United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
JAMES A. MINYARD, Plaintiff,
ERIK A HOOKS, et al., Defendants.
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 18), as well as
on Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment, (Doc. No. 19).
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
See (Doc. No. 14).
se Plaintiff James A. Minyard, who is incarcerated at
the Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution, filed a civil
rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He was granted
leave to file an Amended Complaint which is presently before
the Court for screening. He names as Defendants: North
Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”)
Secretary Erik A. Hooks; DPS Deputy Secretary W. David Guice;
DPS Western District Director David Mitchell; and
Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution Superintendent Carlos
Hernandez in their individual and official capacities. (Doc.
No. 18 at 2-3).
the Amended Compliant liberally and accepting the allegations
as true, Defendants began opening legal mail and taking parts
of newspapers paid for by Plaintiff that presented no threat
to prison, staff, or inmates, beginning on July 16, 2015, and
continuing until present. This was done outside of Federal
law, State law, and Prison Policy. “All staff, ”
including floor officers, unit managers, the Superintendent,
the Director and Assistant Director of Western District
Office, and Secretary Hooks “were all aware of this
issue and did nothing to stop it.” (Doc. No. 18 at 5).
seeks to “[h]old Defendants accountable” for
knowingly violating Plaintiff's rights, the costs of this
action, $672 for the newspapers Plaintiff was unable to read,
and punitive damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma
pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to
determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds
that it is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In its
frivolity review, a 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). A complaint
should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim
“unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded
allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and
drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in
the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the
plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his
claim entitling him to relief.'” Veney v.
Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231,
244 (4th Cir. 1999)).
pro se complaint must be construed liberally.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972) (a pro se
complaint, however inartfully pled, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers); see also Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738
(4th Cir. 2009) (“Liberal construction of
the pleadings is particularly appropriate where …
there is a pro se complaint raising civil rights
issues.”). 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). A pro se complaint must
still contain sufficient facts “to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level” and “state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570
(2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)
(the Twombly plausibility standard applies to all
federal civil complaints including those filed under §
1983). This “plausibility standard requires a plaintiff
to demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli,
588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotation marks omitted). He must articulate facts that, when
accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling
him to relief. Id.
official can be in a § 1983 suit in three ways: in his
personal capacity, his official capacity, or in a more
limited way, his supervisory capacity. King v.
Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 223-24 (4th Cir.
2016). For personal liability, “it is enough to show
that the official, acting under color of state law, caused
the deprivation of a federal right.” Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). In an
official-capacity suit, however, “[m]ore is
required:” the suit is “treated as a suit against
the entity, ” which must then be a “‘moving
force' behind the deprivation, ” id.
(quoting Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326
(1981)); thus, the entity's “‘policy or
custom' must have played a part in the violation of
federal law, ” id. (quoting Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S.
658, 694 (1978)). Meanwhile, a supervisor can be liable where
(1) he knew that his subordinate “was engaged in
conduct that posed a pervasive and unreasonable risk of
constitutional injury;” (2) his response showed
“deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of
the alleged offensive practices;” and (3) that there
was an “affirmative causal link” between his
inaction and the constitutional injury.” Shaw v.
Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
has named all of the Defendants in their official and
individual capacities. He alleges that violations occurred
and that Defendants knew about them via grievances and
letters. However, he does not allege that any of the
Defendants deprived Plaintiff of his First Amendment rights
through his own personal actions, so he has failed to state a
claim against them in their individual capacities. Nor does
Plaintiff allege that the incidents occurred as a result of
the Defendants' customs or policies so there is no basis
for Monell liability.
allegations are, however, minimally sufficient to state
supervisory liability. He alleges that he was repeatedly
deprived of his newspaper and that legal mail was opened at
the Avery-Mitchell C.I., that he informed Defendants about
these incidents in grievances and letters, and that their
failure to act allowed these incidents to ...