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Carter v. Davis

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia

October 16, 2014

Jacori Andre' Carter, Plaintiff,
Keith Davis, et al, Defendants.


LEONIE M. BRINKEMA, District Judge.

Jacori Andre' Carter, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming as defendants Keith Davis, Warden of Sussex I State Prison ("Sussex"); Joycetine Boone, Assistant Warden of Sussex; Edward Curry, a correctional officer; and E. Martin, a correctional officer. Plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff has not submitted the filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) or applied to proceed in forma pauperis. Additionally, for the reasons stated below, this complaint does not conform to all requirements for § 1983 civil actions, and plaintiff will be directed to provide additional information.


Plaintiff alleges that on the morning of March 31, 2014, he asked defendant Curry to notarize some legal papers. Compl. 4. Curry took the papers; however, when the papers were returned, they allegedly had food spilled on them. Id . Plaintiff filed several informal and formal complaints in response to this occurrence. See id. at 4-5.

On April 1, 2014, plaintiff was informed that he would no longer be receiving his Common Fare diet, [1] and would be receiving a restricted diet. Id. at 6. Plaintiff had been approved to participate in the Common Fare diet in 2009, as the diet satisfies the tenets of Sunni Islam, plaintiffs religion. Id. at 14-15. Plaintiff allegedly "did not receive a Disciplinary Offense Charge to mandate" his restrictive diet, and did not know why he was being placed on the restrictive diet. Id. at 6. On June 5, 2014, plaintiff learned from defendant Boone that defendant Martin had placed him on the restrictive diet due to his "disruptive behavior during the feeding process on [March 31, 2014]." Id. at 8. Martin allegedly placed plaintiff on the restrictive diet after defendant Curry observed plaintiff "throwing water from under his cell door during dinner feeding." Id. at 9.

Curry charged plaintiff with Offense 237A: Throwing/Smearing/Pouring/Discarding Food/Trash/Bodily Waste; however, at plaintiffs disciplinary hearing, the hearing officer determined that the offense should have been charged as Offense 237B: Intentionally Flooding Any Area. Id. at 9. Plaintiff argues that defendant Curry "intentionally" applied the wrong offense code in order to suspend plaintiffs Common Fare diet, in retaliation for plaintiffs complaint against Curry for damaging his legal papers. Id. at 10, 14. Plaintiff argues that he was unable to eat anything for the seven days that he was on the restricted diet. Id. at 14. As a result, he suffered weight loss, abdominal pain, and "severe emotional and mental distress." Id. at 16.


District courts have a duty to construe pleadings by pro se litigants liberally; however, a pro se plaintiff must nevertheless allege a cause of action. Bracey v. Buchanan , 55 F.Supp.2d 416, 421 (E.D. Va. 1999). To state a cause of action under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts indicating that he was deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that this deprivation resulted from conduct committed by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42 (1988). Moreover, each named defendant must have had personal knowledge of and involvement in the alleged violations of plaintiffs constitutional rights for the action to proceed against that defendant. As presented, plaintiff has not stated a claim against any of the named defendants, but because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, he will be granted an opportunity to particularize and amend his complaint.

A. Defendants Keith Davis and Joycetine Boone

Plaintiff alleges that defendants Davis and Boone, the warden and assistant warden, respectively, of Sussex, violated plaintiffs First and Eighth Amendment rights by acting with deliberate indifference, exposing plaintiff to an unreasonable risk of serious harm, depriving plaintiff of a basic human need, and depriving plaintiff of the right to follow the practices of his religion, specifically, by denying him the ability to "eat[] Kosher food." Compl. 18.

Supervisory officials such as Davis and Boone maybe held liable for constitutional injuries inflicted by their subordinates only in certain circumstances. See Shaw v. Stroud , 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing Slakan v. Porter , 737 F.2d 368 (4th Cir. 1984)). This liability is not premised on respondeat superior, but upon "recognition that supervisory indifference or tacit authorization of subordinates' misconduct may be a causative factor in the constitutional injuries they inflict on those committed to their care." Id. at 798 (quoting Slakan , 737 F.2d at 372-73). "[Liability ultimately is determined by pinpointing the persons in the decision making chain whose deliberate indifference permitted the constitutional abuses to continue unchecked.'" Id. To establish supervisory liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate:

(1) that the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed "a pervasive and unreasonable risk" of constitutional injury to citizens like the plaintiff; (2) that the supervisor's response to that knowledge was so inadequate as to show "deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices, "; and (3) that there was an "affirmative causal link" between the supervisor's inaction and the particular constitutional injury suffered by the plaintiff.

Id. at 799 (citations omitted).

Here, plaintiff alleges only that Davis and Boone knew that plaintiff was no longer receiving a Common Fare diet. Plaintiff does not allege that Davis or Boone had any actual or constructive knowledge of constitutional violations by their subordinates. In addition, plaintiff does not allege any causal link between the knowledge that plaintiff was no longer receiving a Common Fare diet and a potential constitutional violation by prison staff. Therefore, in his amended complaint, plaintiff will be given an ...

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