United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
Chris A. Jones, Plaintiff,
T. McKoy, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION
T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge
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.
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”). 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,
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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
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
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”; ...