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Novack v. Yordy

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 6, 2020



          B. Lynn Winmill U.S. District Court Judge

         The Clerk of Court has conditionally filed Plaintiff Nikolai Novack's Complaint because of his status as a prisoner and request to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkts. 3, 1.) A “conditional filing” means that Plaintiff must obtain authorization from the Court to proceed. All prisoner and pauper complaints must be screened by the Court to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 & 1915A. The Court must dismiss any claims that state a frivolous or malicious claim, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         After reviewing the Complaint, the Court has determined that Plaintiff will be permitted to proceed but will be required to file a supplement to his Complaint to provide additional facts to support his claims.


         1. Standard of Law for Screening Complaints

         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).

         Plaintiffs are required to state facts, and not just legal theories, in a complaint. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). In Iqbal, the Court made clear that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. In other words, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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, ” 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 claim under § 1983, 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).

         The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which the prisoner is confined are subject to scrutiny under 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). While conditions of confinement may be harsh and restrictive without being a violation of the Eighth Amendment, they cross the line of acceptability when they (1) involve “the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, ” (2) are “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime warranting imprisonment, ” (3) result “in unquestioned and serious deprivation of basic human needs, or (4) deny an inmate “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981).

         Where conditions of confinement are challenged, a plaintiff must make two showings. First, the plaintiff must make an “objective” showing that the deprivation was “sufficiently serious” to form the basis for an Eighth Amendment violation. Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d at 731.

         Second, the plaintiff must make a “subjective” showing that the prison official acted “with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Id. To establish an official's deliberate indifference, an inmate must show that (1) the officer was aware of the risk to the prisoner's health or safety, and (2) the officer deliberately disregarded that risk. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. at 837. To rebut the subjective inquiry, prison officials may present evidence that they reasonably responded to the risk. Id. at 844-45. Mere negligence is not sufficient to establish deliberate indifference; rather, the official's conduct must have been wanton. Id. at 835.

         Prison officials have a duty to ensure that prisoners are provided adequate shelter, food, clothing, sanitation, medical care and personal safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. at 832; Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1098 (9th Cir. 1996); Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1246 (9th Cir. 1982). “The circumstances, nature, and duration of a deprivation of these necessities must be considered in determining whether a constitutional violation has occurred.” Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d at 731. For example, the “‘more basic the need the shorter the time it can be withheld.'” Id. (quoting Hoptowit, 682 F.2d at 1259). Nonetheless, temporary unconstitutional conditions of confinement do not rise to the level of constitutional violations. See Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310 (9th Cir. 1995.)

         The First Amendment Free Exercise Clause protects the right to believe in a religion; it does not absolutely protect all conduct associated with a religion. Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940). Inmates clearly retain their free exercise of religion rights in prison. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348 (1987). However, challenges to prison restrictions that are alleged “to inhibit First Amendment interests must be analyzed in terms of the legitimate policies and goals of the corrections system, to whose custody and care the prisoner has been committed in accordance with due process of law.” Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, 433 U.S. 119, 125 (1977) (citation omitted).

         The courts must balance prisoners' First Amendment rights against the goals of the correctional facility. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979). Particularly, “when a prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related ...

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