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Wright v. Corpening

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

March 25, 2019

HUBERT CORPENING, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of pro se Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1). Also pending are Plaintiff's “Motion for Permanent Restraining Order and Preventive Relief/Injunction, ” (Doc. No. 3), and Plaintiff's “Notice, ” (Doc. No. 8), in which he seeks transfer to another prison and a trial date. Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 7).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff filed this civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution.[1] He names as Defendants the following Marion C.I. employees: Unit Manager T. Boysworth, Nurse FNU Connely, Superintendent H. Corpening, Program Director D. Cotherin, Officer Davis, Assistant Unit Manager Hamilton, and Assistant Superintendent D. Watkins.

         Liberally construing the Complaint and accepting the allegations as true, Plaintiff was promoted to regular population on January 12, 2018 and is entitled to enjoy the privileges associated with regular population (“RPOP”) including unrestrained movements, meals in the dining hall, purchase of items from canteen, recreation in the gym, weekly visitation, and phone calls.

         Plaintiff was given an “adhesion contract” when he was placed in the restrictive Rehabilitation Diversion Unit (“R.D.U.”) program. He has been placed in solitary confinement and deprived of his RPOP privileges without due process. Defendants Boysworth, Hamilton and Cotherin are violating due process by denying Plaintiff a food package without an opportunity to appeal even though he is eligible to order food packages. (Doc. No. 1 at 3). Plaintiff is exposed to indefinite solitary confinement and Defendants Hamilton, Boysworth, Corpening, Watkins and Cotherin deprive him of his 13th Amendment rights. The RDU program restricts Plaintiff to be reviewed by a DCA (director's classification authority) nor FCC (Facility Classification Committee). They violate (RHCP) restrictive housing for control purposes by not providing that after a maximum of 90 days in solitary. This program is duress and cruel and unusual punishment, punished without due process, and involuntary servitude.

         Plaintiff sincerely believes in the Rastafarian faith and he is authorized to attend Rastafarian group worship services in the Marion C.I. Religious Service Center. He was denied a religious vegan diet on October 9, 2018 due to “chain of command, ” (Doc. No. 1 at 4), and Sergeant Kinzer's refusal to inform kitchen management to replace a missing special diet bag.

         On October 8, 2018, Officer Davis was escorting Plaintiff back to his assigned cell when Davis assaulted and battered Plaintiff by punching him in the back of the head with heavy force, stating “you fucking snitch that's for the lawsuit and earlier.” (Doc. No. 1 at 7). Defendant Connley refused to assist Plaintiff after being notified of a use of force report on October 11, 2018 that required emergency medical attention.

         Defendant Hamilton and Boysworth are violating the Unit Management chapter of NCDPS Policy & Procedure by placing Plaintiff in an environment where he is in fear after intimidation, reprisals, and unsafe conditions with staffing on the unit. Plaintiff has notified them of intimidation, reprisal and unsafe conditions on multiple occasions.

         Defendants Corpening, Watkins and Cotherin have the authority to issue disciplinary actions for violating NCDPS Policy & Procedure and staff misconduct but failed to do so. Their failure to act makes them liable under bystander liability.

         Defendants Hamilton, Boysworth, Corpening, Watkins and Cotherin violated Plaintiff's privacy rights and continue to defame his character by publishing false information. They defamed his character by “associating Plaintiff with RPOP and the activities that comes with RPOP in which Plaintiff has no connection to” and associating him with false charges and infractions. (Doc. No. 1 at 9).

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, injunctive relief (immediate transfer to Alexander C.I. and closure of RDU), compensatory damages, punitive damages, nominal damages, jury trial, costs, sentence reduction, any relief the court deems just, proper, and equitable.


         Because 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)).

         A pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); 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.


         (1) Parties

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that, “[i]n the complaint the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a); see Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551 (7th Cir. 2005) (“to make someone a party the plaintiff must specify him in the caption and arrange for service of process.”). Although pro se litigants are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed, Haines, 404 U.S. at 520, “[d]istrict judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants, ” Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225 (2004).

         The body of the Complaint contains allegations against at least one individual who is not named as a defendant in the caption as required by Rule 10(a). This failure renders those allegations nullities. See, e.g., Londeree v. Crutchfield Corp., 68 F.Supp.2d 718 (W.D. Va. Sept. 29, 1999) (granting motion to dismiss for individuals who were not named as defendants in the compliant but who were served). The allegations directed at individuals not named as Defendants are therefore dismissed without prejudice.

         (2) Cruel and Unusual Punishment

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits punishments that “involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). “It not only outlaws excessive sentences but also protects inmates from inhumane treatment and conditions while imprisoned.” Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996). The Constitution “does not mandate comfortable prisons, … but neither does it permit inhumane ones.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981)). Thus, prison official must provide sentenced prisoners with adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and “take reasonable measures to guarantee the[ir] safety….” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984); see Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832-34. Inmates' claims that prison officials disregarded specific known risks to their health or safety are analyzed under the deliberate indifference standard of the Eighth Amendment. See Pressly v. Hutto, 816 F.2d 977, 979 (4th Cir.1987). To establish the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment, a prisoner must prove two elements: (1) “the deprivation of [a] basic human need was objectively sufficiently serious, ” and (2) “subjectively the officials act[ed] with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1379 (4th Cir.1993) (quotation omitted).

         (A) Conditions of Confinement

         To establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment in the context of a challenge to conditions of confinement, an inmate must allege (1) a “sufficiently serious” deprivation under an objective standard and (2) that prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference” to the inmate's health and safety under a subjective standard. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297-99 (1991). A sufficiently serious deprivation occurs when “a prison official's act or omission ... ...

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