Ferguson v. City of Cleveland et al
Memorandum Opinion and Order. Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 1-2) is granted and this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Signed by Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr on 1/10/2018. (R,Sh)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
NATHANIEL FERGUSON, Pro Se,
CITY OF CLEVELAND, et al.,
Case No.: 1:17 CV 1832
JUDGE SOLOMON OLIVER, JR.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Pro Se Plaintiff Nathaniel Ferguson filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City
of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, Cuyahoga County Jail Warden Ivey, and
“CPL” Clark. In the Complaint, Plaintiff asserts he was placed in segregation in the jail for three
days for “horseplay.” He claims the restrictive conditions of segregation were harsh, and seeks
Plaintiff submitted a Notice of Indigency (Doc. No. 1-2) in which he moves the Court to
declare him indigent. The Court liberally construes this as a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.
That Motion is granted.
Plaintiff alleges he was placed in the segregation unit of the Cuyahoga County Jail from
August 25, 2017 to August 28, 2017 for engaging in horseplay. He contends meals in segregation
consisted of a bologna sandwich, and a bag of carrots. He indicates this is not a heart healthy diet.
He further alleges his mail was held for the three days he was in segregation and he was not
permitted visitation with family and friends during this time. Plaintiff asserts this is a violation of
his civil rights and seeks one million dollars from each Defendant.
Standard of Review
Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365
(1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the Court is required to dismiss
an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319
(1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d
194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). An action has no arguable basis in law when a Defendant is immune from
suit or when a Plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Neitzke,
490 U.S. at 327. An action has no arguable factual basis when the allegations are delusional or rise
to the level of the irrational or “wholly incredible.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992);
Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1199.
When determining whether the Plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted,
the Court must construe the Complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, accept all factual
allegations as true, and determine whether the Complaint contains “enough fact to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The
Plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds for relief “requires more than labels and conclusions,
and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. Although a
Complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, its “factual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the
Complaint are true.” Id. The Court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as
a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). The Supreme Court in Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-678 (2009), further explains the “plausibility” requirement, stating that
“ 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.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. Furthermore, “the plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but
it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a Defendant acted unlawfully.” Id. This determination
is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing Court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Id.
“The Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners
from the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.’” Baker v. Goodrich,649 F.3d 428, 434 (6th
Cir. 2011) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986)). Pretrial detainee claims, though
asserted under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth
Amendment, City of Revere v. Mass. Gen. Hosp.,463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983), are analyzed under the
same rubric as Eighth Amendment claims brought by prisoners. See Roberts v. City of Troy, 773
F.2d 720, 723 (6th Cir.1985) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979)).
The Supreme Court in Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991), set forth a framework for
Courts to use when deciding whether certain conditions of confinement constitute cruel and unusual
punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. A Plaintiff must first plead facts which, if true,
establish that a sufficiently serious deprivation has occurred. Id. Seriousness is measured in
response to “contemporary standards of decency.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1,8 (1992).
Routine discomforts of prison life do not suffice. Id. Only deliberate indifference to serious medical
needs or extreme deprivations regarding the conditions of confinement will implicate the protections
of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 9. A Plaintiff must also establish a subjective element showing
the prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Id. Deliberate indifference is
characterized by obduracy or wantonness, not inadvertence or good faith error. Whitley v. Albers,
475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). Liability cannot be predicated solely on negligence. Id. A prison official
violates the Eighth Amendment only when both the objective and subjective requirements are met.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).
Plaintiff’s allegations fail to demonstrate a sufficiently serious deprivation. The Eighth
“ensures that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and ... ‘take
reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.’ ” Id. at 832 (quoting Hudson v. Palmer,
468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). This, however, does not mandate that a prisoner be free from
discomfort or inconvenience during his or her incarceration. Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954 (6th
Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346). Prisoners are not entitled to unfettered
access to the medical treatment of their choice, see Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992), nor
can they “expect the amenities, conveniences and services of a good hotel.” Harris v. Fleming, 839
F.2d 1232, 1235 (7th Cir. 1988); see Thaddeus-X v. Blatter,175 F.3d 378, 405 (6th Cir. 1999). In
sum, the Eighth Amendment affords the constitutional minimum protection against conditions of
confinement which constitute health threats, but does address those conditions which cause the
prisoner to feel merely uncomfortable or which cause aggravation or annoyance. Hudson, 503 U.S.
at 9-10 (requiring extreme or grave deprivation). The conditions to which Plaintiff was subjected
for three days, bologna sandwiches and restricted visitation and mail delivery, do not constitute
health threats. While they were arguably uncomfortable and vexing, they were only briefly imposed
and cannot be described as “barbarous” or in contravention of society’s “evolving standards of
decency.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981).
Furthermore, Plaintiff fails to allege facts to meet the subjective component. The subjective
component requires a showing that prison officials knew of, and acted with deliberate indifference
to, an inmate’s health or safety. Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-03. Deliberate indifference “entails
something more than mere negligence.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. This standard is met if “the
official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both
be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm
exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 253-55 (6th Cir.
2010)(citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). The City of Cleveland is not identified anywhere in the
Complaint and Plaintiff does not allege facts suggesting how the City is connected to conditions in
the county jail. Plaintiff alleges Clark was responsible for sending him to segregation but does not
suggest Clark directly participated in the activities described in the Complaint. Finally, Plaintiff
does not allege facts to indicate Pinkney or Ivey were aware that Plaintiff was in segregation and
subjected him to conditions that posed a serious risk of serious harm. Even if Plaintiff had
established an objectively serious deprivation had occurred, he could not hold Pinkney or Ivey liable
in their individual capacities.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 1-2) is granted and this
action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith.1
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/S/ SOLOMON OLIVER, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
January 10, 2018
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) provides:
An appeal may not be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that it is not
taken in good faith.
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