United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge
Andre Goodwin, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se,
filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that defendant Lieutenant Gilbert denied him
access to the grievance process and failed to prevent other
correctional officers from calling Goodwin racial slurs and
“other vulgar words, ” and from kicking and
banging on Goodwin's door during security
checks. Upon review of his complaint, the court
finds that Goodwin's allegations fail to state a claim
against and, therefore, dismisses his claims against these
defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
alleges that on July 1, 2016, Lt. Gilbert refused to give him
a grievance form. Goodwin states that he needed a grievance
form to complain that various correctional officers had
called him racial slurs and “other vulgar words,
” and kicked and banged on his door during security
checks. Goodwin seeks to hold Lt. Gilbert responsible because
he “failed to prevent” the officers from doing
this. Goodwin alleges that Lt. Gilbert and the officers have
caused him emotional distress, stress, and loss of sleep.
state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege facts indicating that plaintiff has been deprived of
rights guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United
States and that this deprivation resulted from conduct by a
person acting under color of state law. West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48-49 (1988). A plaintiff must
assert factual allegations that raise a right to relief that
is “plausible on its face, ” not one that is
speculative or merely “conceivable.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The
court must dismiss an action or claim filed by a prisoner
against an employee of a governmental entity if the action or
claim is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). In
this case, Goodwin's allegations do not demonstrate the
violation of any federal right; thus, the court will dismiss
the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim.
extent Goodwin claims that Lt. Gilbert violated his federal
rights by denying him a grievance form, his claim fails
because an inmate has no constitutional or other federal
legal right to participate in grievance proceedings.
Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994). The
court notes that Goodwin does not allege that Lt. Gilbert
denied him the grievance form as a means of retaliation.
Accordingly, the court will dismiss this claim.
extent Goodwin complains that officers verbally harassed him,
his claim fails. Verbal harassment or verbal abuse by prison
officials in and of itself does not state a constitutional
deprivation under § 1983. Henslee v. Lewis, 153
F. App'x 178, 180 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Collins v.
Cundy, 603 F.2d 825, 827 (10th Cir. 1979)); Johnson
v. Laham, 9 F.3d 1543 (4th Cir. 1993). The Constitution
does not “protect against all intrusions on one's
peace of mind.” Pittsley v. Warish, 927 F.2d
3, 7 (1st Cir. 1991). Verbal harassment of an inmate, even to
an extent that it causes an inmate fear or emotional anxiety,
does not constitute an invasion of any identified liberty
interest. Morrison v. Martin, 755 F.Supp. 683, 687
(E.D. N.C. 1990) (finding that the threatening language of a
prison official, even if true, does not amount to
constitutional violation); Keyes v. City of Albany,
594 F.Supp. 1147 (N.D.N.Y. 1984) (“[T]he use of vile
and abusive language [including racial epithets], no matter
how abhorrent or reprehensible, cannot form the basis for a
§ 1983 claim.”). Accordingly, the court will
dismiss this claim.
extent Goodwin seeks to hold Lt. Gilbert responsible for the
acts of “his officers, ” the claim fails. For
supervisory prison officials to be held liable under §
1983 for constitutional injuries inflicted by their
subordinates, an inmate must state facts showing that: (1)
the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his
subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed a
“pervasive and unreasonable” risk of
constitutional injury; (2) the supervisor's response to
this knowledge was so inadequate as to show “deliberate
indifference top or tacit authorization” of the
offensive practices; and (3) there was an “affirmative
causal link” between the supervisor's inaction and
the particular constitutional injury suffered. Shaw v.
Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994). Goodwin makes
no such factual showing and cannot use labels and conclusions
to build actionable claims. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“A pleading that offers labels
and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action will not do.”). Moreover, Goodwin has
not demonstrated that his constitutional rights were violated
by the actions of which he complains. There can be no
supervisory liability under § 1983 without a viable
constitutional claim at stake. Accordingly, the court will
dismiss this claim.
that none of Goodwin's allegations state a violation of a
federal right, the court will dismiss his complaint without
prejudice for failure to state a ...