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Brownlee v. Newcome

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

May 16, 2017

SEAN A. BROWNLEE, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERY NEWCOME, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M. Hannah Lauck, United States District Judge

         Sean A. Brownlee, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.

         I. Preliminary Review

         Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") this Court must dismiss any action filed by a prisoner 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); see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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)), aff'd, 36 F.3d 1091 (4th Cir. 1994). 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 Bell All. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, 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); lodice 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 will not act as the inmate's advocate and develop, suasponte, statutory and constitutional claims that the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his or her 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).

         II. Summary of Allegations and Claims

         In his Complaint, Brownlee alleges:[2]

On March 21st, 22nd, 23rd, and the 24th 2016, my 8th Amendment right was violated by the Riverside Regional Jail staff that was assigned to Housing Unit 3. The institution was on "lockdown" for an overall search, which is commonly known as a "shakedown" by the inmates and jail staff. It is stated in the inmate handbook that every 72 hours, we are able to take a shower, during these days we were denied the opportunity to take a shower and [were] also totally confined to our cell. On March 24th it was well past 72 hours, I asked Officer Sample if it was possible to take a shower. He said "he would see what he could do, but don't get your hopes up." Sgt. Givens came in to serve trays at lunch and I asked if it was possible to serve and let us take a shower he said "sir take your tray to your cell." Capt. Hendricks came with a VCU student who was conducting a survey, I asked if it was possible to take a shower he said "no, after you finish the survey go back to your cell." So night shift comes on, the housing unit was already searched and we [were] still on lockdown, I and a few other inmates asked to speak with Sgt. Jones to see if we could take showers, the officer making rounds told us that Sgt. Jones refused to come into the housing unit. March 25th was when we were able to take showers. 4 days without a shower, 4 days of total confinement!

(Compl. 5, ECF No. 1.)

         The Court construes Brownlee's Complaint to raise the following claim for relief:

Claim One: Defendants[3] violated Brownlee's rights under the Eighth Amendment[4] by (a) denying him a shower for four days, and (b) keeping him on lockdown in his cell for four days. (Id.)

         Brownlee seeks injunctive relief as well as monetary damages. (Id. at 6.)

         III. ...


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