United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
JACKSON L. KISER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Muhammad, a Virginia prisoner and frequent filer in this
court, commenced this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and § 2000cc-l, et seq., about his
experiences at Wall ens Ridge State Prison. I previously
ordered Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint that
does not include a misjoined claim or defendant. See,
e.g.. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2), 21; Hinson v. Norwest
Fin. S.C., Inc.. 239 F.3d 611, 618 (4th Cir. 2001).
Plaintiff filed the new pleading, and Defendants filed a
motion to dismiss or to strike misjoined claims and
argue in their motion that Plaintiff failed to comply with
the prior Order and the Federal Rules, and they ask me to
dismiss all but one claim about Plaintiffs religious diet in
October 2015. Plaintiff argues in response that all claims
and defendants in the new pleading concern the same series of
allegedly retaliatory transactions and have common questions
of law and facts resulting from Plaintiffs exercise of a
First Amendment right.
motion to dismiss or to strike must be denied. Booker v.
South Carolina Department of Corrections, 855 F.3d 533,
545 (4th Cir. 2017), held in 2017 that, since 2010, prisoners
in this circuit have had a clearly-established First
Amendment right to file a written prison grievance without
suffering retaliation. At least one unpublished circuit court
opinion has remanded a case under Booker, finding a
federal case because a prisoner made a "verbal
complaint" to staff and then something adverse to the
prisoner happened later. See, e.g., Patton
v. Kimble, 717 Fed.Appx. 271, 272 (4th Cir. 2018).
fifty years earlier, the Supreme Court recognized that
"courts are ill equipped to deal with the increasingly
urgent problems of prison administration and reform."
Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 405 (1974). The
[Federal courts] are . . . ill suited to act as the
front-line agencies for the consideration and resolution of
the infinite variety of prisoner complaints. Moreover, the
capacity of our criminal justice system to deal fairly and
fully with legitimate claims will be impaired by a burgeoning
increase of frivolous prisoner complaints. As one means of
alleviating this problem, THE CHIEF JUSTICE has suggested
that federal and state authorities explore the possibility of
instituting internal administrative procedures for
disposition of inmate grievances.
Id at 405 n.9.
than twenty years later, "Congress enacted the Prison
Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA)... in the wake of a
sharp rise in prisoner litigation in the federal courts, ....
designed to bring this litigation under control."
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84 (2006). A
"centerpiece" of this attempt was to require
prisoners to exhaust available administrative remedies. 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Notably, courts have held that
prisoners do not have a legal entitlement to file
administrative remedies. See, e.g., Adams v.
Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 74 (4th Cir. 1994).
To hold otherwise would be to bring virtually every unpopular
decision by state actors within the scope of a cause of
action for retaliation. This would pose particular problems
in the context of prison administration. Every act of
discipline by prison officials is by definition
"retaliatory" in the sense that it responds
directly to prisoner misconduct. The prospect of endless
claims of retaliation on the part of inmates would disrupt
prison officials in the discharge of their most basic duties.
Id. (emphasis added).
prisoners do not have a federal right to them, a practical
result of Booker is that administrative remedies are
more a springboard than a hurdle for federal litigation. A
single written or verbal complaint ensures at least one
actionable claim for whatever perceived
"retaliatory" events occur in the routine day to
day administration inside a prison. To state a claim, a
plaintiff need only "demonstrate more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). Whether the alleged "retaliatory" act
or omission occurred is not usually disputed as "[e]very
act of discipline by prison officials is by definition
'retaliatory' in the sense that it responds directly
to prisoner misconduct." Adams, supura. What is
often unresolved is the intent behind the act or omission,
and a plaintiff "need only present evidence from which a
jury might return a verdict in his favor." Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). From
there, "credibility determinations, the weighing of the
evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the
facts are jury functions, not those of a judge."
Id. at 255.
if, arguendo, every other claim is misjoined and
frivolous, Plaintiff has pleaded retaliation with a
"right to relief... asserted against the [defendants]
jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or
arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences" and with "question of
law or fact common to all defendants [.]" Fed.R.Civ.P.
20(a)(2). The advice from Adams - to treat such
claims with "skepticism, lest federal courts embroil
themselves in every disciplinary act that occurs in state
penal institutions" - is of little import because courts
may not take that adverse perspective under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or 56(a). See United States v.
Diebold. Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) ("On
summary judgment the inferences to be drawn from the
underlying facts contained in such materials must be viewed
in the light most favorable to the party opposing the
motion."); Harrison v. United States Postal
Serv., 840 F.2d 1149, 1152 (4th Cir. 1988) ("In
evaluating a civil rights complaint for failure to state a
claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), we must be especially
solicitous of the wrongs alleged. We must not dismiss the
complaint unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff
would not be entitled to relief under any legal theory which
might plausibly be suggested by the facts alleged."
(internal quotation marks omitted)). Accordingly, I do not
find Defendants' motion to dismiss or to strike
persuasive, and it must be denied.