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McIntyre v. Barney

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 19, 2019




         The Clerk of Court conditionally filed Plaintiff Colin Michael McIntyre's Complaint as a result of Plaintiff's status as an inmate and in forma pauperis request. Dkts. 1, 3. The Court now reviews the Complaint to determine whether any of the claims should be summarily dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A. Having reviewed the record, the Court enters the following Order.

         1. Screening Requirement

         The Court must review complaints filed by paupers and by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. If a complaint or any portion thereof states a frivolous or malicious claim, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief, it is subject to summary dismissal. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) & 1915A(b).

         2. Pleading Standard

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint fails to state a claim for relief under Rule 8 if the factual assertions in the complaint, taken as true, are insufficient for the reviewing court plausibly “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. In other words, Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the facts pleaded are “merely consistent with a defendant's liability, ” or if there is an “obvious alternative explanation” that would not result in liability, the complaint has not stated a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 678, 682 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the civil rights statute. To state a plausible civil rights claim, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). To be liable under § 1983, “the defendant must possess a purposeful, a knowing, or possibly a reckless state of mind.” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2472 (2015). Negligence is not actionable under § 1983, because a negligent act by a public official is not an abuse of governmental power but merely a “failure to measure up to the conduct of a reasonable person.” Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332 (1986).

         3. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff is a prisoner in the custody of the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon. The Complaint does not arise from his present incarceration, but from his 2016 incarceration at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI), where Correctional Officer Joshua Barney worked. Plaintiff asserts that Barney extorted $1, 200 from him between October 2016 and November 2016. Plaintiff further asserts that IDOC officials knew that Barney was extorting inmates, but they did nothing to stop him. Plaintiff includes no claims against anyone but Barney in his Complaint.

         Barney was later indicted in federal court, convicted, and sentenced to federal prison. Plaintiff alleges, without explanation, that “he lost of year of [his] life” as a result of the extortion. Dkt. 1, p. 6. He requests compensatory damages.

         4. Discussion of Eighth Amendment Failure to Protect Claim

         Prisoners are protected by the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994); Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 731 (9th Cir. 2000). The Eighth Amendment “embodies broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must state facts showing that he is “incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, ” or that he has been deprived of “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities” as a result of Defendants' actions. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. at 834.

         Here, Plaintiff is complaining of a loss that may not be of a constitutional dimension. If Plaintiff contends that Barney caused damage to Plaintiff's emotional wellbeing by extorting money from him, he does not have an Eighth Amendment cause of action for compensatory damages unless he can show that he suffered more than a de minimis physical injury. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), enacted as part of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, provides that “[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison or other correctional facility for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.” Thus, the Eighth Amendment does not support such a claim, and the Court sees no other construction of Plaintiff's facts that would state a Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause claim.

         5. Discussion of Claim Construed under the ...

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