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Rayes v. Houston

United States District Court, District of Nebraska

April 14, 2015

RICHARD RAYES, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT HOUSTON, MICHAEL KENNEY, LARRY WAYNE, FRANK HOPKINS, DIANE SABATKA-RINE, SAMUAL SHAW, MICHAEL EDISON, and DENNIS BAKEWELL, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Joseph F. Bataillon Senior United States District Judge

Plaintiff filed a Complaint (Filing No. 1) on August 27, 2014, and an Amended Complaint (Filing No. 33) on January 15, 2015. The court considers Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint as supplemental to his Complaint. See NECivR 15.1(b) (stating the court may consider an amended pleading as supplemental to the original pleading in pro se cases).

Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis in this matter. The court now conducts an initial review of Plaintiff’s Complaint and Amended Complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the Nebraska State Prison (“NSP”) in Lincoln, Nebraska. In this action he sues numerous current and former employees of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (“NDCS”), and he challenges the constitutionality of various prison regulations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law.

Plaintiff filed his original Complaint (Filing No. 1) on August 27, 2014. Thereafter, he filed numerous motions and pleadings supplementing the Complaint. (Filing Nos. 11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 27, and 28.) On December 9, 2014, the court conducted a preliminary review of Plaintiff’s pleadings (Filing No. 30), and noted Plaintiff had set forth a litany of unrelated allegations in his Complaint and supplemental pleadings. The court ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint that set forth only clearly related claims that stemmed from the same basic events or occurrences.

Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint (Filing No. 33) on January 15, 2015. In Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint, he “retract[ed]” the numerous supplemental motions and pleadings (see Filing No. 33 at CM/ECF p. 10), and elected to prosecute the action against the individuals named in the original Complaint (Robert Houston, Michael Kenney, Larry Wayne, Frank Hopkins, Diane Sabatka-Rine, Samual Shaw, Michael Edison, and Dennis Bakewell), and also two additional individuals (Holly Rohde and Lannette Griffin-Mack) (see Id. at CM/ECF p. 11).

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

The court is required to review prisoner and in forma pauperis complaints seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”).

“The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.’” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Liberally construed, Plaintiff here alleges federal constitutional claims. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also must show that the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. 1993).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of various prison regulations at the NSP. According to Plaintiff, these regulations are impeding his ability to access the courts. Plaintiff generally alleged current and former prison directors are responsible for creating the regulations at issue, including Robert Houston and Michael Kenney, and others (discussed below) are responsible for enforcing the regulations. (See Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 2.)

In Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996), quoting Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 825 (1977), the Supreme Court confirmed that inmates have a constitutional right of access to the courts that obligates prison officials to provide some means, such as a prison law library or a legal assistance program, “for ensuring ‘a reasonably adequate opportunity to present claimed violations of fundamental constitutional rights to the courts.’” The “right to meaningful access to the courts ensures that prison officials may not erect unreasonable barriers to prevent prisoners from pursuing or defending all types of legal matters.” Schrier v. Halford, 60 F.3d 1309, 1313 (8th Cir. 1995). However, prisons may ...


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