Blair v. Walters
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to proceed informa pauperis [ECF No. 2 ] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiff shall pay an initial filing fee of $1.70 within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this Order. Plaintiff is instructed to make his remittance payable to "Clerk, United States District Court," and to include upon it: (1) his name; (2) his prison registration number; (3) the case number; and ( 4) that the remittan ce is for an original proceeding. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause process to issue upon the complaint as to any defendant because the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff 's claims against defendants Angela Walters, Joshua Browers, Daniel Alfard, Lonnie Smallen, Jennifer Price, William Milam, Perry Arnold, Martin Rodriguez, and Jody Glore are DISMISSED without prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff 39;s motion for appointment of counsel [ECF No. 3 ] is DENIED as moot. IT IS HEREBY CERTIFIED that an appeal from this dismissal would not be taken in good faith. An Order of Dismissal will accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge John A. Ross on 9/8/2021. (CLO)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
ANGELA WALTERS, et al.,
Case No. 4:21-CV-627 JAR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Self-represented Plaintiff Diamond Blair brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
alleged violations of his civil rights. The matter is now before the Court upon the motion of
Plaintiff for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, or without prepayment of the required filing fees
and costs. ECF No. 2. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in
support; the Court will grant the motion and assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.70. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(b)(l). Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint, the Court will dismissal this .
matter for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
Initial Partial Filing Fee
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(l), a prisoner bringing a civil action informa pauperis is
required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his or her
prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial
partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of ( 1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's
account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month
period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly
payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly
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payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10, until
the filing fee is fully paid. Id
Plaintiff has submitted an application to proceed in district court without prepaying fees or
costs. ECF No. 2. In his application, Plaintiff states that he has no job, no income, no assets, and
no money in his prison account. Id at 1-2. A few weeks after filing the application, Plaintiff
submitted a certified inmate account statement showing average monthly deposits of$8.50 from a
prison job. ECF No. 4. The Court finds that Plaintiff has insufficient funds in his prison account
to pay the entire fee and will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1. 70, which is twenty
percent of Plaintiffs average monthly deposit.
Legal Standard on Initial Review
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court may dismiss a complaint filed informa pauperis
if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or
seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. When reviewing a
complaint filed by a self-represented person under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court accepts the wellpleaded facts as true, White v. Clark, 750 F.2d 721, 722 (8th Cir. 1984), and it liberally construes
the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972). A "liberal construction" means that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, the district
court should construe the plaintiffs complaint in a way that permits the claim to be considered
within the proper legal framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015).
However, even self-represented plaintiffs are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim
for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980); see also
Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (refusing fo supply additional facts or to
construct a legal theory for the self-represented plaintiff).
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To state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead more than "legal conclusions" and
"[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory
statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible
claim for relief, which is more than a "mere possibility of misconduct." Id at 679. "A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id at 678.
Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id at 679.
Plaintiff, an inmate at Potosi Correctional Center ("PCC"), brings this action under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his civil rights by nine PCC employees: (1) Angela Walters
(Case Manager); (2) Joshua Browers (Case Manager); (3) Daniel Alfard (Case Manager); (4)
Lonnie Smallen (Functional Unit Manager ("FUM")); (5) Jennifer Price (Assistant Warden); (6)
William Milam (FUM); (7) Perry Arnold (Case Manager); (8) Martin Rodriguez (Correctional
Officer); and (9) Jody Glore (Warden). ECF No. 1 at 2-5. He names all of the defendants in both
their individual and official capacities. Id
Plaintiff alleges Equal Protection and Due Process violations. Id at 6-38. Prior to being
transferred to PCC, Plaintiff was incarcerated at South Central Correctional Center where he was
attacked twice in 2015, resulting in substantial injuries. Plaintiff was transferred to Jefferson City
Correctional Center and then to PCCC in August 2017. Upon intake at PCCC, Plaintiff was placed
in a general population unit despite his request for protective custody ("PC"). In the first six
months at PCCC, Plaintiff was attacked twice and moved to administrative segregation after each
attack. Sometime in May or June 2018, Plaintiff was moved to the PC unit. Id at~~ 1-20.
