Winters v. Baker et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER -The Plaintiff's 7 MOTION for Authorization 9 and MOTION for Copies are denied. Plaintiff shall have until November 12, 2013, to amend his complaint and clearly state a claim upon which relief may be granted in accordance with this Memorandum and Order. If plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint, this matter will be dismissed without further notice. Plaintiff shall keep the Court informed of his current address at all times while this case is pendin g. Failure to do so may result in dismissal without further notice. ***Pro Se Case Management Deadlines: ( Pro Se Case Management Deadline set for 11/12/2013: Check for amended complaint on November 12, 2013.) Ordered by Senior Judge Lyle E. Strom. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(MKR)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
BEAUFORD WILMER WINTERS,
BAKER, Sgt. (of the Tecumseh
Institution), BALLUE, Cpl,
SANFORD, Cpl., and HERREA, &
Cpl. (of the Tecumseh Stat
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff filed his complaint in this matter on July
22, 2013 (Filing No. 1).
Also pending is plaintiff’s motion for
authorization (Filing No. 7) and motion for copies (Filing No.
The Court now conducts an initial review of the complaint to
determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A.
SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
Plaintiff filed his complaint on July 22, 2013, against
four Tecumseh State Correctional Institution (“TSCI”) employees
(Filing No. 1).
Plaintiff does not specify whether he sues these
employees in their official or individual capacities.
Plaintiff is currently confined at TSCI in Tecumseh, Nebraska.
(Id. at CM/ECF pp. 1-2; see also Docket Sheet.)
Liberally construed, plaintiff’s claims stem from a use
of force that occurred after Defendant “Baker” and plaintiff had
a dispute about whether plaintiff could control the light in his
cell (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 38).
During lunch, plaintiff
extended his hand through his cell hatch and Baker refused to
provide plaintiff with a “meal tray.”
(Id. at CM/ECF p. 5.)
Plaintiff stated he would not remove his arm from the hatch until
Baker returned control of plaintiff’s cell light to plaintiff.
(Id. at CM/ECF p. 5, 38-39.)
Baker finished serving lunch to
other inmates then returned to plaintiff’s cell with three other
TSCI staff members; plaintiff’s arm was still extended through
Defendants twisted his arm and used “chemical
agents” on plaintiff without proper “authorization” or
As a result of the use of force, plaintiff
sustained “moderate elbow damage.”
Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the amount of
(Id. at CM/ECF p. 6.)
Plaintiff also seeks
injunctive relief in the form of a court order that protects him
from Baker or that directs TSCI to terminate Baker.
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
The Court is required to review prisoner and in forma
pauperis complaints seeking relief against a governmental entity
or an officer or employee of a governmental entity to determine
whether summary dismissal is appropriate.
1915(e) and 1915A.
See 28 U.S.C. §§
The Court must dismiss a complaint or any
portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
A pro se plaintiff must set forth enough factual
allegations to “nudge their claims across the line from
conceivable to plausible,” or “their complaint must be dismissed”
for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see
also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) (“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.”).
whether a plaintiff is represented or is appearing pro se, the
plaintiff’s complaint must allege specific facts sufficient to
state a claim.
See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th
However, a pro se plaintiff’s allegations must be
Burke v. North Dakota Dep’t of Corr. &
Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-44 (8th Cir. 2002) (citations
III. DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS
The Eleventh Amendment bars claims for damages by
private parties against a state, state instrumentalities and an
employee of a state sued in the employee’s official capacity.
See, e.g., Egerdahl v. Hibbing Cmty. Coll., 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th
Cir. 1995); Dover Elevator Co. v. Ark. State Univ., 64 F.3d 442,
446-47 (8th Cir. 1995).
Any award of retroactive monetary relief
payable by the state, including for back pay or damages, is
proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment absent a waiver of immunity
by the state or an override of immunity by Congress.
Dover Elevator Co., 64 F.3d at 444; Nevels v. Hanlon, 656 F.2d
372, 377-78 (8th Cir. 1981).
Sovereign immunity does not bar
damages claims against state officials acting in their personal
capacities, nor does it bar claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§1983 which seek equitable relief from state employee defendants
acting in their official capacity.
Where a plaintiff does not specify the capacity in
which a defendant is sued, it is presumed that a defendant is
sued in his official capacity only.
See, e.g., Johnson v.
Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1999) (stating
that “in order to sue a public official in his or her individual
capacity, a plaintiff must expressly and unambiguously state so
in the pleadings, otherwise, it will be assumed that the
defendant is sued only in his or her official capacity.”).
addition, a claim against an individual, in her official
capacity, is in reality a claim against the entity that employs
See Parrish v. Luckie, 963 F.2d 201, 203 n.1 (8th
Cir. 1992) (“Suits against persons in their official capacity are
just another method of filing suit against the entity. . . . A
plaintiff seeking damages in an official-capacity suit is seeking
a judgment against the entity. . . . Therefore, the appellants in
this case will collectively be referred to as the City.”)
Accord Eagle v. Morgan, 88 F.3d 620, 629
n.5 (8th Cir. 1996) (“‘[A]n official-capacity suit is, in all
respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the
entity.’”) (quoting Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165
Thus, damage claims against individual state employees
acting in their official capacities are also barred by the
Murphy v. State of Ark., 127 F.3d 750, 754
(8th Cir. 1997).
