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Nahwoosky v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

February 29, 2016

RICHARD F. NAHWOOKSY, Plaintiff,
v.
HAROLD CLARKE, et al. y Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER JUDGE

Richard F. Nahwooksy, a Virginia prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is before the Court on the Court's authority to review complaints by individuals proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15) on the grounds that, inter alia, Nahwooksy failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. These matters are ripe for disposition.

Nahwooksy's Complaint, with attachments, spans 285 pages. (ECF No. 7.)[1] Nahwooksy raises seven separate causes of action, each of which includes a host of sub-claims in various stages of factual and legal development. Given these circumstances, the Court will proceed to dismiss Nahwooksy's frivolous or inchoate claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), prior to turning to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)

When an individual is proceeding in forma pauperis, this Court must dismiss the action if the Court determines the action (1) "is frivolous" or (2) "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The first standard includes claims based upon '"an indisputably meritless legal theory, '" or claims where the "'factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Clay v. Yates, 809 F.Supp. 417, 427 (E.D. Va. 1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). The second standard is the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5 A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[] only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" BellAtl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (second alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " id. (citation omitted), stating a claim that is "plausible on its face, " id. at 570, rather than merely "conceivable." Id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing BellAtl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, therefore, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002); Iodice v. United States, 289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir. 2002)). Lastly, while the Court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it does not act as the inmate's advocate, sua sponte developing statutory and constitutional claims the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint. See Brock v. Carroll, 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

A. Summary of Pertinent Allegations

In December of 2013, Nahwooksy was confined in the Powhatan Correctional Center ("Powhatan"). (Compl. 4.)[2] On December 5, 2013, Nahwooksy injured his knee. (Id. ¶¶ 14-16.) A doctor subsequently issued Nahwooksy a knee brace and a pair of crutches. (Id. ¶42.)

Early in the morning of December 30, 2013, institutional investigators came to Nahwooksy's cell to conduct a cell search. (Id. ¶48.) Investigators Serrano and Leonard entered Nahwooksy's cell and pulled Nahwooksy out of his cell. (Id. ¶ 50.) Nahwooksy asked for his knee brace. (Id. ¶ 51.) Investigators Serrano and Leonard and Correctional Officer Tally denied Nahwooksy's request for his knee brace. (Id.)

Correctional Officer Tally cuffed Nahwooksy and placed him on a bench in front of his cell. (Id. H 54.) Investigators Serrano and Leonard escorted Nahwooksy's cell partner, Anthony Romero-Cruz, to the shower to conduct a strip search. (Id. ¶ 55.) Investigator Maynard-Simon remained at the cell with Nahwooksy.[3] (Id. 156.)

Shortly thereafter, Romero-Cruz became involved in an altercation with Investigators Serrano and Leonard. (Id. f 59.) While Investigator Maynard-Simon was preoccupied with the altercation, Nahwooksy "got off the bench and hobbled as fast as [he] could to the cell..., and shut the door behind [himself] as he went back into the cell." (Id. ¶63.) Investigator Maynard-Simon noticed Nahwooksy's actions and yelled repeatedly for assistance in retrieving Nahwooksy. (Id. f 64.) Nahwooksy candidly acknowledges that, "[w]hile this was going on, [he] flushed all [of his] contraband." (Id. ¶65.) Correctional Officer Tally asked Investigator Maynard-Simon how Nahwooksy could have gotten back in the cell, while handcuffed and with the use of only one leg. (Id. ¶¶ 66, 68.)

When Correctional Officer Tally entered the cell to retrieve Nahwooksy, Nahwooksy asked for his knee brace. (Id. 1(69.) Correctional Officer Tally denied this request. (Id.) Once Nahwooksy left the cell, Investigator Maynard-Simon threatened to "get" Nahwooksy. (Id. ¶ 70.) Investigator Maynard-Simon started screaming that Nahwooksy had assaulted her. (Id. ¶71.)

Correctional Officers Tally and John Doe then began to escort Nahwooksy out of the cell block with his hands cuffed behind him. (Id. ¶ 75.) Correctional Officers Tally and John Doe showed Nahwooksy a cell phone lying on the floor, which apparently had been recovered from Nahwooksy*s cell partner. (Id. ¶¶74-77.) Nahwooksy kicked the cell phone. (Id. ¶ 77.) Sergeant White hit Nahwooksy from behind and knocked him to the ground. (Id. 178.) Correctional Officers Tally and John Doe fell on top of Nahwooksy, further injuring Nahwooksy's knee. (Id. ¶¶79-80.) Sergeant White then stood over Nahwooksy and pulled and twisted Nahwooksy's injured knee while the knee crackled and popped. (Id. ¶82.) Sergeant White then shackled Nahwooksy and, along with Correctional Officer Tally, dragged him off of the cell block. (Id. ¶ 83.) Two new correctional officers then dragged Nahwooksy to the special housing unit, while Investigator Maynard-Simon walked beside him. (Id. ¶¶ 88-93.)

That afternoon, Nahwooksy was charged with Possession of a Communication Device and Simple Assault Upon a Non-Offender. (Id. ¶¶ 121-25.) On January 9, 2014, after two separate disciplinary hearings, Hearing Officer Leabough found Nahwooksy guilty of the foregoing charges. (Id. ¶¶ 158-205.)