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Once in the PC unit, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants treated him (as an African American
inmate) differently than they treated white inmates. Plaintiff alleges that he received conduct
violations for minor infractions that white inmates would not get write-ups for. Plaintiff asserts
that Defendants used administrative segregation placement as a "retaliatory means" to remove
Plaintiff from the PC unit and harass him. Id. at~ 34. Plaintiff alleges that he filed grievances and
his attorney filed a complaint with the Missouri Department of Corrections in an attempt to get
him back into the PC unit. Subsequently he was reassigned to the PC unit sometime around April
2019. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated for his reassignment with repeated searches of
his cell at two in the morning. Id. at~~ 35-45.
In October 2019, Plaintiff fought with another inmate while assigned to the PC unit. Id. at
51. He received a conduct violation for the fight, but he alleges that the violation was modified
to a minor assault rule violation in a method that was not in compliance with PCC rules. After
being found guilty of the conduct violation, Plaintiff asserts that he was assigned to administrative
segregation indefinitely. Id. at~~ 53-64. Plaintiff alleges that his repeated requests for assignment
to the PC unit have been denied "as a discriminatory and retaliatory method to get even with [him]
for fighting a white inmate" and "to punish [him] for his continued requests to be reassigned to the
PC unit." Id. at~~ 91-92.
At one PC assignment hearing, Plaintiff was found to be "a threat to the PC wing" and
denied placement there. Id. at~ 89. According to his grievance paperwork, Plaintiff has been
denied reassignment for "the safety and security of the PC unit" and because his "previous three
assignments to the protective custody unit have not resulted in positive behavior." ECF No. 1-1
at 15, 17. However, according to Plaintiff, several white inmates have returned to the PC unit after
violating prison rules (including fighting) more than three times. ECF No. 1 at
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Plaintiff states that administrative segregation is "significantly harsher conditions" than PC and it
"does not have opportunities to participate in work, or other institutional programs." 1 Id at 1154.
Plaintiff asserts that Defendants are trying to "break [him] from requesting PC" and get
him "to sign enemy waivers with listed enemies in the prison's general population" so that he can
be returned to general population. Id. at ,168, 137, 149. He even goes so far as to allege that all
nine defendants have "adopted an unconstitutional policy" of "discriminatory, differential, and
retaliatory treatment" of him. Id. at 21. Plaintiff describes this unconstitutional policy as trying
to force Plaintiff"to sign enemy waivers to return tp general population where he will be assaulted
by known and unknown enemies" and trying to "transfer [Plaintiff] to another prison where they
are aware of his enemy situation and [where] ... he face[s] the risk of possibly being assaulted."
Id. at 11173-74.
Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants have "abuse[d] the grievance system" and violated
his "procedural due process," in violation of Missouri statutory law and PCC institutional policies.
Id. at 11100-28, 180-98. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that defendant FUM Milam violated prison
rules when he gave Plaintiff a punishment that exceeded the maximum disciplinary amount, and
that Milam abused his authority to keep Plaintiff out of PC because of Milam's "irrational and
arbitrary animus" toward Plaintiff. Id. at
As for defendant correctional officer
Rodriguez, Plaintiffs alleges that Rodriguez violated his procedural due process rights when
Rodriguez modified and rewrote Plaintiffs October 2019 conduct·violation involving his fight
with a white inmate. 2 Id. at 11199-223.
The Court notes that the certified inmate account statement submitted in this case by Plaintiff shows that he has
received 'Payroll Tip' from an institutional job for every month shown on the statement (December 2020 through
June 2021). ECF No. 4.
Plaintiff asserts that the rewrite was recommended by defendant case manager Browers and that it was against
PCC policy. Id at 1 207-15. Rodriguez originally issued a conduct violation for "Rule 19 .1 Creating a disturbance"
as the primary infraction, and "Rule 25 .1 Fighting" as the secondary infraction. Plaintiff asserts that Rodriguez
modified the report to contain only the violation of" 10.1 Minor Assault." Id. at 11200-01, 206. Plaintiff explains
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Plaintiff asserts additional allegations of procedural due process violations based on the
treatment of his "minor assault" violation as a "major" violation; deprivation of a corrective
hearing; improper violation and grievance handling; imposition of "illegal" sanctions; and denial
of "meaningful review." Id at
Again, these allegations are all based on alleged
violations of Missouri statutes and PCC policies.
Plaintiff asserts that he suffered injuries in a June 2020 attack by another inmate that would
not have occurred "but for defendants' continued illegal confinement" of him in administrative
segregation. ECF No. 1 at 39, 41. For relief, plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Id at 41.
