United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
June 10, 2005.
CARLOS ESTAVES, Plaintiff,
WARDEN STEPP, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM STIEHL, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff, an inmate in the United States Penitentiary in
Marion, Illinois, brings this action for alleged violations of
his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of
federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents,
403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff previously was granted leave to
proceed in forma pauperis, and he has tendered his initial
partial filing fee as ordered.
Before the Court, first, is Plaintiff's request to amend (Doc.
6), in which he asks the Court to assist him in obtaining
supporting documentation from the Bureau of Prisons regarding the
issues raised in this action. The Court notes that Plaintiff has
already attached a significant amount of documentation as
exhibits to the complaint (Doc. 1), and it is unclear from this
request what other information he seeks from the B.O.P.
Therefore, this motion is DENIED.
This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of
the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(a) Screening. The court shall review, before
docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as
practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil
action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. On review, the court
shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the
complaint, if the complaint
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks
an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319
, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the
complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it
appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this action
is legally frivolous and thus subject to summary dismissal.
This action arises from an incident that occurred on May 23,
2001. On that day, following a church service, he was returned to
his assigned housing unit. One range was currently using the
recreation yard, so officers placed Plaintiff, still handcuffed,
in the open sallyport area. Apparently another inmate, Mitchell,
had hidden himself inside a shower unit and, when Plaintiff was
left unsupervised for a few minutes, Mitchell assaulted him.
According to the medical records attached to the complaint, this
assault resulted in various injuries to his face. Plaintiff
alleges that the officers on duty are liable for his injuries, as
they failed to perform an adequate search of the area before
leaving him alone.
Prison officials clearly have a duty to protect prisoners from
violence at the hands of other prisoners. Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994); Luttrell v. Nickel, 129 F.3d 933, 935
(7th Cir. 1997). However, not every harm caused by another
inmate translates into constitutional liability for the
corrections officers responsible for the prisoner's safety.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. In order for a plaintiff to succeed on
a claim for failure to protect, he must show that he is
incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of
serious harm, and that the defendants acted with "deliberate
indifference" to that danger. Id.; Reed v. McBride,
178 F.3d 849, 852 (7th Cir. 1999). A plaintiff also must prove that
prison officials were aware of a specific, impending, and
substantial threat to his safety, often by showing that he
complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996). In
other words, Defendants had to know that there was a substantial
risk that those who attacked Plaintiff would do so, yet failed to
take any action. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733-34
(7th Cir. 2001). Moreover, a "mere possibility of violence"
or the occurrence of a random act of violence is not sufficient
to impose liability on prison officials. See Estate of Davis v.
Johnson, 745 F.2d 1066, 1071 (7th Cir. 1984); Ward v.
Thomas, 708 F.Supp. 212, 214 (N.D.Ill. 1989).
In this case, Plaintiff makes no allegations that the officers
were aware of any specific threat to Plaintiff by Mitchell, or by
any other inmate. In fact, Plaintiff does not even allege that
he was aware of any specific threat against him by Mitchell or
any other inmate. At best, Plaintiff makes allegations that
Defendants were negligent in failing to perform an adequate
security check of the area, but a defendant can never be held
liable for negligence in a civil rights action. Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986); Zarnes v. Rhodes,
64 F.3d 285, 290 (7th Cir. 1995). Although the Court empathizes with
Plaintiff, he simply has not stated a viable constitutional claim
upon which relief may be granted.
In summary, Plaintiff's complaint does not survive review under
§ 1915A. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED with prejudice.
Plaintiff is advised that the dismissal of this action will count
as one of his three allotted "strikes" under the provisions of
28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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