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Davis v. Bureau of Prisons

October 27, 2008

TYRONE DAVIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BUREAU OF PRISONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, formerly an inmate in the USP 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). 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 governmental entity.

(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; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

CLAIMS PRESENTED

Plaintiff alleges that while he was at Marion, he was abducted by Defendants and taken to an area in the infirmary. He was handcuffed and shackled, and then Defendants assaulted him "with their batons, fists, and feet repeatedly, over a period of an hour." From these brief allegations, Plaintiff makes six separate claims: (1) torture and abuse, (2) cruel and unusual punishment, (3) atrocious assault and battery, (4) illegal restraint, (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, and

(6) failure to regulate staff.

The first four claims are, in essence, claims of intentional use of excessive force by prison guards against an inmate without penological justification; such claims may constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which are actionable under federal civil rights jurisdiction. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). "[W]henever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the core judicial inquiry is... whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6-7. An inmate seeking damages for the use of excessive force need not establish serious bodily injury to make a claim, but not "every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action.... [the] prohibition of'cruel and unusual' punishment necessarily excludes from constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force, provided that the use of force is not of a sort'repugnant to the conscience of mankind.'" Id. at 9-10; see also Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837-38 (7th Cir. 2001).

Applying these standards to the allegations in the complaint, the Court is unable to dismiss the first four counts of this action at this time.

In contrast, Plaintiff's last two claims--the intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the failure to regulate staff--are based upon theories of negligence and supervisory liability. Negligence claims, however, are not actionable in a federal civil rights action. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986) (a defendant can never be held liable under § 1983 for negligence); Zarnes v. Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 290 (7th Cir. 1995) (same). Furthermore, "[t]he doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to § 1983 actions; thus to be held individually liable, a defendant must be'personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right.' " Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001), quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001). See also Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Eades v. Thompson, 823 F.2d 1055, 1063 (7th Cir. 1987); Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983); Duncan v. Duckworth, 644 F.2d 653, 655-56 (7th Cir. 1981). Thus, Plaintiff's fifth and sixth counts will be dismissed from this action.

Finally, the Bureau of Prisons, as a federal agency, is not amenable to suit in a Bivens action. See FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 483-486 (1994). Accordingly, the Bureau ...


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