Plaintiff's Related Litigation
On his form complaint in the section titled 'Previous Lawsuits,' Plaintiff lists three other
cases that he has filed "dealing with the same facts involved in this action." ECF No. 1 at 44-47.
Two of the cases were filed in the 24th Judicial Circuit C9urt in Washington County, Missouri:
case numbers "20WA-CC00326" and "20WA-CC00303." Id at 44, 46. Plaintiff describes the
first of these state court cases as a still-pending matter that involves the same nine defendants as
those named in this case. Id at 44-45. The second state court case was "dismissed and currently
being appealed." Id at 46. Plaintiff describes the third case as a federal case in the Western
District of Missouri involving defendants "Roger Terry, et al", but he does not provide a case
number. Id at 45. According to Plaintiff, the case result was: "defeat injury trial, Judge dismissed
Jury sua sponte ruling for Defendant Terry; case appealed." Id. at 47.
the minor assault as a "level 2 sanction with a maximum sanction of [disciplinary segregation] confinement of 20
days." Id. at ,r 301. Plaintiff later alleges that he was improperly confined for two 20-day periods for this conduct
violation (instead of one 20-day period). Id. at ,r,r 296-304. However, Plaintiff does not explain how the allegedly
improper modification from one primary and one secondary infraction, to one minor assault violation, changed his
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Independent review of Plaintiffs state court cases on Missouri Case.net, the State of
Missouri's online docketing system, shows that Plaintiff filed a civil case in the Circuit Court of
Washington County, Missouri on August 13, 2020, against the same nine defendants involved in
this matter. See Blair v. Walters, et al., Case No. 20WA-CC00326 (24th Jud. Cir. Aug. 13, 2020).
Plaintiffs claims in that matter appears to be the same as those brought in this civil complaint
currently before the Court. He alleged Equal Protection and Due Process violations based on the
same set of facts and circumstances. In that matter, the state court granted Defendants' motion to
dismiss on the grounds of sovereign immunity and failure to state a valid claim for relief on January
6, 2021. Plaintiffs initial attempt at appealing this decision was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction
because he did not yet have a final, appealable judgment. See Blair v. Walters, et al., No.
ED109462 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. Feb. 8, 2021). Once the final judgment was issued by the Circuit
Court on May 23, 2021, Plaintiff filed another notice of appeal. See Blair v. Walters, et al., No.
ED109712 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. June 16, 2021). As of the date of this Order, this appeal is still
pending with the Missouri Court of Appeals with Plaintiffs brief due by September 20, 2021.
The other state court matter referred to by Plaintiff in his complaint, was filed in July 2020
against the Missouri Department of Corrections and eight MDOC employees at PCC - four of
whom are also named in this suit. See Blair v. Glore, et al., Case No. 20WA-CC00303 (24th Jud.
Cir. July 27, 2020). That case involved allegations of denial of Plaintiffs First Amendment rights
to freedom of religion regarding his practice as a Black Hebrew Israelite at PCC. In October 2020,
the state court dismissed the matter, finding that sovereign immunity barred official capacity
claims; federal claims were barred by a failure to exhaust administrative remedies; and because
Plaintiffs allegations failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under the Missouri
Prisoner Litigation Reform Act. See Rev. Mo. Stat. § 506.375. Plaintiff appealed this decision.
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See Blair v. Glore, et al., No. ED109322 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. Nov. 24, 2020). The state appellate
court recently issued a decision affirming the trial court dismissal.
Finally, the third case referred to by Plaintiff in his complaint was a federal case he filed
in 2015 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri. In that case,
Plaintiff alleged that the Warden of South Central Correctional Center failed to protect him from ·
an attack by a fellow inmate. See Blair v. Bowersox, et al., No. 6:15-CV-3532-RK (W.D. Mo.
Dec. 9, 2015). The attack was the second attack Plaintiff suffered in a short period of time and it
occurred soon after the Warden had approved Plaintiffs return to general population. The case
went to a jury trial but after the parties rested, the defendant Warden was granted judgment as a
matter of law. The trial testimony in that matter revealed that in April 2015 defendant Warden
deemed Plaintiff "just too aggressive for" the PC Unit. Id. at ECF No. 245. The Eighth Circuit
Court affirmed the district court's ruling in an opinion published in July 2019. See Blair v.
Bowersox, et al., No. 18-1486 (8th Cir. July 12, 2019).
