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Barnard v. State

United States District Court, D. Maine

August 19, 2016

STATE OF MAINE, et al., Defendants



         In his original complaint, Plaintiff alleged excessive force was used against him during a May 31, 2014, encounter with law enforcement officials. (ECF No. 1.) Following a review of the complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 29 U.S.C. §1915A(a), I recommended:

[U]nless within the time to file an objection to this recommended decision, Plaintiff files an amended complaint in which he asserts an actionable claim against one or more of the named Defendants, the Court dismiss all state, county, and municipal entities named in the caption of Plaintiff’s complaint. I also recommend the Court construe the complaint to assert a federal claim against Officer Troy Bires, and order service of the complaint against Officer Bires. Finally, I recommend the Court determine that Plaintiff cannot assert a claim on behalf of his wife, Vicki Barnard, and, to the extent Plaintiff has asserted a claim on her behalf, the Court dismiss the claim, subject to Vicki Barnard’s right to assert a claim on her own behalf.

(Recommended Decision at 5, ECF No. 4.) Plaintiff subsequently moved to amend his complaint. (ECF No. 11.) The matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s motion to amend, through which motion Plaintiff seeks to reassert his claims against the previously named defendants, join numerous additional defendants in his claim based on his encounter with law enforcement, and assert claims against a group of defendants based on conditions of confinement at the Somerset County Jail.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) permits Plaintiff to amend his complaint once as a matter of course within 21 days of service of the complaint. Because of the preliminary review and recommended decision, the complaint has not been served upon any Defendant. In accordance with Rule 15, therefore, Plaintiff’s motion to amend is granted.

         Given that Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, and given that he seeks relief from governmental entities, officers, and employees, his amended complaint is subject to preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(a). After the review, I recommend the Court dismiss Plaintiff’s federal and state claims against the State of Maine, the Maine State Police, and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, dismiss Plaintiff’s federal claim against the municipal defendants, and dismiss or sever Plaintiff’s claims regarding the conditions of confinement at the Somerset County Jail.

         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 amended 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).


         Through his motion to amend and his amended complaint, Plaintiff provides more detailed factual allegations in an attempt to cure the pleading deficiencies identified in the recommended decision. In addition, Plaintiff attempts to add new claims related to conditions of confinement at the Somerset County Jail.

         A. Plaintiff’s Claims Regarding the May 31, 2014, Encounter with Law Enforcement

         In the amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts two types of claims arising from the May 31, 2014, encounter. (Am. Compl. at 1.) First, Plaintiff alleges an excessive force claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “Section 1983 allows people within the jurisdiction of the United States to bring civil lawsuits against those who, under color of law, deprive them ‘of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.’” Ayotte v. Barnhart, 973 ...

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