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Gladu v. Fitzpatrick

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 19, 2018

JOSEPH FITZPATRICK, et al., Defendants


          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections at the Maine State Prison, alleges Defendants violated his constitutional rights following an incident in February 2018. He also attempts to assert a class action on behalf of others who are similarly situated. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.)

         Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), 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 a review “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 Plaintiff's class action allegations and dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims except for his claim against Defendant Manning.

         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 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).

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges that on February 11, 2018, he received two “heavy applications” of pepper spray when he refused to “cuff up” for a cell extraction, and that he was subsequently denied access to a shower for three days after he was placed in Emergency Observation Status (EOS). (Complaint ¶¶ 11 - 19, ECF No. 1.) In particular, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Manning, identified as a sergeant at the Maine State Prison, denied Plaintiff's request for a shower for a period of three days, even though Plaintiff reported to Defendant “that his skin was burning from head-to-toe.” (Id. ¶¶ 18 - 20, 23.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Manning denied Plaintiff access to other means of decontamination in his cell (i.e., wash cloths and towels), even though prison policy does not deny EOS prisoners access to such items. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff asserts Defendants Liberty and Ross, alleged to be the warden and deputy warden of security, are liable as supervisors. (Id. ¶¶ 7c, 7d.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants Fitzpatrick and Thornell have supervisory liability because they are, respectively, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections. (Id. ¶¶ 7a, 7b.)

         Plaintiff asserts that Department of Corrections' policy “requires [officers] to provide reasonable opportunity for a prisoner to be decontaminated, by means of a shower and clean change of clothing, following any direct exposure to chemical agents.” (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff also alleges that the supervisory defendants nevertheless tolerate or condone a practice in which prisoners are denied the ability to decontaminate after exposure to pepper spray because, based on information and belief, other prisoners have had experiences similar to Plaintiff's experience. (Id. ¶¶ 26 - 28.)

         Plaintiff seeks to assert a class action on behalf of “all male prisoners [at] MSP who were or will be exposed to chemical agents and then deprived of meaningful opportunity to decontaminate by means ...

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