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Eidam v. Berrien County Jail

March 26, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Maloney Chief United States District Judge

Honorable Paul L. Maloney


This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, PUB. L. NO. 104-134, 110 STAT. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim against Defendant Berrien County Jail. The Court will also dismiss Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claims, except for Plaintiff's due process claim regarding his right to a misconduct hearing, and Plaintiff's First Amendment claim against Defendants. The Court will serve Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants Paul Bailey, Kevin Allred and Jim Hall, but limited to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims and his due process claim regarding his right to a misconduct hearing.


I. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff presently is incarcerated at the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center. In his pro se complaint, he sues the Berrien County Jail and the following Berrien County employees: Sheriff Paul Bailey, Lieutenant Kevin Allred and Deputy Jim Hall.

Plaintiff alleges the following constitutional violations. First, Plaintiff argues that the jail conditions in administrative segregation are inhumane because the caulk had been removed from his windows so cold air and rain entered his cell for "forty-one days" in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. (Compl. at 3, docket #1.) Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly told "staff" that it was raining in his cell. (Id.) Further, Plaintiff asserts that workers, under the supervision of Defendant Hall, cleaned his toilet, sink and desk with the same rags used in other cells, and, therefore, cross-contaminated his cell with urine and feces in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Second, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Allred refused to give Plaintiff access to the law library in violation of his First Amendment rights. Third, Plaintiff argues that his due process rights were violated because: (a) a sudoku puzzle was removed from his mail without a hearing; (b) Plaintiff was not allowed to file a grievance for the removal of the puzzle; (c) Plaintiff was not given a hearing on misconduct charges; (d) Defendant Allred refused to give Plaintiff grievance forms and never responded to Plaintiff's grievances; (e) Plaintiff never had access to a grievance appeals process; (f) Defendant Hall threw Plaintiff's glasses on the ground and scratched the glasses; and (g) Defendant Hall removed magazines from Plaintiff's cell during a shakedown and threw them away without a hearing. (Id.) Plaintiff states that he grieved all of his due process violations to Defendants Bailey and Allred.

For relief, Plaintiff requests monetary damages. Plaintiff also requests that Berrien County Jail fix the heating problem; give hearings on misconducts, rejected mail and removal of contraband; provide grievance forms to prisoners; create a grievance appeals process and allow access to a law library.

II. Failure to State a Claim

A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if "'it fails to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."). The court must determine whether the complaint contains "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "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." Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a "'probability requirement,' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not 'show[n]' -- that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). A. Berrien County Jail Plaintiff sues the Berrien County Jail. The jail is a building, not an entity capable of being sued in its own right. Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir. 1991); see also Petty v. County of Franklin, Ohio, 478 F.3d 341, 347 (6th Cir. 2007) (a county sheriff's department is also not a "person" subject to liability under § 1983). Accordingly, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's action against the Berrien County Jail.

B. First Amendment

Plaintiff argues that he was denied access to the law library by Defendant Allred. It is well established that prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977). In Bounds, the Court considered whether the states must protect the right of access to the courts by providing law libraries or alternative sources of legal information for prisoners. Id. at 817. The Court held that, in addition to law libraries or alternative sources of legal knowledge, the states must provide indigent inmates with "paper and pen to draft legal documents, notarial services to authenticate them, and with stamps to mail them." Id. at 824-25. An indigent prisoner's constitutional right to legal resources and materials is not, however, without limit. In order to state a viable claim for interference with his access to the courts, a plaintiff must show actual injury. Dellis v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 257 F.3d 508, 511 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351(1996)); see also Talley-Bey v. Knebl, 168 F.3d 884, 886 (6th Cir. 1999); Knop v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996, 1000 (6th Cir. 1992); Ryder v. Ochten, No. 96-2043, 1997 WL 720482, at *1-2 (6th Cir. Nov. 12, 1997). In other words, a ...

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