3d at 526 (noting that GID related claims are “sufficiently plausible to survive screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.”). Accordingly, the clerk of court is directed to continue management of plaintiff's deliberate indifference claims.

         2. First Amendment and RLUIPA claims

         Plaintiff contends that defendants Hackett and Daniels are violating her religious rights, alleging claims pursuant to both the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) and the First Amendment. (Am. Compl. (DE 99) at 13, 18-19, 22-28, 82-85). “RLUIPA . . . protects institutionalized persons who are unable freely to attend to their religious needs and are therefore dependent on the government's permission and accommodation for exercise of their religion.” Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 721 (2005). Likewise, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” U.S. Const. Amend. I. The court finds plaintiff's allegations are sufficient to survive frivolity review and ALLOWS plaintiff to proceed with these claims.

         3. Grievance and PREA related claims

         Plaintiff contends that defendants improperly handled her administrative grievances. (Am. Compl. (DE 99) at 13, 15). However, plaintiff does not have a constitutional right to have available or to participate in an effective grievance process. See Adams, 40 F.3d at 75; see also, Oliver v. Myers, No. 7:08-CV-558, 2008 WL 5212409, at *4 (W.D. Va. Dec. 12, 2008) (stating that “because state grievance procedures are separate and distinct from state and federal legal procedures, an institution's failure to comply with state grievance procedures does not compromise its inmates' right of access to the courts”) (citation omitted), appeal dismissed, 335 F. App'x 317 (4th Cir. 2009). Further, even if available, a prison grievance procedure does not confer any substantive right upon inmates. Adams, 40 F.3d at 75; see also, Bradley v. Wheeler, No. 1:09cv371, 2009 WL 2634753, *4 (E.D. Va. Aug. 25, 2009).

         Plaintiff also argues defendants violated the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”), 42 U.S.C. § 15601 et seq. (Am. Compl. (DE 99) at 16, 92). However, “[n]othing in the PREA suggests that Congress intended to create a private right of action for inmates to sue prison officials for noncompliance with the Act.” De'lonta v. Clarke, No. 7:11-CV-00483, 2012 WL 4458648, at *3 (W.D. Va. Sept. 11, 2012) (unpublished) (collecting cases), appeal dismissed, 502 F. App'x 265 (4th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (unpublished). Moreover, a violation of a prison policy that does not result in a constitutional violation does not give rise to a claim under section 1983. See, e.g., Danser v. Stansberry, 772 F.3d ...

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