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Edwards v. Butler

March 27, 2009

HARRY L. EDWARDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN BUTLER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, formerly an inmate in the Big Muddy River Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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; this action is subject to summary dismissal.

FACTS ALLEGED

Plaintiff states that since he was a teenager, he has had issues with gender identity. He alleges that Defendant Butler learned this information from his master file and then began harassing him. This harassment manifested itself at one automotive class in November 2006; Butler engaged in name-calling and teasing in front of officers and other inmates regarding Plaintiff's proclivities for cross-dressing. Plaintiff later filed a grievance about Butler's unprofessional conduct. A few weeks later, Plaintiff found himself placed in segregation. Finally, Plaintiff states that he has been denied assignment to work-release due to unjustified classification as a sex offender.

HARASSMENT

Plaintiff's first claim is made against Butler for his verbal harassment. However, isolated, infrequent incidents of verbal abuse do not give rise to an Eighth Amendment claim. See, e.g ., Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1375 (7th Cir. 1997); Kincaid v. Vail, 969 F.2d 594, 602 (7th Cir. 1992).

The use of racially derogatory language, while unprofessional and deplorable, does not violate the Constitution. See Patton v. Przybylski, 822 F.2d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 1987); accord Williams v. Bramer, 180 F.3d 699, 706 (5th Cir.), clarified on rehearing, 186 F.3d 633 (5th Cir. 1999). Standing alone, simple verbal harassment does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, deprive a prisoner of a protected liberty interest or deny a prisoner equal protection of the laws. See Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 955 (6th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (Eighth Amendment); Patton, 822 F.2d at 700 (due process); Williams, 180 F.3d at 705-06 (equal protection).

DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 612 (7th Cir. 2000). Although the Court does not condone Butler's behavior, this isolated incident of verbal harassment does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Therefore, his claim against Butler for ...


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