Watson v. Williams et al
Memorandum Opinion and Order: The Petition is dismissed pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases. This dismissal is without prejudice to re-filing in the event of a final judgment in Wilson, or other binding authority in this Circuit, suggesting a colorable claim. Related document 1 . Signed by Judge Benita Y. Pearson on 4/26/2021. (S,SR)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
MARK K. WILLIAMS, et al.,
CASE NO. 4:20-CV-2155
JUDGE BENITA Y. PEARSON
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND
Pro se Petitioner LaMorris Watson, a federal inmate incarcerated at FCI Elkton, has filed
an Emergency Petition for Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging the
conditions of his confinement. ECF No. 1. Petitioner contends he is medically vulnerable, and
he seeks release to home or other alternative confinement on the basis that the Warden, the
federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and staff at Elkton are unable to provide him adequate
protection from COVID-19 in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.
Promptly after the filing of a habeas corpus petition, a federal district court must
undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine “[i]f it plainly appears from the
petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief” in the district court.
Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases Under Section 2254 (applicable to
petitions under § 2241 pursuant to Rule 1(b)). If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed.
See Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (the district court has a duty to “screen
out” habeas corpus petitions that lack of merit on their face). No response is necessary when a
petition is frivolous, obviously lacks merit, or when the necessary facts can be determined from
the petition itself without consideration of a response. Id.
Upon review, the Court finds that the instant Petition must be dismissed.
Prison conditions are subject to constitutional scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, but
in order to make out a claim, a prisoner must demonstrate both objective and subjective
components. Wilson v. Williams, 961 F.3d 829, 839 (6th Cir. 2020). He must show that he was
subjected to an objectively serious prison condition as to which a defendant prison official acted
with subjective “deliberate indifference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The
subjective component of a claim requires a prisoner to show that a prison official “knows that
inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take
reasonable measures to abate it.” Id. at 847. An official may not be held liable if he responded
reasonably to a known risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted. Id. at 826.
In Wilson, the Sixth Circuit examined the conditions at Elkton in the context of a § 2241
action and concluded that a class of medically-vulnerable inmates was not likely to succeed on
the merits of an Eighth Amendment claim based on COVID-19 circumstances. 961 F.3d at 844.
The Sixth Circuit held that the BOP “responded reasonably to the known, serious risks posed by
COVID-19 to petitioners at Elkton,” and, therefore, the inmates could not demonstrate the
required subjective element of a deliberate indifference claim. Id. at 840. The court found that
the BOP’s “failure to make robust use of transfer, home confinement, or furlough,” including for
medically vulnerable inmates at Elkton, as Petitioner here, seeks here did not constitute
deliberate indifference within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment “in light of the BOP’s
other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and given the limitations on the BOP’s
authority to release inmates.” Id. at 844. The court also found that the district court abused its
discretion in granting a preliminary injunction without addressing the BOP’s “legitimate
concerns about public safety” regarding whether inmates could care for themselves upon release,
and whether they presented a substantial risk to the general public without assurance they could
do so. Id. at 845.
In light of the Sixth Circuit's decision in Wilson, the instant Petition, which asserts the
same claim related to COVID-19 conditions at Elkton, lacks merit on its face. The Sixth Circuit
has already considered an essential element of Petitioner’s claim based on the same allegations
and published an opinion holding that Respondent would likely prevail. Therefore, the instant
Petition does not allege a colorable claim.
Accordingly, the Petition is dismissed pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Habeas
Corpus Cases. This dismissal is without prejudice to re-filing in the event of a final judgment in
Wilson, or other binding authority in this Circuit, suggesting a colorable claim.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
April 26, 2021
/s/ Benita Y. Pearson
Benita Y. Pearson
United States District Judge
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