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Muhammad v. Barksdale

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

February 16, 2016

EARL R. BARKSDALE, ET AL., Defendants.


Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge

Abdul Hamza Wali Muhammad, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that prison officials at Red Onion State Prison have violated his constitutional rights in various respects. Liberally construed, his rambling complaint alleges the following groups of claims: (1) in August 2007, a nurse forcibly examined plaintiff to verify that he had not tried to harm himself by inserting a pen or other foreign object into his penis, and a prison doctor provided incompetent medical care for related problems plaintiff experienced in September 2007; (2) Red Onion officials have continually classified plaintiff to segregated confinement in retaliation for his past lawsuits; (3) on July 23, 2015, after plaintiff refused to comply with orders to uncover his window, Sgt. Glenn Fore placed him on strip cell status for eight hours with no toilet paper or soap even after plaintiff defecated on himself; (4) on July 31, 2015, Hearing Officer Larry Mullins denied him due process during disciplinary proceedings; and (5) in 2015, Red Onion medical personnel reviewed plaintiffs medical chart instead of medically assessing his medical needs in person.

On these multiple, unrelated claims, Muhammad sues more than forty prison officials, seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief. He alleges, generally, that he is asserting all of these claims under § 1983 and several other federal statutes, [1] and he asks the court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction to address related state law claims. Muhammad has now consented to payment of the filing fee for this action. Upon review of the record, however, the court finds that the action must be summarily dismissed, because some claims are time barred and the others are factually or legally frivolous.

I. Misjoinder of Claims and Defendants

The present complaint is not consistent with Rules 18 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, regarding joinder of claims and parties. Rule 18(a) allows a plaintiff to join either "as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party." Rule 20 allows the joinder of several parties only if the claims arose out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series thereof, and contain a question of fact or law common to all the defendants. See 6A Charles Alan Wright, et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 1583 (3d ed. 1998) (noting that, under Rules 18(a) and 20, if the claims arise out of different transactions and do not involve all defendants, joinder should not be allowed). Under these rules, "a plaintiff may name more than one defendant in a multiple claim lawsuit only if the claims against all defendants arose out of the same incident or incidents and involve a common factual or legal question." Green v. Denning, No. 06-3298-SAC, 2009 WL 484457, at *2 (D. Kan. Feb. 26, 2009). These procedural rules apply with equal force to pro se prisoner cases. Indeed, "[r]equiring adherence in prisoner suits to the federal rules regarding joinder of parties and claims prevents 'the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s].'" Id. (quoting George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007)).

The court cannot allow Muhammad's complaint to proceed as it is presently constituted, because it improperly joins together multiple claims and defendants, regarding unrelated incidents in different time periods in a manner entirely inconsistent with the rules. Because the court concludes, however, that the complaint also fails to provide the factual or legal basis for any claim of constitutional significance, the court will summarily dismiss Muhammad's federal claims on that ground, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(l). The court will also deny his motions for preliminary injunctive relief as without merit.

II. Time-barred Claims

Muhammad alleges the following sequence of events relevant to his first group of claims. On August 13, 2007, Nurse Lisa Yates and four correctional officers, based on information they had received, told Muhammad they had come to remove a state security pen from his urethra. Muhammad assured them that he did not have a pen in his penis and that he was not suicidal or prone to harm himself. Nevertheless, the officers restrained Muhammad, naked, while Yates explored his penis with her hands and some forceps, attempting to find and extract any foreign object from his penis. Finding nothing, Yates allegedly stated, "Well, he was telling the truth. There was[ ] no pen in there, but of course we already knew that." (Compl. 4, ECF No. 1.) She threatened that the next time Muhammad could die, and officers would cover it up as an accident.

On September 21, 2007, Muhammad began to urinate blood. Dr. Happy Smith and Regina Kilgore examined him and prescribed Motrin and antibiotics. On October 9, 2007, however, Muhammad went into acute renal failure, allegedly as a result of these drugs. Officials transported him to a local hospital and then to the Medical College of Virginia ("MCV") hospital for treatment. Muhammad blames the blood in his urine on Nurse Yates' exploration of his penis on August 13, 2007, and the renal failure on the medical staffs inadequate treatment.

Because no federal statute of limitations applies in § 1983 actions, such actions are governed by the state statute of limitations applicable for general personal injury cases in the state where the alleged violations occur. Owens v. Okure. 488 U.S. 235, 239-40 (1989). Virginia's statute for general, personal injury claims, Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-243(a), requires that such claims be brought within two years from the time when the action accrues. A claim under § 1983 accrues when plaintiff possesses sufficient facts about the harm done to him that reasonable inquiry will reveal the cause of action. Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Correction, 64 F.3d 951, 955 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc). An inmate's § 1983 action is commenced for purposes of the statute of limitations as soon as he delivers his complaint to prison authorities for mailing. Lewis v. Richmond City Police Depot. 947 F.2d 733, 735-36 (4th Cir. 1991).

The court concludes from Muhammad's allegations that by the end of October 2007, at the latest, he knew sufficient facts about his alleged injuries, and his § 1983 claims thus accrued by that time. His two-year statutory period to file a § 1983 action about these events then expired in October 2009. Yet, Muhammad did not file his § 1983 complaint until October 2015, nearly six years after his time limit expired and eight years after the events at issue. Therefore, the court finds that he is barred by the Virginia statute of limitations from bringing suit about these 2007 events. Muhammad states that he is bringing suit now because the Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA") did not exist in 2007.[2] He cites no basis on which this later-enacted federal statute had any bearing on his ability to file § 1983 claims within the two-year period after the events for which he now wishes to bring suit, and the court finds no such basis.

The court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the court determines the action or claim is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(l). The court has determined that the statute of limitations unquestionably provides an affirmative defense to Muhammad's claims about the 2007 investigation and medical treatment of which he complains. Therefore, the court will summarily dismiss these claims as frivolous, pursuant to § 1915A(b)(l). See, e.g., Nasjm, 64 F.3d at 956 (finding under former version of § 1915 that court may summarily dismiss as frivolous a claim clearly barred by applicable statute of limitations).

III. Retaliatory Segregation

In his second contention, Muhammad complains that Red Onion officials have continued to classify him to segregated confinement for over two years as of July 2, 2015 in retaliation for his past lawsuits. Although Muhammad completed the step-down program months ago to be eligible to leave segregation and had been more than nine months without a disciplinary charge, he was not moved out of segregated confinement. He contends that he ...

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