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Lewis v. Blackburn

June 26, 2009

DONNELL LEWIS, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
XAVIER BLACKBURN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Donnell Lewis, Jr., currently an inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution in Yazoo City, Michigan, 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). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). 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.

FACTS ALLEGED

On October 26, 2008, Lewis and four other inmates were "dressed out" at approximately 7:00 PM. Lewis alleges that jail personnel seized legal materials he had brought to the jail on his person. Lewis inquired as to the whereabouts of said materials to the officer performing the dress out, Correctional Officer Xavier Blackburn, who then answered back in a gruff-tone that they would be returned later. A verbal altercation ensued, which became physical. Lewis states that he stood naked with his hands against the wall and his back to the officer. He contends that Blackburn grabbed his neck with both hands and threw him across the room, then struck Lewis twice with opened-palms to the face. Finally, Blackburn once again grabbed by him by the neck and threw him into his holding cell.

Immediately after the incident, Lewis claims to have hyperventilated as a result of the choking. A nurse came to check his vitals but left soon after. He was left on the floor of the cell naked until an officer found him and had him dressed. Lewis claims he suffers neck pains from the incident. Additionally, Lewis claims to be emotional scarred as a result of Officer Blackburn's actions, suffering frequent nightmares and recurring thoughts of retaliation.

CLAIM 1--USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE

Based on the above facts, Lewis asserts that Blackburn subjected him to excessive force, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. The intentional use of excessive force by prison guards against an inmate without penological justification constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and is actionable under Section 1983. 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 this excessive force claim ...


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