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Benton v. FNU Cliffton

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

September 29, 2017




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (Doc. No. 1). 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff has been granted in forma pauperis status. (Doc. No. 5).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Cornelius Delane Benton, a North Carolina inmate incarcerated at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville, North Carolina, filed this action on June 8, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has named the following two persons as Defendants, both identified as correctional officers at Alexander at all relevant times: (1) FNU Cliffton and (2) FNU Streets. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants used excessive force against Plaintiff in violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights on March 12, 2017.[1] Plaintiff alleges the following facts to support his claim:

On 3-12-17 while at work in kitchen, some trays drop on the floor by other workers. At this time, officer Sruggs came in the kitchen. Ask the window worker why the trays drop he stated they slipped out his hand. On[ce] Officer Sruggs out of the kitchen he turns to Plaintiff stop and stated you need to get in the hallway. Few seconds Lt. Cliffton comes around the corner and states he's being disrespectful, put him in handcuffs. Sgt. Streets was pulling on Plaintiff and slammed me into the wall. Plaintiff head gets slammed to the floor by Sgt. Streets. Lt. Cliffton put his knee in Plaintiff back and punch Plaintiff in my face, and takes the shower key tried to stab Plaintiff eyes out but only Lt. Cliffton did was blacking my eye.

(Doc. No. 1 at 5) (grammatical errors in original). As for Plaintiff's injuries, Plaintiff alleges the following facts:

I had an black eye but is still giving Plaintiff problems that was caused by Defendant Mr. Cliffton putting his knee in Plaintiff back on the floor in full restraints. I am having pain on my side caused by Defendant Sgt. Streets slamming Plaintiff to the floor and Lt. Cliffton punches me in the face. Plaintiff has sores around my wrists by the key Mr. Cliffton had in his hands. Plaintiff experience discomfort, pain, and soreness around my wrists and side and back.

(Id. at 7) (grammatical errors in original). Plaintiff seeks unspecified injunctive and declaratory relief. (Id. at 8).


         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds that it is “frivolous or malicious [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Furthermore, under § 1915A the Court must conduct an initial review and identify and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief.

         In its frivolity review, this Court must determine whether the Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). Furthermore, a pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the liberal construction requirement will not permit a district court to ignore a clear failure to allege facts in his Complaint which set forth a claim that is cognizable under federal law. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).


         The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments, ” U.S.

         Const. amend. VIII, and protects prisoners from the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, ” Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). To establish an Eighth Amendment claim, an inmate must satisfy both an objective component-that the harm inflicted was sufficiently serious-and a subjective component-that the prison official acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996). In adjudicating an excessive force claim, the Court must consider such factors as the need for the use of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the extent of the injury inflicted, and, ultimately, whether the force was “applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” Albers, 475 U.S. at 320-21. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has reiterated that “[a]n inmate who is gratuitously ...

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