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Sydner v. Burns

August 28, 2009


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


Plaintiff Earl E. Sydner, currently an inmate in the Hill 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). 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).


On August 3, 2009, Sydner was a pretrial detainee in the Jackson County jail. While being moved from the courthouse, Sydner dropped his discovery on the sidewalk. Because of the waist cuff belt and shackles, Sydner had to stop walking in order to retrieve the discovery. Once he stopped walking, Defendant Marks told Sydner to keep moving. After Sydner said he had to pick up what he had dropped, Marks reported on his hand radio that fellow officers were needed in booking. Marks then grabbed Sydner by the neck of his shirt and proceeded to choke him. Marks then grabbed the back of the waist cuff belt and lifted Sydner, shoving him so that the chain to the ankle shackles over extended, causing deep lacerations and abrasions to Sydner's ankles.

Once in booking, Marks threw Sydner into a brick wall, then to the ground. Officers that responded to Marks's call were in the cell waiting. Defendant John Doe #2 pulled Sydner up off the floor and, together with Defendant "Charlie" Doe #4, carried Sydner by the chain of the shackles into a holding cell while Sydner remained compliant. Doe #2 then slammed Sydner's body face first into a wooden bench while Doe #4 pinned Sydner down by placing a knee into his back so that Marks and Doe #2 could punch and slap Sydner. After some time, Marks, Doe #2, and Doe #4 removed Sydner's restraints and left him in the holding cell.

The holding cell that Sydner had been placed in was known by other prisoners as the "Cold Room" due to the temperature of the air blown into the room while a prisoner was inside. During Sydner's stay, the cell had no running water and the toilet was non-functioning, filled with bodily waste causing a putrid smell in the cell. Sydner attempted to draw attention to his bleeding ankles, caused by the rough treatment while in the shackles, but his requests for medical attention were denied. Defendant John Doe #5 came to the cell to check on Sydner, but ignored Sydner's requests for medical attention.

Doe #5 did eventually remove Sydner from the holding cell and placed him back in his assigned cellblock. The next day, August 4, Sydner submitted an inmate grievance complaining of the assault and denial of medical care. The request for medical care was not met until August 8, when an un-named officer took Sydner to the prison nurse. On the day of August 8, Sydner asked Defendant John Doe #6 for a copy of his grievance and to see the nurse again for his injuries. Doe #6 replied "I have somewhere you can wait" and returned Sydner to the Cold Room holding cell for three hours. Sydner was then placed in administrative segregation.

On August 9, 2009 Sydner asked Defendant "George" Doe #3 for a copy of his disciplinary report, but was denied. After four days in segregation, on August 12, Sydner asked Defendant Vaughn for his disciplinary report, and Vaughn replied that the prison did not need to give Sydner a disciplinary report for administrative segregation. After nine days in segregation, on August 17, Sydner asked the shift sergeant, who is not a named party, how long he would remain in segregation before a hearing; the sergeant told him that he would not continue to be held in segregation. The next day, August 18, Sydner was returned to general prison population after 10 days of segregation.

Sydner promptly filed a grievance concerning the assault, denial of medical treatment, and placement in segregation in retaliation for filing the first grievance. The grievance was returned to Sydner 14 days later, in which Vaughn denied the actions alleged. Sydner believes that the treatment he received is representative of the mistreatment of all inmates at the Jackson County jail, and that the mistreatment is endorsed by Defendants Lieutenant John Doe #1 and Burns.

For relief, Sydner requests that a declaratory judgment be issued stating the violation of his rights, an injunction be issued arranging for proper training of officers in the Jackson County jail and abolishing the use of the Cold Room. Further, Sydner requests compensatory ...

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