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Inman v. Penobscot County Jail

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 5, 2017

FRANK INMAN, Plaintiff
v.
PENOBSCOT COUNTY JAIL, 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 Frank Inman, a pretrial detainee at the Penobscot County Jail, complains about the conditions of bail established by the state court and about the conditions of his confinement.

         Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 6), which application the Court granted (ECF No. 7). 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). Furthermore, to the extent Plaintiff's pleading can be construed as a habeas corpus petition, Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases requires that the Court conduct a preliminary review of the petition, and dismiss the petition “[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.”[1]

         As explained below, following a review of Plaintiff's filings, I recommend the Court dismiss the matter.

         Standard of Review

         The federal in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, is designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal courts for those persons unable to pay the costs of bringing an action. When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, however, “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” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 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).

         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), this is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim, ” Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980). To allege a civil action in federal court, it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that a defendant acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively allege facts that identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a remedy. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Similarly, a federal district court must dismiss a habeas corpus petition if it appears from the face of the petition that the petitioner is not entitled to relief. Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings, Rules 1 and 4; see also McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994) (“Federal courts are authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition that appears legally insufficient on its face.”). To show his entitlement to relief, Plaintiff must assert facts capable of supporting the finding that “[h]e is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241(c)(3), 2254(a).

         Factual Background

         According to Plaintiff's filings, Plaintiff entered state custody on criminal charges on September 7, 2017, and he has been held at the Penobscot County Jail. Evidently, Plaintiff was arrested because he failed to appear for a court hearing on a criminal charge. Plaintiff asserts that he was denied bail (ECF No. 1), that the bail “seems over excessive” (id.), and that the bail was set “at an over excessive amount.” (ECF No. 10.)

         Plaintiff asserts he suffers from Huntington's disease, which requires that he consume a certain number of calories, but, for an unstated reason, he has not been able to eat or drink “since prior to [his] arrest.” (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff alleges “the medical department” has not seen him, and he fears ...


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