American Horse v. Pennington County et al
ORDER granting 2 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. Signed by Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken on 6/12/17. (SB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
TROY EUGENE AMERICAN HORSE,
PENNINGTON COUNTY, PENNINGTON
COUNTY JAIL, PENNINGTON COUNTY
SHERIFF’S OFFICE, and MS. SHILOH
On May 5, 2017, plaintiff Troy Eugene American Horse filed a complaint
against defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and moved for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis. (Dockets 1 & 2).
28 U.S.C. § 1915, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), governs proceedings filed in forma pauperis. When a prisoner files a
civil action in forma pauperis, the PLRA requires a prisoner to pay an initial
partial filing fee when possible. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The initial partial
filing fee is calculated according to § 1915(b)(1), which requires a payment of 20
percent of the greater of:
(A) the average monthly deposits to the prisoner’s account; or
(B) the average monthly balance in the prisoner’s account for
the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the
complaint or notice of appeal.
In support of his motion, Mr. American Horse provided a copy of his
prisoner trust account report signed by an authorized prison official. (Docket
3). The report shows an average monthly deposit since he arrived at the
institution at which he is currently incarcerated of $0.00, an average monthly
balance of $0.00, and a current balance of $0.00. Id. Based on this
information, the court finds Mr. American Horse is indigent and grants him leave
to proceed in forma pauperis.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must review a prisoner complaint and
identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, or
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. This screening process
“applies to all civil complaints filed by prisoners, regardless of payment of filing
fee.” Lewis v. Estes, 242 F.3d 375, at *1 (8th Cir. 2000) (unpublished) (citing
Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir. 1999)). During this initial screening
process, the court must dismiss the complaint in its entirety or in part if the
complaint is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
The court may dismiss a complaint under §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and
1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim as “the statute accords judges not only the
authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but
also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint’s factual allegations
and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). Because Mr. American Horse is
proceeding pro se, his pleading must be liberally construed and his complaint,
“however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Mr. American Horse used a Civil Rights Complaint By A Prisoner form.
(Docket 1). Mr. American Horse asserts the court has jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at p. 1.
Mr. American Horse’s complaint contains four counts. Counts 1 and 2
raise essentially the same claim. In Counts 1 and 2, Mr. American Horse alleges
Pennington County violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to
ensure the Pennington County Jail provided him with adequate healthcare.
(Docket 1 at pp. 4-5). His allegations surround the denial of his seizure
medication that he claims was prescribed to him by an outside doctor. Id. He
alleges the prison medical staff chose to “override” his prescription. Id. Count
3 alleges the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office failed to train its officers at the
Pennington County Jail to provide adequate medical treatment to inmates. Id.
at 6. Count 4 claims Shiloh MacNally violated Mr. American Horse’s Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights by not protecting him from the other defendants
and forcing him to waive his constitutional rights. Id. at 7. Mr. American
Horse requests relief in the form of $1,000,000 in money damages from each
defendant. Id. at 8.
Mr. American Horse fails to state a claim against Pennington County and
the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. “[A] local government may not be sued
under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents on a theory
of respondeat superior.” Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d 1069, 1074 (8th Cir. 1996)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Monell v. Dep’t. of Soc. Servs. of the
City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978)).
A county may be liable for violation of constitutional rights if the violation
was caused by its customs or policies. Crawford v. Van Buren Cty., Ark., 678
F.3d 666, 669 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Rynders v. Williams, 650 F.3d 1188, 1195
(8th Cir. 2011)). Mr. American Horse does not point to any offending policy.
He merely argues he was not given medication that he should have been given.
Medical professionals in the prison do not commit an Eighth Amendment
violation—as Mr. American Horse alleges—unless their actions constitute
deliberate indifference. See, e.g., Meuir v. Greene Cty Jail Emps., 487 F.3d
1115, 1119 (8th Cir. 2007) (finding a plaintiff has no constitutional right to a
particular course of treatment). Meuir’s analysis also applies to the claims
against the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. Mr. American Horse’s claims
against Pennington County and the Sheriff’s Office warrant dismissal.
Mr. American Horse fails to state a claim against the Pennington County
Jail. “[C]ounty jails are not legal entities amenable to suit.” Owens v. Scott
Cty. Jail, 328 F.3d 1026, 1027 (8th Cir. 2003). Mr. American Horse’s claim
against Pennington County Jail warrants dismissal.
Mr. American Horse fails to state a claim against Ms. MacNally. He
alleges Ms. MacNally failed to protect him from the other defendants. (Docket
1). Mr. American Horse does not explain how Ms. MacNally had any
involvement in violating his rights, whether she had a duty to protect him from
the other defendants, or whether she was in a position to control the other
defendants’ actions. Mr. American Horse’s claim against Ms. MacNally
Because the denial of necessary medication may constitute an Eighth
Amendment violation, and because Mr. American Horse is proceeding pro se, the
court grants him leave to amend his complaint. Mr. American Horse must
specifically state the facts that give rise to his claims. “[A] prison official who is
deliberately indifferent to the medical needs of a prisoner violates the prisoner’s
constitutional rights.” Letterman v. Does, 789 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2015).
To state an Eighth Amendment claim, plaintiffs must show “a substantial risk of
serious harm to the victim,” and “that the prison official was deliberately
indifferent to that risk of harm . . . .” Id. at 861-62 (citing Gordon v. Frank, 454
F.3d 858, 862 (8th Cir. 2006)).
Although the court has not assessed Mr. American Horse a strike under
§ 1915(g) for filing a complaint, Mr. American Horse is warned the court will
assess him a strike if it determines his complaint is frivolous, malicious or fails to
state a claim. Section 1915(g) is relevant on this point and states:
In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment
in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has,
on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any
facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States
that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or
the extent Mr. American Horse claims his criminal proceeding was
affected by Ms. MacNally’s level of representation, that is a claim for a habeas
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the
prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that Mr. American Horse’s motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis (Docket 2) is granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2), the
institution having custody of Mr. American Horse shall, whenever the amount in
Mr. American Horse’s trust account exceeds $10, forward monthly payments
that equal 20 percent of the funds credited to the account the preceding month
to the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court, District of South
Dakota, until the $350 filing fee is paid in full.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the clerk of court is directed to send a copy
of this order to the appropriate official at plaintiff’s institution.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that if Mr. American Horse wishes to proceed,
he shall amend his complaint by July 12, 2017, in order to rectify the
deficiencies discussed above. If he fails to do so, his complaint may be
dismissed without further notice.
Dated June 12, 2017.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Jeffrey L. Viken
JEFFREY L. VIKEN
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