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Boyd v. Ford County Detention Center

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 24, 2017

TRAVIS BOYD, Plaintiff,


          Sam A. Crow, U.S. District Senior Judge.

         The plaintiff Travis Boyd, an inmate at the Ford County Detention Center (“Center”), first submitted for filing his handwritten complaint for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF# 1. He then complied with the notice of deficiency (ECF# 2) and completed the court-provided civil rights complaint forms. ECF# 4. In these filings, the plaintiff alleges his right against cruel and unusual punishment was violated on August 15, 2017, when he and seven other inmates in his living unit were denied privileges as a disciplinary punishment for an offense they did not commit. The plaintiff also alleges his right to procedural due process was denied because the defendant Center did not follow its disciplinary procedures by failing to grant Mr. Boyd his requested hearing before an impartial hearing officer within the required 24-hour period.

         More specifically, the plaintiff alleges the defendant Sargent Ted Baker on the morning of August 15, 2017, stepped into the S-4 living unit of the defendant Center where the plaintiff was residing. Sargent Baker announced he had found damage on the walls within the unit. After warning the unit's residents that if someone did not admit to damaging the walls then the whole unit would lose privileges, Sargent Baker left the unit. Mr. Boyd then went to the inmate who was known to have caused this damage. He discussed the situation with this inmate and then returned to his cell. A couple minutes later, the culpable inmate came to Mr. Boyd's cell asking for more details. In the meantime, Sargent Baker returned to the S-4 living unit. The culpable inmate stepped forward admitting his guilt, but Sargent Baker said that the confession had come too late so the whole unit would be punished. Sargent Baker announced that the plaintiff and all of the other inmates in this unit would lose privileges for 30 days. The jail incident narrative apparently prepared by Sargent Baker recites in relevant part:

Sargent Baker then arrived in South pod at this time and Officer Duffield informed him of what was found. Sargent Baker then entered the day room and examined the markings as well and gave every one (sic) amply opportunity to own up to the incident no one would. Sargent Baker then informed all inmates that since no one would own up to the rule violation all inmates would lose REC. TV. As well as popcorn for a month. Sargent Baker had told s-4 about what they lost for the damage in their pod. For any more damage or problems they could lose commissary or visitation added to no popcorn, tv and recreation for 30 days.

ECF#1, p. 11 (bolding added). The plaintiff claims this loss of privileges violated his right against cruel and unusual punishment.

         Attached to his original complaint, the plaintiff Boyd provides the inmate grievance form that he completed for himself and his fellow inmates in appealing this discipline. ECF# 1, p. 8. The grievance consists of a written paragraph that raises cruel and unusual punishment, imposition of a punishment not authorized by the handbook, creation of a hostile living environment, and the admission by the culpable inmate. Id. The form appears to be signed by other inmates. The grievance form includes a section entitled, “answer to grievance, ” where the following is written: “Since the rules violated are a major violation, the sentence will be reduced to 20 days. No TV, no popcorn and no REC for these 20 days.” Id. (bolding added). This answer bears the supervisor's signature that reads, “Sgt Draper, ” and is dated August 16, 2017. Id.

         To his original complaint, Mr. Boyd also attaches a second inmate grievance form dated August 16, 2017. Id. at 9. Mr. Boyd writes there, “I was made aware of the fact our rule violation has been deemed a ‘major rule violation' in the response to our appeal dated 8-15-17. Since this is a major rule violation I am entitled to a hearing BEFORE an impartial hearing officer. I am requesting said hearing formally.” Id. The answer to this grievance states, “By Sgt. Draper coming in and taking 10 days off that is considered impartial hearing, but Cpl Blea will talk to Sgt. Baker.” Id. (bolding added).

         To his original complaint, the plaintiff also attaches two “supplemental narratives” in which he discloses that Sargent Baker partially restored one privilege on August 19th and another privilege on August 20th. Id. at pp. 13-14. The plaintiff writes in these narratives that he is continuing with the lawsuit because his privileges were not restored within the 24-hour period. Id. Mr. Boyd claims he has not received a hearing before an impartial hearing officer in violation of his constitutional right to due process.

         Motions to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF## 2 and 5)

         These motions are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). Because plaintiff is a prisoner, he must pay the full filing fee in installment payments taken from his prison trust account when he “brings a civil action or files an appeal in forma pauperis[.]” § 1915(b)(1). Pursuant to § 1915(b)(1), the court must assess, and collect when funds exist, an initial partial filing fee calculated upon the greater of (1) the average monthly deposit in his account or (2) the average monthly balance in the account for the six-month period preceding the filing of the complaint. Thereafter, the plaintiff must make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income in his institutional account. § 1915(b)(2). However, a prisoner shall not be prohibited from bringing a civil action or appeal because he has no means to pay the initial partial filing fee. § 1915(b)(4).

         The plaintiff states that he has requested the trust account reports but that the defendant Center has not replied. The court shall not assess initial filing fee, but the plaintiff remains obligated to pay the $350.00 filing fee. With his first motion to proceed in forma pauperis, the defendant also requested appointment of counsel. In light of the ruling that follows, the court is convinced that the plaintiff's claims lack sufficient merit to warrant appointment of counsel. See Steffey v. Orman, 461 F.3d 1218, 1223 (10th Cir. 2006).

         Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss the entire complaint or any part of it, “if the complaint . . . is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citations omitted); Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1523 (10th Cir. 1992). A court liberally construes a pro se complaint and applies “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In addition, the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true. Anderson v. Blake, 469 F.3d 910, 913 (10th Cir. 2006). On the other hand, ...

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