Vallo v. Cooley et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER: Directing plaintiff to amend complaint/petition. Pro Se Response due by 7/6/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay on 6/6/2017. (crt,ThomasSld, T)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
LAKE CHARLES DIVISION
PRINCETON S. VALLO
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:16-cv-1359
KEITH COOLEY, ET AL
MAGISTRATE JUDGE KAY
Before the court is a civil rights complaint filed in forma pauperis by pro se plaintiff
Princeton S. Vallo. Vallo is an inmate in the custody of Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety
and Corrections and is incarcerated at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, Louisiana.
However, he complains about events that occurred when he was incarcerated Allen Correctional
Center (“ALC”) in Kinder, Louisiana. Vallo names the following ALC personnel as defendants
herein: Warden Keith Cooley, Warden Estes, Major Victorian, Major Soileau, Capt. Selgraph,
Capt. Thomas, Capt. Langley, Capt. Sonnier, Lt. Hebert, William Monk (“W. Monk”), Sgt. Monk,
Sgt. Gamble, Sgt, Rollins/Rolling, Dr. Ajenda, LPN Hebert, Unknown ALC Staff, Programs
Director Ed Shirley, and ARP Screening Officer Rachel Courville.
This matter has been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation
in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of the Court.
Vallo claims that on June 1, 2015, he was attacked on the recreation yard by inmate Mark
Sidney. Doc. 1, att. 2, p. 1. He contends that he was previously stabbed by Sidney “a few months
earlier” and that Sidney was supposed to be documented as his enemy. Doc. 1, p. 3. Nevertheless,
Vallo states that he was placed near Sidney with only a fence between them. Id. He claims that the
fence did not have any barbed or razor wire to keep them separated. Id. As a result, he alleges that
Sidney climbed the fence and attacked him with knife. Doc. 1, att. 2, p. 1. Vallo contends that the
entire incident took place in front of defendant William Monk1 and that he (William Monk)
allowed Sidney to climb the fence and chase him around the yard for ten to fifteen minutes before
calling for assistance. Id. Lt. Hebert, Sgt. Gamble, and Sgt. Monk apparently came to the scene of
the incident after W. Monk called for assistance but Vallo claims that they did not make any effort
to help him. Doc. 1, p. 4. Instead, he claims that “they just waited until he got tired of chasing me,
allowed him to throw the knife on Mars rood in front of them, & never cuffed him at all.” Id. at 5.
Following the incident, Lt. Hebert and Sgt. Gamble asked Vallo how Sidney got to Vallo’s
side of the fence. Id. Vallo told them to rewind their camera footage, ask whomever was supposed
to be watching the monitor, and to do their own jobs. Id. Vallo indicates that Hebert and Gamble
did not like his response, as he claims that they handcuffed him and locked him in a filthy cell
despite the fact that he had open wounds. Id. He contends that they waited over an hour to call a
nurse, but that he was seen later that day by LPN Hebert. Id. Vallo states that Dr. Ajenda examined
him a few days after the attack, and that Warden Estes and Major Victorian were in the infirmary
during one of the two examinations. Id.
According to Vallo, Sgt. Hebert and W. Monk fabricated a disciplinary report which they
had Sgt. Rolling/Rollins deliver to him. Id. Vallo states that the disciplinary hearing was held in
front of Captains Thomas and Selgraph and Major Victorian. Id. He alleges that Thomas and
Selgraph “attempted to cover up in the [disciplinary board] hearing by not turning on the
recording.” Id. He claims that the medical records and pictures taken by Lt. Sonnier support his
Vallo claims that the first attack also took place in front of W. Monk. Doc. 1, p. 3.
allegations concerning the attack. Id. Vallo states that defendants Cooley, Courville, and Shirley
were made aware of the incident via the ARP that he filed on August 27, 2015 but that they failed
to timely respond to the grievance. Id.; see doc. 1, att. 2.
As relief Vallo seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Doc. 1, p. 4.
LAW & ANALYSIS
A. Frivolity Review
Vallo has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This
act directs a district court to dismiss an action if the court determines that it is frivolous or malicious
or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Bradley v. Puckett, 157 F.3d 1022, 1025
(5th Cir. 1998) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii)).
A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Gonzalez v. Wyatt, 157
F.3d 1016, 1019 (5th Cir. 1998). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted if it is clear the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would
entitle him to relief. Doe v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 153 F.3d 211, 215 (5th Cir. 1998). When
determining whether a complaint is frivolous or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, the court must accept plaintiff’s allegations as true. Horton v. Cockrell, 70 F.3d 397, 400
(5th Cir. 1995) (frivolity); Bradley v. Puckett, 157 F.3d at 1025 (failure to state a claim).
