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Nelson v. Tewalt

United States District Court, D. Idaho

December 9, 2019



          David C. Nye District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Gregory Joseph Nelson is a prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action. The Court previously reviewed Plaintiff's first amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, determined that it failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and allowed Plaintiff an additional opportunity to amend. See Initial Review Order, Dkt. 4.

         Plaintiff has now filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). See Dkt. 6. The SAC alleges that Defendants have violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by failing to protect him from attack by other inmates. Id. at 9-10.

         The Court retains its screening authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Having screened the SAC, the Court enters the following Order requiring Plaintiff to file a supplement showing why the SAC should not be dismissed as untimely.

         1. Screening Requirement

         As the Court explained in its Initial Review Order, the Court must dismiss a prisoner complaint-or any portion thereof-that 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         2. Standards of Law

         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). “[D]etailed factual allegations” are not required, but a plaintiff must offer “more than ... unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s].” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the facts pleaded are “merely consistent with a defendant's liability, ” the complaint has not stated a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff brings his 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).

         The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners against cruel and unusual punishment. To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must show that he is (or was) “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. 825, 834 (1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). An Eighth Amendment claim requires a plaintiff to satisfy “both an objective standard-that the deprivation was serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment-and a subjective standard-deliberate indifference.” Snow v. McDaniel, 681 F.3d 978, 985 (9th Cir. 2012), overruled in part on other grounds by Peralta v. Dillard, 744 F.3d 1076 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc).

         To rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation, the deprivation alleged must be objectively sufficiently harmful, Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, or, in other words, sufficiently “grave” or “serious, ” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). As the United States Supreme Court has explained:

Not every governmental action affecting the interests or well-being of a prisoner is subject to Eighth Amendment scrutiny, however. After incarceration, only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment. To be cruel and unusual punishment, conduct that does not purport to be punishment at all must involve more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interests or safety.

Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986) (internal quotation marks, citation, and alteration omitted).

         With respect to the subjective prong of an Eighth Amendment analysis, a defendant acts with deliberate indifference only if the defendant (1) was aware of the risk to the prisoner's health or safety, and (2) deliberately disregarded that risk. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Prison officials who actually knew of a substantial risk will not be liable under § 1983 “if they responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted.” Id. at 844. Mere ...

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