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Blackbear v. Butler County Jail

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 7, 2018

JAMES D. BLACKBEAR, Plaintiff,
v.
BUTLER COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

          NOTICE AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          SAM A. CROW, U.S. Senior District Judge

         Order Plaintiff James D. Blackbear, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff is ordered to show good cause why his Complaint should not be dismissed.

         I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

         Mr. Blackbear was a pre-trial detainee at the Butler County Jail in El Dorado, Kansas, at the time he filed his Complaint. He is currently incarcerated at Winfield Correctional Facility. Mr. Blackbear filed this lawsuit on November 14, 2016, and was directed to refile his Complaint on the court-approved form. He complied, filing his Complaint on the correct form on November 23, 2016 (Doc. #3).

         Mr. Blackbear makes a number of allegations about his treatment at the Butler County Jail. He states he was denied proper medical treatment while detoxing from heavy drug use; he was denied telephone use and video visitation on November 18, 2016; and the staff has been treating him with animosity since he filed this lawsuit. He also mentions he was denied food consistent with his religious beliefs and/or food allergies from October 29, 2016, until November 18, 2016, after he filed his initial complaint in this lawsuit.

         Plaintiff names the Butler County Jail and Deputy (FNU) Flax as defendants. He requests relief in the form of $2.5 million. Mr. Blackbear does not specify which of his constitutional rights he believes Defendants have violated.

         II. 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 employee of such entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Additionally, with any litigant, such as Plaintiff, who is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court has a duty to screen the complaint to determine its sufficiency. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Upon completion of this screening, the Court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B).

         To survive this review, the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In applying the Twombly standard, the Court must assume the truth of all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Leverington v. City of Colo. Springs, 643 F.3d 719, 723 (10th Cir. 2011).

         While a pro se plaintiff's complaint must be liberally construed, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), pro se status does not relieve the plaintiff of “the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). The Court need not accept “mere conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th Cir. 1990). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “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); Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1523 (10th Cir. 1992). In addressing a claim brought under § 1983, the analysis begins by identifying the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989). The validity of the claim then must be judged by reference to the specific constitutional standard which governs that right. Id.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to dismissal for several reasons.

         A. Exhaustion of administrative remedies

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), a prisoner must exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing a lawsuit in federal court regarding prison conditions. This exhaustion requirement “is mandatory, and the district court [is] not authorized to dispense with it.” Beaudry v. Corrections Corp. of Am., 331 F.3d 1164, 1167 n. 5 (10th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1118 (2004); Little v. Jones, 607 F.3d 1245, 1249 (10th Cir. 2010).[1] While failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense and a plaintiff is generally not required to plead it in the complaint, when that failure is clear from materials filed by the plaintiff, the Court may sua sponte require the plaintiff to show that he has exhausted. See Aquilar-Avellaveda v. Terrell, 478 F.3d 1223, 1225 (10th Cir. 2007)(acknowledging district courts may raise exhaustion question sua sponte, consistent ...


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