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Staples v. United States

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.



         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.

         Nature of the Complaint

         The complaint names as defendants the United States of America; Mark S. Inch, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; the unnamed Regional Director of the North Central Region of the Bureau of Prisons; Ian Conners, Administrator of National Inmate Appeals; Warden Claude Maye of the United States Penitentiary-Leavenworth (USPL); (FNU) Baker, Unit Manager; (FNU) Mitts, Counselor at USPL; and (FNU) Krock, Assistant Health Administrator at USPL.

         The events in question took place during plaintiff's incarceration at the United States Penitentiary-Leavenworth. Plaintiff claims that upon his release in early February 2015 from the Special Housing Unit (SHU) to the lower B-Unit at USPL, he was transferred to a cell in the B-Upper Unit. He protested this transfer to defendant Mitts, who advised him that he was being transferred to less desirable housing for making wine. Plaintiff argued that he had a medical restriction that required ground floor housing but to no avail.

         Plaintiff then addressed his concerns to defendant Baker, the Unit Manager. Defendants Baker and Mitts conferred in an office and contacted an unknown person by telephone. After that, plaintiff was assigned to the upper level cell.

         Plaintiff later spoke to defendant Maye at mainline concerning his assignment to the upper level and was told that someone from the medical unit was available to talk to him. Defendant Krock then met with plaintiff and advised him that she found nothing in his medical record that required his placement in lower-level housing and that she had removed the restrictions. As a result, plaintiff was housed in upper-level housing which required him to use stairs on a regular basis.

         At some later point, plaintiff complained of shortness of breath and chest pain. In April 2015, he was evaluated at an outside hospital. That evaluation determined that plaintiff had a heart condition that resulted in shortness of breath, faintness, and other symptoms upon overexertion. Plaintiff remained in the upper-level housing assignment until he was transferred to another institution.

         Plaintiff seeks damages.


         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 ...

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