Liberally construing the allegations of self-represented Plaintiffs complaint, the Court
finds that this case is subject to dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) for failure to state a
claim on which relief may be granted. First, it appears that Plaintiff is bringing the same claims
in this case that have already-been litigated and decided in state court. As such, his claims are
barred by res judicata. Second, to the extent Plaintiff seeks review by this Court of the state court
decision on these claims, the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction for such review under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Finally, even if these were newly brought claims, Plaintiffs official
capacity claims are barred by sovereign immunity and for failure to name defendants suable under
§ 1983. As to the remaining claims brought against Defendants in their individual capacities, th~
factual allegations as pled are insufficient to state actionable claims of Equal Protection and Due
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Process violations. Moreover, Plaintiffs claims based on violations of Missouri statutes and PCC
rules are not appropriately brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For all of these reasons, Plaintiffs
complaint will be dismissed.
Res Judicata Bars Relitigation of Claims
"Res judicata incorporates the concepts of both issue preclusion and claim preclusion.
Issue preclusion refers to the effect of a judgment in foreclosing relitigation of a matter that has
been litigated and decided. A party is precluded from litigating such a matter in a subsequent
case." Sandy Lake Band ofMiss. Chippewa v. United States, 714 F.3d 1098, 1102 (8th Cir. 2013)
(internal citations and quotations omitted). Issue preclusion has five elements:
(1) the party sought to be precluded in the second suit must have been a party, or in privity
with a party, to the original lawsuit;
(2) the issue sought to be precluded must be the same as the issue involved in the prior
(3) the issue sought to be precluded must have been actually litigated in the prior action;
(4) the issue sought to be precluded must have been determined by a valid and final
(5) the determination in the prior action must have been essential to the prior judgment.
Id. at 1102-03. This principle of res judicata applies in the context of§ 1983 claims and acts as a
bar to the relitigation of constitutional issues. Robbins v. Dist. Ct. of Worth Cnty., Iowa, 592 F.2d
1015, 1017-18 (8th Cir. 1979).
Plaintiffs state court case involved the same nine defendants and alleged the same
constitutional issues of Equal Protection and Due Process.
Plaintiffs claims were actually
litigated, determined by a final judgment, and essential to the state court judgment. Based on this,
it appears that Plaintiffs claims here are precluded from relitigation.
Rooker-Feldman Doctrine Bars Review of State Court Judgment
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This federal court does not sit in review of the state court decision on the same claims ..
Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Court does not have jurisdiction to revisit these
allegations. "The basic theory of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is that only the United States
Supreme Court has been given jurisdiction to review a state-court decision, so federal district
courts generally lack subject-matter jurisdiction over attempted appeals from a state-court
judgment." Dodson v. Univ. of Ark. for Med. Sci., 601 F.3d 750, 754 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal
quotations omitted). The doctrine is limited to "cases brought by state-court losers complaining
of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments." Exxon Mobil
Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280,284 (2005).
Litigants can choose whether to pursue ... claims in state or federal court. Once a
party has litigated in state court, however, he cannot circumvent Rooker-Feldman
by recasting his or her lawsuit as a [section] 1983 action. In other words, if a litigant
has raised and lost claims in state court, he may not recast those claims under
section 1983 and try again. He must follow the appellate procedure through the
state courts and seek review before the Supreme Court.
Dodson, 601 F.3d at 754-55 (quoting Prince v. Ark. Bd. Exam 'rs in Psych., 380 F.3d 337,340 (8th
Cir. 2004) (internal citations and quotations omitted)).
Plaintiff chose to pursue these claims in Missouri state court and cannot circumvent
Rooker-Feldman by recasting his state court case as a federal action. See generally Rooker v.
Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415 (1923) ("If the constitutional questions stated in the bill
actually arose in the cause, it was the province and duty of the state courts to decide them; and
their decision, whether right or wrong, was an exercise of jurisdiction. If the decision was wrong,
that did not make the judgment void, but merely left it open to reversal or modification in an
appropriate and timely appellate proceeding. Unless and until so reversed or modified, it would
be an effective and conclusive adjudication."). Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff seeks review of
the state court judgment on these claims, this federal district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
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pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See also Postma v. First Fed Sav. & Loan of Sioux
City, 74 F.3d 160, 162 (8th Cir. 1996).
