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McKenney v. Joyce

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 27, 2016

KEVIN JOYCE, et al., Defendants


          John C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, Plaintiff Robert McKenney, an inmate in the York County Jail, alleges that he has been wrongly classified as maximum security whenever he has been assigned to the Cumberland County Jail. Plaintiff asserts his claim against “Officer Ryder in classification, ” Captain Butts (described as the “overseer of all security”), and Sheriff Kevin Joyce who “oversees everything at the jail [and] also the County of Cumberland.” (Complaint at 4, ECF No. 1.)

         Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2), which application the Court granted (ECF No. 5). 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         After a review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, I recommend the Court dismiss Plaintiff's complaint.

         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[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that in 2012, while serving two consecutive nine-month sentences in the Cumberland County Jail (CCJ), he was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a member of the corrections staff. (Complaint, ECF No. 1) Pending a criminal investigation, Plaintiff was transferred to other correctional facilities in Maine, and was classified as maximum security for some of the time. Plaintiff was released from custody in 2013. (Statement of Claim at 1, ECF No. 1-1.)

         In May 2016, Plaintiff was arrested and processed at the CCJ. “[D]ue to a violent crime [he] was arrested for, ” Plaintiff was initially classified as maximum. (Id. at 2.) Soon after his arrival at the jail, officials at the CCJ transferred Plaintiff to the York County Jail (YCJ) to prevent contact between Plaintiff and the CCJ staff member with whom he allegedly had an improper relationship. At YCJ, Plaintiff was placed in maximum security for five days before being reclassified to general population, where he has remained ever since “with no disciplinary action.” (Id.) On occasion, when transported to court proceedings in Cumberland County, Plaintiff has been held temporarily in maximum security at the CCJ, purportedly to prevent contact with the staff member. (Id.)

         Plaintiff maintains Defendants unlawfully classified him as maximum security. He contends prison policies or regulations provide that maximum security is reserved for prisoners who present security risks or who present a danger to themselves or others. (Id. at 3.) After Plaintiff wrote a letter challenging his classification, his classification at the CCJ was changed. (Id.) Plaintiff describes his claim as a denial of due process based on the denial of a classification hearing. (Id.)

         On September 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a supplemental pleading. (ECF No. 8.) In the pleading, Plaintiff alleges that on September 12, he was sentenced to 364 days in county jail, to be followed by a six-month consecutive sentence. After sentencing, Plaintiff asked Defendant Ryder whether he will qualify for the prerelease program administered by Cumberland County when he has six months or less remaining on his sentence. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Ryder informed Plaintiff that because of his inappropriate relationship with the corrections staff member at the CCJ, he would not be assigned to the CCJ and thus would not be ...

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