B. 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Federal law provides a cause of action against any person who, under the color of law, acts
to deprive another person of any right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution and laws
of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus the initial question is whether the plaintiff has alleged
that his constitutional rights have been violated. If no constitutional violation has been alleged,
there is no cognizable claim that would entitle plaintiff to relief. In order to hold the defendants
liable, a plaintiff must allege facts to show (1) that a constitutional right has been violated and (2)
that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; that is,
that the defendant was a state actor. West v. Atkins, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 2254–55 (1988).
C. Rule 8 Considerations
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a pleading containing a claim for
relief to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). Under Rule 8, the complaint must allege “sufficient facts from
which the court can determine the existence of subject matter jurisdiction and from which the
defendants can fairly appreciate the claim made against them.” Bynum v. Terrebonne Parish
Consol. Gov’t, 2011 WL 6654985, *3 (E.D. La. Nov. 8, 2011) (citations omitted). Thus Vallo
should amend his complaint to provide:
(1) a description of what each named defendant did to violate his rights;
(2) the place and date that each event occurred;
(3) a description of the alleged injury sustained as a result of the alleged
violation. This description should provide sufficient detail to enable the
court to determine the seriousness of the injury, if any, he alleges he
(4) for what damages does he seek the requested award of monetary
damages (i.e. Vallo should explain to the court, in his own words, the
basis for which he seeks the damages);
(5) documentation showing all grievances and responses thereto filed by
him at any and all facilities regarding his claims herein; and
(6) a copy of the disciplinary report filed regarding this matter as well as
the disciplinary hearing officer’s findings and any appeals and rulings
related thereto. Vallo should also include all supporting documentation
concerning the report, hearing, and appeals.
D. Theories of the Complaint
Vallo’s complaint must provide the factual elements listed above as well as reflect the legal
considerations applicable to each theory of recovery.
The statute of limitations for a § 1983 action is the same as the statute of limitations in a
personal injury action in the state in which the claim accrues. Owens v. Okure, 109 S.Ct. 573, 576–
77 (1989) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 1948–49 (1985)). For § 1983 cases brought in
Louisiana federal courts, the appropriate limitations period is one year. LA. CIV. CODE art. 3492;
Elzy v. Roberson, 868 F.2d 793 (5th Cir. 1989). As many of Vallo’s claims accrued with his injury
on June 15, 2016,2 his complaint, which was filed in September 2016, may contain claims that
have prescribed. However, the Fifth Circuit also notes that the pendency of properly filed ARP
proceedings will act to toll the limitations period on a prisoner’s claims. Harris v. Hegmann, 198
F.3d 153, 156–59 (5th Cir. 1999). Accordingly, Vallo should allege the time his ARP proceedings
were pending and the dates on which any claims that arose after his stabbing accrued.
Vallo claims that he was retaliated against by defendants Lt. Hebert and Sgt. Gamble for
the manner in which he responded to their questions immediately following the incident in
question. Doc. 1, p. 5. To this extent, he should be aware that the Fifth Circuit has held that the
elements of a claim under a theory of retaliation are the invocation of a specific constitutional
right, the defendant's intent to retaliate against the plaintiff for his exercise of that right, a
retaliatory adverse act, and causation, which is a showing that but for the retaliatory motive, the
The date of accrual for a § 1983 claim is a question of federal law. Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 51 F.3d 512 (5th
Cir. 1995). “Under federal law, the limitations period begins to run the moment the plaintiff becomes aware that he
has suffered an injury or has sufficient information to know that he has been injured.” Id. at 516 (quoting Russell v.
Bd. of Trustees, 968 F.2d 489, 493 (5th Cir. 1992)) (quotations and alterations omitted).
action complained of would not have occurred. Johnson v. Rodriguez, 110 F.3d 299, 310 (5th Cir.
1997). This requirement places a heavy burden upon inmates, because mere conclusory allegations
will not suffice; instead, the inmate must produce direct evidence of retaliation or, the more
probable scenario, a chronology of events from which retaliation may plausibly be inferred. Woods
v. Smith, 60 F.3d 1161, 1166 (5th Cir. 1995). Vallo’s allegations are conclusory; he contends that
Hebert and Gamble retaliated against him by placing him in the tier and perhaps by denying him
medical care. However, he does not allege a chronology of events or how Hebert and Gamble were
connected to his receipt of medical care from another party. Accordingly, he should amend his
petition to better explain his retaliation claim.