Dismissal of Official Capacity Claims
Even if Plaintiff was bringing these claims for this first ~ime to this Court, his claims would
still be subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim. In an official capacity claim against an
individual, the claim is actually "against the governmental entity itself." White v. Jackson, 865
F .3d 1064, 1075 (8th Cir. 2017) (internal citation omitted). Thus, a "suit against a public employee
in his or her official capacity is merely a suit against the public employer." Johnson v. Outboard
Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8tµ Cir. 1999). Here, Defendants are all employees at PCC
which is a Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC") facility and state agency. Naming a
state official in his or her.official capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that
employs the official -the State itself. Will v. Mich. Dep't ofState Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
"Section 1983 provides for an action against a 'person' for a violation, under color oflaw,
of another's civil rights." McLean v. Gordon, 548 F.3d 613, 618 (8th Cir. 2008). However,
"neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under§ 1983." Will,
491 U.S. at 71.
In addition, in the absence of a waiver, the Eleventh Amendment3 bars a§ 1983 suit against
a state official acting in his or her official capacity. Morstadv. Dep'tofCorr. & Rehab., 147 F.3d
741, 744 (8th Cir. 1998); see also Andrus ex rel. Andrus v. Ark., 197 F.3d 953,955 (8th Cir. 1999)
("A claim for damages against a state employee in his official capacity is barred under the Eleventh
Amendment."). "Sovereign immunity is the privilege of the sovereign not to be sued without its
consent." Va. Office for Prat. & Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247, 253 (2011).· The Eleventh
The Eleventh Amendment provides: "The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed t9 extend to
any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another state, or
by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const. amend XI.
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Amendment has been held to confer immunity on an un-consenting state from lawsuits brought in
federal court by a state's own citizens or the citizens of another state. Edelman v. Jordan, 415
U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974); see also Webb v. City ofMaplewood, 889 F.3d 483,485 (8th Cir. 2018)
("The Eleventh Amendment protects States and their arms and instrumentalities from suit in
federal court."); Dover Elevator Co. v. Ark. State Univ., 64 F.3d 442, 446 (8th Cir. 1995) ("The
Eleventh Amendment bars private parties from suing a state in federal court."); Egerdahl v.
Hibbing Cmty. Coll., 72 F .3d 615, 618-19 (8th Cir. 1995) ("Generally, in the absence of consent a
suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed
by the Eleventh Amendment." (internal quotation and citation omitted)).
Accordingly, Plaintiffs official-capacity claims brought against all nine defendants are
barred by sovereign immunity and for failure to name defendants suable under § 1983.
Insufficient Factual Allegations: Failure to State a Claim
Plaintiffs complaint suffers from multiple other pleading problems which require
dismissal here. To the extent that Plaintiff seeks relief for violations of Missouri statutes and
noncompliance with PCC rules, these are not valid claims under§ 1983. To state a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). It is well established that there
is no federal constitutional liberty interest in having state officers follow state law or having prison
officials follow prison regulations. Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing
Kennedy v. Blankenship, 100 F.3d 640, 643 (8th Cir. 1996)); see also Gardner v. Howard, 109
F.3d 427, 430 (8th Cir. 1997) (failure to follow prison policy is not basis for § 1983 liability).
Also, there is no federal constitutional right to a prison grievance procedure, and neither state law
nor state policy creates one. Therefore, if a state elects to provide a grievance mechanism,
violations thereof will not give rise to a§ 1983 claim. Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494,495 (8th
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Cir. 1993) (grievance procedure is procedural right only and does not confer substantive right on
In addition, "[l]iability under§ 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for,
the deprivation of rights." Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990); see also
Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (to be cognizable under§ 1983, a claim
must allege that the defendant was personally involved in or directly responsible for the incidents
that deprived the plaintiff of his constitutional rights). Plaintiffs 'Statement of Claim' contains
347 paragraphs of handwritten information, divided into multiple sections and subsections,
alternating between providing ''material facts" and making legal conclusions. Although Plaintiff
makes some allegations against specific defendants by name, many of his allegations are made
against "Defendants" generally. See ECF No. 1 at
99, 109, 171, 250. These broad,
general allegations do not establish personal involvement or direct responsibility by Defendants.
Furthermore, although civil rights pleadings should be construed liberally, at the very least,
the complaint must contain facts which state a claim as a matter of law.
Frey v. City of
Herculaneum, 44 F.3d 667,671 (8th Cir. 1995). Plaintiff's complaint contains insufficient factual
allegations to state claims for violations of Equal Protection and Due Process.
