United States District Court, D. Maine
RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER SCREENING COMPLAINT
PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e), 1915A
C. NIVISON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
action, Plaintiff James Lee Wood, an inmate in custody at the
York County Jail, alleges that on October 10, 2016, certain
conditions of his confinement were unreasonable. (Complaint,
ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in
forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), which application the Court
granted (ECF No. 6).
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).
a review of Plaintiff's complaint, I recommend the Court
dismiss Plaintiff's complaint.
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).
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).
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
alleges that on October 10, 2016, Defendants required that he
remain in his cell after the county jail septic system backed
up and flooded his cell. (Complaint at 4, ECF No. 1.)
According to Plaintiff, he attempted to clean his cell, but
was not given appropriate cleaning supplies “at that
time.” (Id.) Plaintiff asserts he was served a
meal in his cell while the conditions existed, but he did not
eat the meal because of the conditions. (Complaint at 4, ECF
No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges other non-contaminated cells were
available in the unit at the time. (Id.)
is undisputed that the treatment a prisoner receives in
prison and the conditions under which [the prisoner] is
confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth
Amendment.” Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25,
31 (1993). “Undue suffering, unrelated to any
legitimate penological purpose, is considered a form of
punishment proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.”
Kosilek v. Spencer, 774 F.3d 63, 82 (1st Cir. 2014)
(citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976)).
Under the Eighth Amendment, prison conditions cannot be
inhumane, but they need not be comfortable. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1970). Cruel and unusual
punishment consists of the denial of “the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities” assessed
based on “the contemporary standard of decency.”
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981).
has not alleged any facts to suggest the existence of an
inhumane condition that denied him the minimal civilized
measure of life's necessities. While unsanitary
conditions of confinement can constitute cruel and unusual
punishment, viable cases involve prolonged exposure to
unsanitary conditions, minimally on the order of multiple
days. Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 686 - 87 (1978)
(“[T]he length of confinement cannot be ignored .... A
filthy, overcrowded cell ... might be tolerable for a few
days and intolerably cruel for weeks or months.”);
See, e.g., McBride v. Deer, 240
F.3d 1287, 1292 (10th Cir. 2001) (three days in proximity to
human waste without adequate cleaning supplies deemed
sufficient to state a non-frivolous claim); Smith v.
Copeland, 87 F.3d 265, 269 (8th Cir. 1996) (affirming
entry of summary judgment where plaintiff was subjected to an
overflowed toilet for four days).
allegation regarding the receipt of a meal under the alleged
conditions does not alter the assessment. See,
e.g., Islam v. Jackson,782 F.Supp. 1111,
1114 - 15 (E.D. Va.1992) (serving one meal contaminated with
maggots and meals under unsanitary conditions for thirteen
days was not cruel and unusual punishment, even though inmate
suffered symptoms of food poisoning on one occasion);
Bennett v. Misner, No. 3:02-cv- 1662, 2004 WL
2091473, at *20, 2004 U.S. Dist. Lexis 19568, at *63 (D. Or.
Sept. 17, 2004) (“Neither isolated instances of food