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Jones v. McKoy

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

February 4, 2019

Chris A. Jones, Plaintiff,
T. McKoy, et al., Defendants.


          Robert T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Chris A. Jones commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is currently before the court on defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings (D.E. 25). For the following reasons, the undersigned magistrate judge recommends that the district court allow the motion and dismiss Jones's complaint.

         I. Background

         Between January through July 2016, plaintiff started six actions in this district, including this case. See Jones v. Dunn, No. 5:16-CT-3003-D (E.D. N.C. filed Jan. 4, 2016); Jones v. Hurt, No. 5:16-CT-3017-D (E.D. N.C. filed Jan. 27, 2016); Jones v. Dunn, No. 5:16-CT-3034-BO (E.D. N.C. filed Feb. 5, 2016); Jones v. Hunt, No. 5:16-CT-3040-BO (E.D. N.C. filed Feb. 17, 2016); Jones v. N.C. Dep't of Pub. Safety, No. 5:16-CT-3176-D (E.D. N.C. filed July 18, 2016). His complaints relate to several issues at Franklin Correctional Center (“FCC”).[1] Jones's filings were disjointed and rambling, and he submitted many documents without specifying which case they were linked to. One judge described Jones's filings as a “morass through which the court is unwilling to wade.” Jones v. Dunn, No. 5:16-CT-3003-D, slip op. at 3 (E.D. N.C. Aug. 25, 2016). Because his filings were confusing, two judges directed Jones to particularize his claims. Id. at 4; see also Jones v. Dunn, No. 5:16-CT-3034-BO (E.D. N.C. Aug. 17, 2018).

         Following these particularization orders, courts dismissed Jones's 2016 filings and only this case remains open. Three times courts dismissed Jones's claims because it was apparent from the face of his complaint that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. See Jones v. Dunn, No. 5:16-CT-3003-D (E.D. N.C. Oct 6, 2016); Jones v. Hunt, No. 5:16-CT-3017-D (E.D. N.C. Apr. 14, 2016); Jones v. Hunt, No. 5:16-CT-3040-BO (E.D. N.C. Jan. 23, 2017). Another court dismissed Jones's claims for failure to prosecute. Jones v. Dunn, No. 5:16-CT-3034-BO (E.D. N.C. Sept. 27, 2018). Finally, a court dismissed Jones's fifth complaint at frivolity review for failure to state a claim. Jones v. N.C. Dep't of Pub. Safety, No. 5:16-CT-3176-D (E.D. N.C. Aug. 27, 2018).

         Jones filed his complaint in this action in February 2016. (D.E. 1). Jones does not provide much information about his claims in this complaint. First, he purports to describe two alleged assaults. The first encounter consisted of a correctional officer “throwing warm water on [Jones].” Compl. at 6. In the second instance described by Jones, a correctional officer “put his hands all in [Jones's] face.” Id. at 5. Other than these sparse details, Jones does not provide any further description of these incidents. In addition, Jones also alleges he “fell down on the bus [and] got hurt.” Id. at 6. He does not specifically allege that any prison official caused him to fall or failed to protect him from falling. Nor does he name the individuals involved in these incidents as defendants. Rather, he names their supervisors. See, e.g., id. at 3-4. Finally, Jones concedes that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his complaint. Id. at 8.

         II. Discussion

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule 12(c) motion is designed to dispose of cases when the material facts are not in dispute. Thus, the court can decide the case on its merits by considering the pleadings along with any materials referenced in and attached to the pleadings. See Id. 10(c), 12(c). In addition, a court may consider “documents incorporated into the [pleadings] by reference and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); see Thompson v. Greene, 427 F.3d 263, 268 (4th Cir. 2005); Fayetteville Inv'rs v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1465 (4th Cir. 1991).

         The same standard of review applied to a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) also applies to a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). See Burbach Broad. Co. of Del. v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 405-06 (4th Cir. 2002). In analyzing a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, a court must determine whether the complaint is legally and factually sufficient. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-80 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563-70 (2007); Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd, 132 S.Ct. 1327 (2012); Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008); Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007) (en banc); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (per curiam). In evaluating a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court accepts the complaint's factual allegations as true, but need not accept a complaint's legal conclusions drawn from the facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-80; Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 302. Similarly, a court “need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 302 (quotation omitted). Lastly, while the court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it does not act as the inmate's advocate, sua sponte developing statutory and constitutional claims the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint. See Brock v. Carroll, 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         The court should grant the Defendants' motion for several reasons. First, Jones concedes he did not exhaust his administrative remedies before filing this complaint. Compl. at 8, D.E. 1. The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 . . ., or any other Federal law, by a prisoner . . . until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). “[E]xhaustion is mandatory, ” and “unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007); accord Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016). To properly exhaust his administrative remedies, an inmate must show “[c]ompliance with [the relevant state prison's] grievance procedures.” Jones, 549 U.S. at 218. In North Carolina, proper exhaustion requires following a three-step administrative remedy procedure (“ARP”). See DPS Policy & Proc., Administrative Remedy Proc. Ch. G § .0310; see also Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008).

         In sum, Jones concedes on the face of his complaint that he did not exhaust his claims. Also the complaint shows that administrative remedies are available to Jones. Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016) (holding that a prisoner need not exhaust if administrative remedies are “unavailable.”). As a result, the district court should grant the Defendants' motion and dismiss Jones's complaint for failure to exhaust.

         Jones's claims also fail on the merits. Jones apparently describes various alleged Eighth Amendment violations. See Compl. at 5, D.E. 1. The Eighth Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth 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).

         Jones's sparse allegations fail to state an Eighth Amendment claim against any defendant. Jones cannot establish that any defendant inflicted a sufficiently serious harm on him to establish an Eighth Amendment claim. While possibly inconvenient, the court cannot say that these actions deprived Jones of “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities….” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981)); Cf. Chappell v. Mandeville, 706 F.3d 1052, 1061 (9th Cir. 2013) (Court did not find a constitutional violation when Plaintiff alleged correctional officers taped into two pairs of underwear and jumpsuits, placed in a hot cell with no ventilation, chained to an iron bed, shackled at the ankles and waist, and forced to eat like a dog.). Likewise, “[i]t is well settled that rudeness and unprofessionalism by prison staff do not constitute a federal or constitutional violation under Section 1983.” Morgan v. Buncombe Cty., No. 1:16-CV-286-FDW, 2016 WL 4585900, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Sept. 1, 2016). Nor is there any indication in Jones's Complaint that any defendant acted with deliberate indifference to his health or safety. Thus, Jones failed to state a claim for a violation under the Eighth Amendment.

         Furthermore, Jones sued the Defendants in their supervisory capacity. But they cannot be held liable under § 1983 simply because they are supervisors of individuals who may have violated a plaintiff's rights. Id. (4th Cir. 1977) (“The doctrine of respondeat superior has no application under [Section 1983].”). To establish supervisory liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege and show that (1) the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed “a pervasive and unreasonable risk” of constitutional injury to citizens like the plaintiff; (2) the supervisor's response to that knowledge was so inadequate as to show “deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices”; ...

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