A. Equal Protection Claim
Plaintiff wants to be in the PC unit but he alleges that Defendants don't want him there and
have treated him differently than similarly situated white inmates due to his race. He also alleges
that he has been the target of unfair treatment in terms of being written up for minor infractions
because he continues to request the PC unit. Defendants do not think Plaintiff belongs in the PC
unit due to reasons of "safety and security," and after finding Plaintiff to be "too aggressive" and
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The Equal Protection Clause provides, "No State shall ... deny to any person within its
jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § I. "The purpose of the
equal protection clause ... is to secure every person within the state's jurisdiction against intentional
and arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by express terms of a statute or by its improper
execution through duly constituted agents." Sunday Lake Iron Co. v. Wakefield Tp., 247 U.S. 350,
352 (1918). Unequal treatment of "'those who are entitled to be treated alike is not a denial of
equal protection unless there is shown to be present in it an element of intentional or purposeful
discrimination."' Batra v. Bd of Regents of Univ. of Neb., 79 F.3d 717, 721 (8th Cir. 1996)
(quoting Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1, 8 (1944)). "The good faith of [state] officers and the
validity of their actions are presumed; when assailed, the burden of proof is upon the complaining
party." Sunday Lake, 247 U.S. at 353. Without more, "opprobrious epithets" like "'willful' and
'malicious"' and characterizations of an officer's conduct "as an unequal, unjust, and oppressive
administration of the laws" are not enough. Snowden, 321 U.S. at 10.
Plaintiff also seems to be attempting to allege a "class-of-one" Equal Protection claim.
ECF No. 1 at ,r 46. The Supreme Court recognizes a "class of one" Equal Protection claim "where
the plaintiff [does] not allege membership in a class or group," but instead "plaintiff alleges that
she [or he] has been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there
is no rational basis for the difference in treatment." Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562,
564 (2000) (per curiam); accord Barstad v. Murray Cnty., 420 F.3d 880, 884 (8th Cir. 2005).
"Identifying the disparity in treatment is especially important in class-of-one cases." Barstad, 420
F.3d at 884.
However, this class-of-one theory has limits. In light of the importance of"a clear standard '
against wluch departures, even for a single plaintiff, [can] be readily assessed," the class-of-one
theory may not apply to "some forms of state action ... which by their nature involve discretionary
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decisionmaking based on a vast array of subjective, individualized assessments. In such cases the
rule that people should be 'treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions' is not violated
when one person is treated differently from others, because treating like individuals differently is
an accepted consequence of the discretion granted." Engquistv. Or. Dep'tofAgric., 553 U.S. 591,
Here, Plaintiffs Equal Protection claim fails because the allegations of the complaint do
not establish that Plaintiff was intentionally and purposefully discriminated against as compared
to a similarly situated individual. Plaintiff argues that other inmates who are white were allowed
back in the PC unit after also receiving three prior violations. However, Plaintiff does not establish
that the prior violations of those other inmates raised the same safety and security concerns as the
violations received by Plaintiff. Therefore, Plaintiff has not demonstrated that he and other white
inmates are "entitled to be treated alike" or that they are "similarly situated"· in relation to their PC
housing assignments. It is not enough to simply state that Defendants' decisions are based on
racial animus. See Snowden, 321 U.S. at 10. In addition, prison safety and security decisions
involve subjective, individualized assessments that require discretionary decision-making.
Plaintiff has not established that there was no rational basis for the way he was treated. As such,
Plaintiffs complaint fails to state individual-capacity claims against Defendants for Equal
B. Due Process Claim
Prisoners may claim the protections of the Due Process Clause, and may not be deprived
of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972).
However, a due process claim "is cognizable only if there is a recognized liberty or property
interest at stake," and courts "need reach the question of what process is due only if the inmates
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establish a constitutionally protected liberty interest." Beaulieu v. Ludeman, 690 F.3d 1017, 1047
(8th Cir. 2012) (internal citations omitted).
The Supreme Court has determined that prisoners have a protected liberty interest in
avoiding conditions of confinement that impose an "atypical and significant hardship on the inmate
in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472,484 (1995);
see also Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 846-47 (8th Cir. 2003). Therefore, this Court need only
reach the question of what process was due if Plaintiffs allegations demonstrate that his placement
in administrative segregation instead of PC created an atypical and significant hardship under
Sandin. See Beaulieu, 690 F.3d at 1047.
