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Norfleet v. Walker

December 11, 2009

MARC NORFLEET, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROGER E. WALKER, JR., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Marc Norfleet, an inmate in the Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Norfleet states that prior to his incarceration, he was diagnosed with a severe back impairment and radiculopathy, for which he was receiving disability benefits. He was incarcerated in the Lawrence Correctional Center from December 18, 2006, through August 27, 2007, and again from August 15, 2008, through the filing of this action. The eleven claims presented in this action arise out of his time spent in that facility.

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; this action is [portions of this action are] subject to summary dismissal.

COUNT 1

Norfleet first alleges that at Lawrence, he does not have regular access to a day room for social activities such as card games and television. Apparently the day room areas outside the cells at Lawrence are not equipped with tables, in contrast to other institutions of the same security level. He claims that such deficiencies subject him to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

In a case involving conditions of confinement in a prison, two elements are required to establish violations of the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishments clause. First, an objective element requires a showing that the conditions deny the inmate "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," creating an excessive risk to the inmate's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The second requirement is a subjective element -- establishing a defendant's culpable state of mind. Id.

In this claim, Norfleet blames Defendants Walker, Benton, McNeil, Funk, Ryker, Moran, and Griffin for this deficiency, but he makes no allegations regarding specific actions or inactions taken by any of these individuals connected to the furnishing of the day rooms. Moreover, the Court is unaware of any constitutional requirement that a prison day room be furnished with tables, card games, or television. Thus, Norfleet has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and Count 1 will be dismissed from this action with prejudice.

COUNT 2

Norfleet asserts that on two occasions during his first stay at Lawrence, the institution was on lockdown for approximately one month. He claims that Defendants Walker, Benton, McNeil, Funk, Ryker, Moran, Gaetz, Henton, Goins, Purdue, Clark, Griffin, Vaughn and Bledsoe were responsible for these lockdowns, but he makes no allegations regarding specific actions or inactions taken by any of these individuals.

During those two lockdowns, he was confined to his cell and allowed only one 10-minute shower per week. As a result of his disability, which confines him to a wheel chair, Norfleet developed a rash on his back. When he complained about his rash, he was given medical treatment, including "an unlimited supply of rash medication."

The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. See also Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 830-31 (7th Cir. 2007); Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). From the allegations in the complaint, it is clear that Norfleet received medical care for his rashes. Thus, he has failed to state a viable claim with regard to his medical treatment.

Norfleet also alleges that during these lockdowns, he occasionally received food trays with inadequate servings of food.

To establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must prove two elements:

(1) the deprivation alleged is sufficiently serious such that it resulted in the "denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" and (2) prison officials knew of a substantial risk to the prisoner but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the harm from occurring. Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 1999) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). In some circumstances, a prisoner's claim that he was denied food may satisfy the first element but, as the Seventh Circuit has held, the denial of food is not a per se violation of the Eighth Amendment. Rather, a district court "must assess the amount and duration of the deprivation." Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999). See generally Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 304 (1991) ( it would be an Eighth Amendment violation to deny a prisoner of an "identifiable human need such as food"); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001) (withholding food from an inmate can, in some circumstances, satisfy the first Farmer prong); Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 214 n. 3 (5th Cir. 1998) (noting that denial of one out of every nine meals is not a constitutional violation; Cooper v. Sheriff of Lubbock County, 929 F.2d 1078 (5th Cir. 1991) (failure to feed a prisoner for twelve days unconstitutional); Cunningham v. Jones, 567 F.2d 653, 669 (6th Cir. 1977), app. after remand, 667 F.2d 565 (1982) (feeding inmates only once a day for 15 days, would constitute cruel and unusual punishment only if it "deprive[s] the prisoners concerned . . . of sufficient food to maintain normal health."); Robbins v. South, 595 F.Supp. 785, 789 (D.Mont. 1984) (requiring inmate to eat his meals in less than 15 minutes does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment).

In this case, Norfleet does not allege that he missed any meals. Rather, he is upset because on occasion, his portions were meager, but he was does not allege harm to his health; his claims therefore do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. In sum, he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be ...


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