WOOD et al v. YORK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
REPORT AND RECOMMENDED DECISION re 1 Complaint filed by JAMES LEE WOOD. Objections to R&R due by 2/24/2017. By MAGISTRATE JUDGE JOHN C. NIVISON. (CWP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MAINE
JAMES LEE WOOD,
YORK COUNTY DEPARTMENT
OF CORRECTIONS, et al.,
RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER SCREENING COMPLAINT
PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e), 1915A
In this action, Plaintiff James Lee Wood, an inmate in custody at the York County
Jail, alleges the cost of goods at the prison commissary violate the County’s policies.
(Complaint, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and money damages. Plaintiff
filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), which application the Court
granted (ECF No. 6).
In accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of Plaintiff’s
complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Additionally, Plaintiff’s complaint is
subject to screening “before docketing, if feasible or … as soon as practicable after
docketing,” because he is “a prisoner seek[ing] redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
Following a review of Plaintiff’s complaint, I recommend the Court dismiss the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case at
any time if the court determines,” inter alia, that the action is “frivolous or malicious” or
“fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
“Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so
as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such
complaints.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).
In addition to the review contemplated by § 1915, Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to
screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act because Plaintiff currently is incarcerated
and seeks redress from governmental entities and officers. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (c).
The § 1915A screening requires courts to “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the
complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or
fails to state a claim …; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be
granted, courts must assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the
benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640
F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “The relevant question
... in assessing plausibility is not whether the complaint makes any particular factual
allegations but, rather, whether ‘the complaint warrant[s] dismissal because it failed in toto
to render plaintiffs’ entitlement to relief plausible.’” Rodríguez–Reyes v. Molina–
Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 55 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 n. 14).
Although a pro se plaintiff’s complaint is subject to “less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers,” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the complaint
may not consist entirely of “conclusory allegations that merely parrot the relevant legal
standard,” Young v. Wells Fargo, N.A., 717 F.3d 224, 231 (1st Cir. 2013). See also Ferranti
v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980) (explaining that the liberal standard applied to
the pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “is not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead
basic facts sufficient to state a claim”).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have violated and evidently continue to violate
York County’s policy that requires the cost of items sold in the jail commissary, or canteen,
reflect the average retail price in the community. (Complaint at 3.) Plaintiff asserts the
cost of items in the commissary is consistently higher than in the community.
Defendants’ alleged violation of a jail policy is not an actionable federal claim.
Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 250 – 51 (1983) (“The State may choose to require
procedures for reasons other than protection against deprivation of substantive rights, of
course, but in making that choice the State does not create an independent substantive
right.”); Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003) (“[T]here is no federal
constitutional liberty interest in having state officers follow state law or prison officials
follow prison regulations.”). Plaintiff also does not have a constitutional right to purchase
items in the jail commissary at a particular cost. French v. Butterworth, 614 F.2d 23, 25
(1st Cir. 1980) (“reject[ing] [the] contention that … inmates have a constitutionally
protected interest in buying food as cheaply as possible”). See also DeBrew v. Atwood,
792 F.3d 118, 129 (D.C. Cir. 2015); Stergios v. Sheriff Cumberland Cty., No. 2:10-CV00365-GZS, 2010 WL 3842154, at *1, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 102848, at *1 (D. Me. Aug.
31, 2010). Plaintiff, therefore, has failed to assert an actionable federal claim.
Based on the foregoing analysis, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(a), I recommend the Court dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint.
A party may file objections to those specified portions of a magistrate
judge's report or proposed findings or recommended decisions entered
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) for which de novo review by the district
court is sought, together with a supporting memorandum, within fourteen
(14) days of being served with a copy thereof. A responsive memorandum
shall be filed within fourteen (14) days after the filing of the objection.
Failure to file a timely objection shall constitute a waiver of the right
to de novo review by the district court and to appeal the district court's order.
/s/ John C. Nivison
U.S. Magistrate Judge
Dated this 10th day of February, 2017.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?