Here, Plaintiff only states that administrative segregation is "significantly harsher
conditions" than PC and it "does not have opportunities to participate in work, or other institutional
programs." ECF No. 1 at ,r 154. However, Plaintiffs certified inmate account statement shows
that he has been paid for working a prison job in recent months. The complaint contains no factual
allegations showing that Plaintiffs conditions of confinement impose an atypical and significant
hardship on him in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. The Eighth Circuit has found
that placement in disciplinary segregation - which is more restrictive than administrative
segregation - does not, in and of itself, amount to an atypical and significant hardship. See PortleyEl v. Brill, 288 F.3d 1063, 1065 (8th Cir. 2002) (recognizing that the Eighth Circuit has
consistently held that disciplinary segregation is not an atypical and significant hardship under
Sandin); see also Hemphill v. Delo, 124 F.3d 208 (8th Cir. 1997) (unpublished) (four days locked
in housing unit, thirty days in disciplinary segregation, and approximately 290 days in
administrative segregation not atypical or significant). 4
Even if it could be said that Plaintiff had established a constitutionally protected liberty interest, he would fail to
state a claim for relief because his complaint shows he received due process. "Due process is flexible and calls for
such procedural protections as the particular situation demands," but its fundamental requirement is the opportunity
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Plaintiff is asking this Court to sit in review of decisions made by PCC Defendants
regarding discipline and appropriate housing assignments, based on a desire to maintain safety and
security at PCC. Although prisoners retain their constitutional rights, there are limitations on those
rights "in light of the needs of the penal system." Murphy v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., 372 F.3d 979,
982 (8th Cir. 2004). A prison regulation infringing on an inmate's constitutional rights is valid so
long as it is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78,
89 (1987). Deference should be given to the decisions of prison administrators, especially when
those decisions deal with issues of prison safety and security. Id.; see also Sandin v. Connor, 515
U.S. 472, 482 (1995) (stating that "federal courts ought to afford appropriate deference and
:flexibility to state [prison] officials trying to manage a volatile environment."); Spence v. Farrier,
807 F.2d 753, 755 (8th Cir. 1986) (stating that "prison administrators are accorded 'wide-ranging
deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed
to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security."' (quoting Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1979))).
Despite Plaintiffs repeated assertions that Defendants have denied his requests for PC unit
assignment based on their spitefulness and racial animus, evidence indicates (and Plaintiff admits)
that he has been involved in numerous physical altercations while incarcerated.
allegations are speculative and insufficient to draw the inference that Defendants had any hidden
to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner. Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333-34 (1976)
(internal quotations and alteration omitted). The Supreme Court has held that, in prison discipline cases, the
requirements of due process are satisfied if "some evidence" supports the prison disciplinary decision.
Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985). This standard does not require this Court to examine the entire
record, independently assess witness credibility, or weigh evidence. Id. (citations omitted). "Instead, the relevant .
question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary
board." Id. at 445-56 (citing United States ex rel. Tisi v. Tod, 264 U.S. 131, 133-34 (1924); Willis v. Ciccone, 506
F.2d 1011, 1018 (8th Cir. 1974)). In this case, Plaintiff admits to having been involved in multiple prison fights and
therefore, some evidence supports the PCC Defendants' decisions.
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animus behind their housing assignment decisions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(finding that a claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff "pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.").
The Court is unpersuaded that PCC employee Defendants are doing anything besides attempting
to maintain a safe facility.
As such, for the many reasons discussed above, Plaintiffs complaint fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted and it will be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion to proceed informa pauperis [ECF
No. 2] is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiff shall pay an initial filing fee of $1.70
within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this Order. Plaintiff is instructed to make his remittance
payable to "Clerk, United States District Court," and to include upon it: (1) his name; (2) his prison
registration number; (3) the case number; and (4) that the remittance is for an original proceeding.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause process to
issue upon the complaint as to any defendant because the complaint fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. Plaintiffs claims against defendants Angela Walters, Joshua Browers,
Daniel Alfard, Lonnie Smallen, Jennifer Price, William Milam, Perry Arnold, Martin Rodriguez,
and Jody Glore are DISMISSED without prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs motion for appointment of counsel [ECF
No. 3] is DENIED as moot.
IT IS HEREBY CERTIFIED that an appeal from this dismissal would not be taken in
An Order of Dismissal will accompany this Memorandum and Order.
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Dated this -':.~ay of September, 2021.
JOHN . OSS
UNIT~ T R I C T JUDGE
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