Here, plaintiff sues four individual state employees
but does not specify the capacity in which she sues these
individuals (Filing No. 1).
Thus, the Court will assume that
plaintiff sues defendants in their official capacities only.
set forth above, the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff’s claims
for monetary damages against employees of a state sued in their
Consequently, plaintiff’s claims for
monetary damages against defendants must be dismissed.
Liberally construed, plaintiff alleges that defendants
used excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
“It is well established that a malicious and sadistic use of
force by a prison official against a prisoner, done with the
intent to injure and causing actual injury, is enough to
establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual
Williams v. Jackson, 600 F.3d 1007, 1012
(8th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations omitted).
However, “‘not .
. . every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a
federal cause of action,’ a de minimis application of force will
not give result in a constitutional violation.”
Hudson v. McMillan, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992)); see also Wilkins v.
Gaddy, 130 S. Ct. 1177-78 (2010) (“An inmate who complains of a
push or shove that causes no discernable injury almost certainly
fails to state a valid excessive force claim.” (internal
quotation marks omitted)).
Where the force applied is excessive,
however, a constitutional claim may survive summary dismissal
even if the resulting injury is de minimis.
Wilkins, 130 S. Ct.
Here, plaintiff alleges that defendants twisted his arm
and used “chemical agents” on him without proper “authorization”
(Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 5-6, 38-39.)
Plaintiff also alleges he sustained “moderate elbow damage” as a
result of the use of force.
However, plaintiff does not
allege that the use of force was malicious or sadistic, nor does
he allege that it was done with the intent to injure.
Indeed, plaintiff alleges he was in a “conflict” with Baker and
that he refused to remove his arm from the cell hatch.
also Thomas v. Northern, 382 Fed. App’x 538, 2010 WL 2595163, at
*1 (8th Cir. 2010) (concluding one-time use of pepper spray where
inmate was refusing orders to stop behavior deemed to present a
security risk did not violate the Eighth Amendment).
In light of
the facts alleged, the Court cannot reasonably infer that
Defendants’ actions amounted to a violation of his Eighth
However, on the Court’s own motion, plaintiff shall
have 30 days to file an amended complaint that states an Eighth
Amendment excessive force claim upon which relief may be granted.
Plaintiff should be mindful to explain whether Defendants’ use of
force was malicious and sadistic, whether it was done with intent
to cause injury, and whether his refusal to put his arm back in
his cell did not warrant Defendants’ use of force.
fails to file an amended complaint in accordance with this
Memorandum and Order, his Eighth Amendment excessive force claim
will be dismissed without prejudice and without further notice.
State Law Claims
Liberally construed, plaintiff may also have claims
against Defendants for violations of state law.
amendment of the complaint as set forth in this Memorandum and
Order, the Court makes no finding regarding its jurisdiction over
any potential state law claims.
Motion for Authorization
Plaintiff has filed a motion for authorization, which
the Court liberally construes as a motion for discovery (Filing
In his motion, plaintiff asks the Court to “authorize
him” to request discovery-related items from Defendants.
However, the Court has not yet permitted discovery in this
Accordingly, plaintiff’s motion for authorization,
liberally construed as a motion for discovery, will be denied.
Motion for Copies
Plaintiff has filed a motion for copies (Filing No. 9).
In the motion, plaintiff informs the Court that he would like to
be present during court proceedings and that he would like copies
of documents concerning his case.
However, plaintiff does
not have the right to receive copies of documents without
payment, even if the Court granted him leave to proceed in forma
28 U.S.C. § 1915; see also Haymes v. Smith, 73 F.R.D.
572, 574 (W.D.N.Y. 1976) (“The generally recognized rule is that
a court may not authorize the commitment of federal funds to
underwrite the necessary expenditures of an indigent civil
litigant’s action.”) (citing Tyler v. Lark, 472 F.2d 1077 (8th
Cir. 1973), other citations omitted).
If plaintiff requires
copies of court documents, he should contact the clerk of the
court to determine the proper method of requesting and paying for
Moreover, no hearings have been scheduled in this
matter, so plaintiff’s request to be physically present will be
denied without prejudice.
IT IS ORDERED:
Plaintiff’s motion for authorization (Filing No.
7), liberally construed as a motion for discovery, and
plaintiff’s motion for copies (Filing No. 9) are denied.
Plaintiff shall have until November 12, 2013, to
amend his complaint and clearly state a claim upon which relief
may be granted in accordance with this Memorandum and Order.
plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint, this matter will be
dismissed without further notice.
In the event that plaintiff files an amended
complaint, plaintiff shall restate the allegations of the current
Complaint (Filing No. 1), and any new allegations.
consolidate all claims into one document may result in the
abandonment of claims.
The clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se
case management deadline in this case using the following text:
Check for amended complaint on November 12, 2013.
Plaintiff shall keep the Court informed of his
current address at all times while this case is pending.
to do so may result in dismissal without further notice.
DATED this 15th day of October, 2013.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Lyle E. Strom
LYLE E. STROM, Senior Judge
United States District Court
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