United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
JOSEPH F. STEEPLETON, JR., Plaintiff,
FNU GREEN, Defendant.
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
pro se Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1). He
is proceeding in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 5).
se incarcerated Plaintiff filed a civil rights suit
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, about an incident that
allegedly occurred at the Alexander Correctional Institution.
He names as the sole Defendant Mr. Green, an officer at
Alexander C.I., in his official capacity.
the Complaint liberally and accepting it as true, Plaintiff
was in cuffs on December 17, 2018 and was being walked to
segregation when Officer Green used “bad force”
on him by throwing his face into the wall, putting him on the
floor, hitting him on his sides, and jumping on him for no
reason. (Doc. No. 1 at 4). Lieutenant Brown, the officer in
charge, had to get Officer Green off of the Plaintiff. He
appears to further allege that Brown looked at video footage,
confirmed that Plaintiff did nothing wrong, and let him out
of segregation. Plaintiff claims that his head, face, and
sides hurt for two weeks after the incident and
“they” did not call medical staff to treat him.
(Doc. No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff seeks damages and a five-year
reduction of his sentence.
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, 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.
body of the Complaint contains allegations about Officer
Brown, who is not named as defendant in the caption as
required by Rule 10(a). This failure renders Plaintiff's
allegations against Officer Brown 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 Officer Brown and any other individuals not specifically
named as Defendants are therefore dismissed without
Complaint refers to the deprivation of medical care but
Plaintiff fails to explain whether he wishes to assert that
claim against Officer Green and/or another individual(s). Nor
does he explain how their actions or inactions were
deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need. The
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a short and plain
statement of the claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Conclusory
allegations, unsupported by specific allegations of material
fact are not sufficient. Simpson v. Welch, 900 F.2d
33, 35 (4th Cir. 1990). A pleader must allege
facts, directly or indirectly, that support each element of
the claim. Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193,
201-02 (4th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff's conclusory
allegations about the denial of medical care are insufficient
to proceed at this time.
alleges that Officer Green used excessive force against him
and seeks to proceed against Green only in his official
capacity. A state 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, ” King, 825
F.3d at 223 (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). Plaintiff fails to state
an official capacity claim against Officer Green; there are
no allegations that an official policy or custom was the
moving force behind Green's alleged actions. Therefore,
the allegations against Green in his official capacity are
insufficient to state a claim and Plaintiff's excessive
force claim will be dismissed.
Plaintiff seeks relief including a reduction in his North
Carolina criminal sentence. However, “when a state
prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his
physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a
determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a
speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal
remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.” Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 1841, 36
L.Ed.2d 439 (1973); see, e.g., 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241; 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Plaintiff's request
for a reduced sentence is not cognizable in a § 1983
action and therefore will be dismissed.
Plaintiffs Complaint, as submitted, fails to state a claim
against any named Defendant and is subject to dismissal
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). The Court
will allow ...