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Ransom v. Davis

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

November 14, 2019

BRIAN G. RANSOM, Plaintiff,
v.
FNU DAVIS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint [Doc. 1], filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A.

         On April 17, 2019, the Court entered an order waiving the initial filing fee and directing monthly payments to be made from Plaintiff's prison account. [Doc. 12]. Plaintiff, therefore, is proceeding in forma pauperis.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Brian G. Ransom (“Plaintiff”), a North Carolina state inmate currently incarcerated at Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, North Carolina, filed this action on February 4, 2019, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Doc. 1]. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution in relation to alleged sexual harassment by Defendant Davis and alleged retaliation and other events that ensued after Plaintiff filed grievances related to the harassment. In his Complaint, Plaintiff names the following persons as Defendants: (1) FNU Davis, identified as a correctional line staff at Marion Correctional Institution (“Marion”); (2) FNU Hamilton, identified as the E-unit restrictive housing acting Unit Manager at Marion; and (3) FNU Kizer, identified as the E-unit restrictive housing Unit Sergeant. [Doc. 1 at 2-3]. The Court takes the following allegations by Plaintiff as true for the purpose of this initial review:

         Beginning on January 6, 2019, Defendant Davis began verbally abusing Plaintiff with insults, comments, and innuendo of a sexual nature, calling into question Plaintiff's gender and sexuality. On the same day, Plaintiff requested a grievance from and to file a P.R.E.A.[1] complaint. Defendant Kizer refused Plaintiff's request to file a P.R.E.A. complaint for two days. On January 8, 2019, after Plaintiff filed a grievance, he was issued two infractions for having his outside window covered, while other inmates had their windows covered and received no infractions. Also on January 8, 2019, Defendant Hamilton told Plaintiff that, because Plaintiff wants to file grievances and P.R.E.A. complaints on Hamilton's officers, Hamilton would “make sure [Plaintiff's] stay on E-unit was uncomfortable.” Defendant Hamilton refused to allow Plaintiff to receive or see photographs sent from Plaintiff's mother under the pretense of there being some “unknown substance” on them. After Plaintiff requested to speak with the officer-in-charge, Hamilton came to Plaintiff's cell and reiterated that, as long as Plaintiff filed complaints against Hamilton's officers, Plaintiff would “receive every form of punishment” possible.

         On January 11, 2019, Hamilton filed another infraction against Plaintiff, claiming Plaintiff falsified his allegations of sexual harassment against Defendant Davis. Plaintiff was charged with an A-18 infraction and referred to the Disciplinary Hearing Board. Hamilton returned to Plaintiff's cell later that day and threatened Plaintiff with more infractions and to remove Plaintiff from his cell. On the same day, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Hamilton and Hamilton told the Plaintiff that Hamilton would be handling the grievance personally because Hamilton was the acting Unit Manager, which would be a violation of N.C. Department of Public Safety policy.

         On January 18, 2019, when Defendant Davis was serving Plaintiff his dinner tray, Davis continued his verbal sexual harassment. Despite there being an active and ongoing P.R.E.A. investigation against Defendant Davis, Defendant Hamilton, contrary to policy, refused to remove Davis from Plaintiff's cell block. Plaintiff informed Hamilton and Defendant Kizer that Plaintiff did not feel safe or comfortable with Davis around him. Defendants Kizer and Hamilton deliberately “turned a blind eye to the matter and would laugh about it and walk off.” The verbal harassment by Davis continued January 19 and 20, 2019. On January 20, 2019, Plaintiff asked Defendant Kizer for help in preventing Defendant Davis from serving Plaintiff his meal trays. Defendant Kizer responded that Plaintiff did not get to choose who served Plaintiff food but did tell Plaintiff he would bring Plaintiff his tray when Kizer had time. Plaintiff also alleges generally that, “[a]ny inmate that uses the grievance system or filing complaints with the court of justice against [Hamilton] or any employee at Marion Correctional on E-unit Restrictive Housing are retaliated upon.”

         Finally, Plaintiff alleges that, from January 21, 2019 through January 25, 2019, Defendants Hamilton and Kizer kept Plaintiff in a cell without sufficient water pressure for Plaintiff's toilet to flush properly, so that waste accumulated after each flush. Plaintiff was denied water for 24 hours due to Plaintiff's toilet overflowing. Sergeant Kizer turned Plaintiff's toilet completely off and refused to put in a work order for two days and refused to move Plaintiff to a cell with a functioning toilet. [Doc. 1 at 3-12].

         For injuries, Plaintiff claims he suffered stress, fear to leave his cell, loss of sleep, and emotional injury as a result of Defendants' conduct. [Id. at 13]. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and monetary relief. [Id. at 13-14].

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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).

         III. ...


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