On February 23, 2014, Nahwooksy was transferred from Powhatan to Keen Mountain Correctional Center. (Id. 1) 232.)

Nahwooksy names the following individuals as Defendants: Harold W. Clarke, the Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"); Jeffrey Dillman, the former Warden of Powhatan; E.P. Locust, the Manager of the Ombudsman Service Unit of the VDOC; Leabough, the Inmate Hearings Officer at Powhatan; Maynard-Simon, an Intelligence Officer at Powhatan; Tally, a correctional officer at Powhatan; White, a Sergeant at Powhatan; and John Doe, a correctional officer.

B. Nahwooksy's Claims

In specifying his claims for relief, Nahwooksy, repeatedly provides the following unhelpful statement of his claims: "Eighth, [4] Fifth[5] and Fourteenth[6] Amendments were violated. Cruel and unusual punishment - excessive force- deliberate indifference, medical -deliberate indifference, due process rights, equal protection, excessive force - deliberate indifference, fundamental fairness, fundamental rights, substantive and procedural rights, 'justice and liberty, ' and Disability Act, failure to protect." (See, e.g., Compl. 325.) Courts must liberally construe pro se civil rights complaints in order to address constitutional deprivations. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Nevertheless, "[principles requiring generous construction of pro se complaints are not... without limits." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). "District judges are not mind readers ... [and] cannot be expected to construct full blown claims from sentence fragments, which is essentially what [Nahwooksy] is seeking here." Id.

For example, Nahwooksy fails to articulate how the Fifth Amendment was implicated, much less violated, by Defendants' conduct. Accordingly, Nahwooksy's claims that Defendants violated his rights under the Fifth Amendment will be DISMISSED. Similarly, Nahwooksy fails to provide a coherent statement of how his rights were violated under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Additionally, to the extent Nahwooksy seeks to raise claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), he fails to state a cognizable claim.[7]Accordingly, any Equal Protection and ADA claims will be DISMISSED.

In his Sixth Cause of Action, Nahwooksy asserts that his rights under the Sixth Amendment[8] were violated by Defendant Leabough's conduct in convicting Nahwooksy of two institutional infractions. "An inmate's rights at prison disciplinary hearings are defined by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Sixth Amendment guarantees for criminal prosecutions." Coles v. Virginia, No. 3:01CV131, 2001 WL 34804602, at *3 (E.D. Va. Nov. 7, 2001) (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 568-69 (1974)). Accordingly, Nahwooksy's Sixth Amendment claims will be DISMISSED.

Nahwooksy further contends that Defendants violated both his Eighth Amendment rights and his Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights. "[I]t is now well established that the Eighth Amendment 'serves as the primary source of substantive protection to convicted prisoners, ' and the Due Process Clause affords a prisoner no greater substantive protection 'than does the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause.'" Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 768 (4th Cir. 1996) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 327 (1986)). Accordingly, to the extent Nahwooksy challenges the conditions of his confinement or the use of excessive force against his person, the Court will evaluate that claim under the Eighth Amendment.

Pared of legal surplusage, Nahwooksy raises the following grounds for relief:[9]

Claim 1 Defendant Clarke violated Nahwooksy's rights:

(a) under the Eighth Amendment when he failed to protect Nahwooksy from the excessive force used against Nahwooksy by his subordinates, (Compl.¶¶ 320-21);

(b) by failing to ensure that Nahwooksy received due process in conjunction with his institutional convictions for Simple Assault upon a Non-Offender and Possession of a Communication Device, (id).
Claim 2 (a) Defendant Locust violated Nahwooksy's rights under the Eighth Amendment when he failed to respond appropriately to the grievances regarding the threats to and attacks upon Nahwooksy. (Id. ¶¶ 322-23.) (b) Defendant Locust violated Nahwooksy's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment when he failed to respond appropriately to his grievances and ensure the grievance procedure functioned properly. (Id.)
Claim 3 Defendant Dillman violated Nahwooksy's rights:
(a) under the Eighth Amendment when he failed to protect Nahwooksy from the excessive force used against Nahwooksy by Dillman's subordinates, (Id. I¶¶ 324-25);
(b) under the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to ensure that Nahwooksy received due process in conjunction with his institutional convictions for Simple Assault Upon a Non-Offender and Possession of a Communication Device, (id.);
(c) under the Eighth Amendment by failing to ensure that Nahwooksy received appropriate medical care for the injuries caused by Defendant White, (id ¶ 325.F).
Claim 4 Defendant Leabough violated Nahwooksy's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by denying Nahwooksy due process in conjunction with his convictions for Simple Assault upon a Non-Offender and Possession of a Communication Device. (Id. ¶¶ 326-27).
Claim 5 (a) Defendant Maynard-Simon violated Nahwooksy's rights under the Eighth Amendment by falsely stating Nahwooksy had assaulted her, which encouraged Defendant White to attack Nahwooksy. (Id.¶328- 29.)
(b) Defendant Maynard-Simon violated Nahwooksy's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by retaliating against him and falsely ...

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