3. False Disciplinary Report/Disciplinary Hearing
Vallo claims that defendants Sgt. Hebert and W. Monk filed a false disciplinary report
against him. He also states that the disciplinary hearing was held in front of Captains Thomas and
Selgraph and Major Victorian, and that Thomas and Selgraph attempted to cover up in the
disciplinary hearing by not recording it. Vallo does not give any additional information regarding
the report, hearing, or sanctions imposed, if any. To the extent that he is attempting to claim a due
process violation based on this incident, he is advised that such claims do not rise to a constitutional
dimension unless the punishment imposed against the plaintiff subjected him to an atypical and
significant deprivation (evaluated in the context of prison life) in which a state might conceivably
have created a liberty interest for the benefit of the inmate. Sandin v. Conner, 115 S.Ct. 2293
(1995). Vallo has alleged no such deprivation. To the extent that he intends to raise this claim as a
due process violation, he must show the sanctions imposed. If he intends to raise this claim as
another incident of retaliation, he should allege a chronology of events and the connection of the
actors involved in the adverse event to his attempt to exercise a constitutional right.
4. Grievance Procedure
Vallo asserts that defendants Keith Cooley, Rachel Courville, and Ed Shirley failed to
timely respond to the grievance that he filed. Prisoners do not have a constitutionally protected
right to a grievance procedure. Chambers v. Roy, 2010 WL 5621283, *2 (E.D. Tex. Nov. 10, 2010)
(collecting cases). Therefore Vallo shows no right to relief under this claim and should dismiss it
or amend to show how the delay impacted some federally protected right.
5. Supervisory Liability
It appears that Warden Cooley and Warden Estes are named in this petition in a supervisory
capacity. Supervisory officials may not be held liable under § 1983 under the doctrine of
respondeat superior. See Mouille v. City of Live Oak, 977 F.2d 924 (5th Cir. 1992). To be liable
under § 1983, a supervisory official must be personally involved in the act causing the alleged
constitutional deprivation, or must have implemented a policy so deficient that the policy itself
acts as a deprivation of constitutional rights. Cronn v. Buffington, 150 F.3d 538, 544 (5th Cir.
1998). Vallo has named Warden Cooley and Warden Estes as defendants but has not alleged
personal involvement or that they implemented a policy so deficient that the policy itself acts as a
deprivation of constitutional rights. He should therefore amend his complaint to demonstrate
liability on the part of these individuals or dismiss his claims against them.
6. Claims Against Unidentified Individuals
Vallo has also asserted claims against unidentified individuals, namely “unknown staff” at
ALC. He does not give any additional identifying information regarding these individuals nor does
he state what they allegedly did to violate his constitutional rights. Vallo should amend his
complaint to identify the specific individual(s) by role and action or dismiss them.
7. Captain Langley, Major Victorian, Sgt. Rolling/Rollins, Lt. Sonnier, LPN Hebert,
and Dr. Ajenda
Vallo does not allege constitutional violations on the part of the above defendants. As to
Capt. Langley, he merely states that a “[c]ivil action is now being filed on . . . Investigator Capt.
Langley.” Doc. 1, p. 5. Vallo claims that Major Victorian was a member of the disciplinary board
that conducted the disciplinary hearing and that he was in the infirmary when Dr. Ajenda was
examining his (Vallo’s) stab wounds. He also states that Sgt. Rolling/Rollins brought Vallo a copy
of the disciplinary report and that Lt. Sonnier took pictures of Vallo’s stab wounds. Id. In regard
to LPN Hebert and Dr. Ajenda, Vallo simply states that he was seen by both defendants.
Vallo should amend his complaint to sufficiently support his claims against these parties
or dismiss same.
Vallo’s pro se complaint is deficient in a number of respects as discussed above. Before
this court determines the proper disposition of his claims, he should be given the opportunity to
remedy the deficiencies of his complaint or dismiss those claims that he cannot remedy. Bazrowx
v. Scott, 136 F.3d 1053, 1054 (5th Cir. 1998).
THE CLERK IS DIRECTED to serve Vallo with a copy of this order.
IT IS ORDERED that Vallo amend his complaint within thirty (30) days of the filing of
this order to cure the deficiencies as outlined above, and dismiss the claims he is unable to cure
Failure to comply with this order may result in dismissal of this action as frivolous under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) or under Rule 41(b) or 16(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See Link v. Wabash R. Co., 82 S.Ct. 1386 (1962).
Vallo is further required to notify the court of any change in his address under LR 41.3.
THUS DONE AND SIGNED in Chambers this 6th day of June, 2017.
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