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Barnard v. State

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 14, 2016

STATE OF MAINE, et al., Defendants



         In this action, Plaintiff Jeffrey Paul Barnard, an inmate currently incarcerated at the Somerset County Jail, seeks to recover for injuries he alleges he sustained in a 2014 standoff in Ellsworth, Maine, which standoff involved state, county and municipal law enforcement officers. Plaintiff also purports to assert a claim on behalf of his wife, Vicki Barnard.

         Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2), which application the Court granted. (ECF No. 3.) In accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of Plaintiff’s complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Additionally, Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to screening “before docketing, if feasible or … as soon as practicable after docketing, ” because he is “a prisoner seek[ing] redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 29 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         Following a review of the pleadings, I recommend the Court dismiss all defendants named in the caption unless Plaintiff amends his complaint, in accordance with the recommendation, to assert an actionable claim against one or more of the named defendants. I also recommend the Court construe Plaintiff’s complaint to assert a federal claim against Officer Troy Bires.

         Standard of Review

         When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines, ” inter alia, that the action is “frivolous or malicious” or “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). “Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such complaints.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).

         In addition to the review contemplated by § 1915, Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act because Plaintiff currently is incarcerated and seeks redress from governmental entities and officers. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (c). The § 1915A screening requires courts to “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim …; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “The relevant question ... in assessing plausibility is not whether the complaint makes any particular factual allegations but, rather, whether ‘the complaint warrant[s] dismissal because it failed in toto to render plaintiffs’ entitlement to relief plausible.’” Rodríguez- Reyes v. Molina-Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 55 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 n. 14). Although a pro se plaintiff’s complaint is subject to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the complaint may not consist entirely of “conclusory allegations that merely parrot the relevant legal standard, ” Young v. Wells Fargo, N.A., 717 F.3d 224, 231 (1st Cir. 2013). See also Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980) (explaining that the liberal standard applied to the pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “is not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim”).

         Factual Background

         In his complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants the State of Maine, the Maine State Police, the City of Ellsworth, the Ellsworth Police Department, the Hancock County Sheriff Department, the City of Bangor, and the Bangor Police Department. As alleged, each of these entities employed law enforcement officers who were present at the standoff which ended with the use of “extreme excessive force.” (Complaint at 3.)

         The only individual officer identified in the complaint is Officer Troy Bires. According to Plaintiff, Officer Bires was the first officer on the scene. Plaintiff alleges Officer Bires is responsible for his injuries as follows:

This started out as a civil matter, but because of the police officer [who] was first on the scene, [t]he situation became out of control. The responding office[r], Troy Bires, pulled out his gun, pointed it at this plaintiff[], without any provocation from above plaintiffs. He kept his gun pointed at [my] head trying [to] intimidate me, yelling and screaming at me to give him the tractor key I had. I s[h]owed this officer I was unarmed, still he kept his gun pointed at my head. I was not [a] threat to him.

(Id. at 3, ¶ IV.)

Plaintiff further ...

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