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Bell v. English

United States District Court, D. Kansas

January 11, 2019

STEVEN BELL, Plaintiff,
v.
(FNU) ENGLISH, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          Sam A. Crow U.S. Senior District Judge

         Plaintiff Steven Bell is hereby required to show good cause, in writing, to the Honorable Sam A. Crow, United States District Judge, why this action should not be dismissed due to the deficiencies in Plaintiff's Complaint that are discussed herein.

         I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

          Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis in this prisoner civil rights action. At the time of filing, Plaintiff was in federal custody at USP Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kansas (“USPL”). Plaintiff alleges that he is being denied due process because he is being transferred without a basis. Plaintiff claims he has been held without cause in disciplinary segregation, without access to the courts and in inhumane conditions. Plaintiff claims he is being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because he is being held in a cell containing black mold and with little or no air conditioning, and because several medical issues are not being responded to properly. Plaintiff names the warden as the sole defendant and seeks injunctive relief releasing him from segregation, preventing him from being transferred, and granting him access to the law library three times per week and legal copies.

         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 an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2).

         “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, “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, ” dismissal is appropriate. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).

         A pro se litigant's “conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). “[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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The complaint's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 555, 570.

         The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained “that, to state a claim in federal court, a complaint must explain what each defendant did to [the pro se plaintiff]; when the defendant did it; how the defendant's action harmed [the plaintiff]; and, what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated.” Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007). The court “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

         The Tenth Circuit has pointed out that the Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Erickson gave rise to a new standard of review for § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) dismissals. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); see also Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009). As a result, courts “look to the specific allegations in the complaint to determine whether they plausibly support a legal claim for relief.” Kay, 500 F.3d at 1218 (citation omitted). Under this new standard, “a plaintiff must ‘nudge his claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Smith, 561 F.3d at 1098 (citation omitted). “Plausible” in this context does not mean “likely to be true, ” but rather refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, ” then the plaintiff has not “nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1974).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff is only seeking injunctive relief. Plaintiff was transferred to a halfway house and is no longer housed at USPL.[1] Because Plaintiff's request relates solely to alleged wrongdoing on the part of USPL employees, the Court would be unable to provide Plaintiff with effective relief and his requests for injunctive relief are moot. Article III of the Constitution extends the jurisdiction of federal courts only to “live, concrete” cases or controversies. Rio Grande Silvery Minnow v. Bureau of Reclamation, 601 F.3d 1096, 1109 (10th Cir. 2010). “Article III's requirement that federal courts adjudicate only cases and controversies necessitates that courts decline to exercise jurisdiction where the award of any requested relief would be moot-i.e. where the controversy is no longer live and ongoing.” Cox v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 43 F.3d 1345, 1348 (10th Cir. 1994), superseded by statute on other grounds. Consequently, “[m]ootness is a threshold issue because the existence of a live case or controversy is a constitutional prerequisite to federal court jurisdiction.” Rio Grande, 601 F.3d at 1109 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         “Past exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief.” O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 4951974). The Tenth Circuit has applied this principle to § 1983 actions brought by inmates, and held that an inmate's transfer from one prison to another generally renders moot any request for injunctive relief against the employees of the original prison concerning the conditions of confinement. See Green v. Branson, 108 F.3d 1296, 1299-1300 (10th Cir. 1997); see also Wirsching v. Colorado, 360 F.3d 1191, 1196 (10th Cir. 2004) (inmate's release from prison moots his claims for declaratory and injunctive relief); McAlpine v. Thompson, 187 F.3d 1213, 1215 (10th Cir. 1999) (recognizing prisoner's release from prison mooted his § 1983 claim for injunctive relief); Love v. Summit County, 776 F.2d 908, 910 n.4 (10th Cir. 1985) (noting transfer of inmate to different prison renders his § 1983 claim for injunctive relief moot); see also Pfeil v. Lampert, 603 Fed.Appx. 665, 668 (10th Cir. 2015) (unpublished) (holding that “RLUIPA claims regarding prison conditions become moot if the inmate plaintiff is released from custody.”) (citations omitted).

         The mootness doctrine is based on the reality that even if the inmate receives injunctive relief, the defendants from the former prison would be unable to provide the relief to plaintiff. Because Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at ...


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