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Staples v. United States

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 4, 2019

WILLIAM STAPLES, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          NOTICE AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          SAM A. CROW U.S. SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is a Bivens-type[1] civil rights action filed by a prisoner in federal custody. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The Court has conducted a review of the complaint and, for the reasons that follow, directs plaintiff to show cause why this matter should not be dismissed.

         Background

         The complaint names as defendants (1) the United States of America, (2) Mark Inch, Director of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), (3) Ian Conners, Administrator of National Inmate Appeals, (4) the unknown Regional Director of the North Central Region of the BOP, (5) Claude Maye, the former warden of the United States Penitentiary- Leavenworth (USPL), (6) the Unit Discipline Committee, (7) Correctional Officer Butz, and (8) M. Raletz, a member of the USPL education staff.

         Plaintiff alleges that during a July 2015 orientation session at the USPL he initially refused to sign several forms as directed but eventually complied to avoid placement in the Special Housing Unit (SHU).

         He next alleges that in March 2016, defendant Raletz prepared an incident report charging him with refusing a work assignment. The matter was referred to the Unit Discipline Committee (UDC), which eventually found plaintiff guilty and imposed the sanction of the loss of visitation for 15 days. Plaintiff unsuccessfully appealed the sanction.

         Plaintiff alleges these events violated his First Amendment right “to not be forced to sign documents”; subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment; and violated a created liberty interest. He seeks the expungement of the disciplinary report and damages.

         Screening

         A federal court must conduct a preliminary review of any case in which a prisoner seeks relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of such an entity. See 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). Following this review, the court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from that relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         In screening, a court liberally construes pleadings filed by a party proceeding pro se and applies “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         To avoid a dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must set out factual allegations that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The court accepts the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. However, “when the allegations in a complaint, however, true, could not raise a [plausible] claim of entitlement to relief, ” the matter should be dismissed. Id. at 558. A court need not accept “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rather, “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 Tenth Circuit has observed that the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Erickson set out a new standard of review for dismissals under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) dismissals. See Key v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007)(citations omitted). Following those decisions, 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 (quotation marks and internal citations omitted). A plaintiff “must nudge his claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009). In this context, “plausible” 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 [the] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (citing Twombly at 1974).

         Analysis

         Improper ...


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