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WOOD v. York County Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 10, 2017

JAMES LEE WOOD, Plaintiff
v.
YORK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al ., Defendants

          RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER SCREENING COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e), 1915A

          JOHN C. NIVISON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In this action, Plaintiff James Lee Wood, an inmate in custody at the York County Jail, alleges the cost of goods at the prison commissary violate the County's policies. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and money damages. Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), which application the Court granted (ECF No. 6).

         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).

         Following a review of Plaintiff's complaint, I recommend the Court dismiss the 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”).

         Background Facts

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have violated and evidently continue to violate York County's policy that requires the cost of items sold in the jail commissary, or canteen, reflect the average retail price in the community. (Complaint at 3.) Plaintiff asserts the cost of items in the commissary is consistently higher than in the community.

         Discussion

         Defendants' alleged violation of a jail policy is not an actionable federal claim. Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 250 - 51 (1983) (“The State may choose to require procedures for reasons other than protection against deprivation of substantive rights, of course, but in making that choice the State does not create an independent substantive right.”); Phillips v. Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003) (“[T]here is no federal constitutional liberty interest in having state officers follow state law or prison officials follow prison regulations.”). Plaintiff also does not have a constitutional right to purchase items in the jail commissary at a particular cost. French v. Butterworth, 614 F.2d 23, 25 (1st Cir. 1980) (“reject[ing] [the] contention that … inmates have a constitutionally protected interest in buying food as cheaply as possible”). See also DeBrew v. Atwood, 792 F.3d 118, 129 (D.C. Cir. 2015); Stergios v. Sheriff Cumberland Cty., No. 2:10-CV-00365-GZS, 2010 WL 3842154, at *1, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 102848, at *1 (D. Me. Aug. 31, 2010). Plaintiff, therefore, has failed to assert an actionable federal claim.

         Conclusion

         Based on the foregoing analysis, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), I recommend the ...


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