United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Judge
Valentino Rajah, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed
this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that he has been deprived of adequate mental health
treatment in prison. He has also filed an amendment to his
complaint and a request for production of documents. After
review of Rajah's submissions, the court concludes that
the action must be summarily dismissed for failure to state a
is confined at River North Correctional Center
("RNCC"). In his complaint as amended, Rajah claims
that on March 21, 2018, he was physically abused by RNCC
officers and suffered an injury to his left hand that caused
nerve damage. See Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 6. Rajah alleges that
in June of 2018, after many months of struggling with his
mental health issues, he asked prison officials for mental
health treatment. He complains that he "was given a mood
log book and basically on [his] own until his Telephysc [sic]
meeting." Compl. 2, ECF No. 1. He alleges that
"QMHP's [Qualified Mental Health Professionals] at
RNCC wasn't following proper procedure concerning mental
health inmates." Id. Rajah further alleges that
from June to October 2018, he "pleaded and begged for
proper mental health care and services." Am. Compl. at
1. Thereafter, Rajah "started writing everything up and
seeking outside help. Dr. Sturdivant on 8-24-18 threatened
[Rajah] and said [Rajah was] delaying and hindering him from
properly doing his job." Compl. at 2. Although Rajah
allegedly spoke to Warden Barry Kanode about "the
inadequate treatment" the RNCC mental health staff was
"doing," Kanode "never fixed the
situation." Id. Rajah asserts that he has been
"blatantly neglected and left with no one to help with
his anxiety, depression, and insom[n]ia issues that he
battles with daily." Am. Comp. at 1.
defendants to his § 1983 claims, Rajah names the
Commonwealth of Virginia, RNCC, Warden Kanode, and Dr.
Sturdivant. He seeks 14.7 million dollars in monetary damages
for his suffering - "physcologically[sic], emotionally,
mentally, and physically." Id. He contends that
copies of his informal request forms, informal complaint
forms, regular grievances, emergency grievances, and medical
records for the last 36 months will "show a pattern and
history of neglect from the mental health department" at
RNCC. Mot. 1, ECF NO. 8.
state a cause of action under § 1983, a plaintiff must
establish that he has been deprived of rights guaranteed by
the Constitution or laws of the United States and that this
deprivation resulted from conduct committed by a person
acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42 (1988). The court shall summarily dismiss any action
filed by a prisoner about prison conditions if the court
determines the action or claim is frivolous, malicious, or
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 42
U.S.C. § l997e(c)(1). A "frivolous" claim is
one that "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in
fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989) (interpreting "frivolous" in former version
of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)).
well settled that a state cannot be sued under § 1983.
Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police. 491 U.S.
58, 71 (1989) ("[N]either a State nor its officials
acting in their official capacities are 'persons'
under § 1983."). This rule also applies to
"governmental entities that are considered 'arms of
the State' for Eleventh Amendment purposes."
Id. at 70. Correctional centers, as entities
operated by the Commonwealth, are not "persons"
that can be sued under § 1983. Therefore, Rajah's
claims against the Commonwealth and RNCC cannot proceed, and
must be summarily dismissed, pursuant to § l9l5A(b)(1),
individual defendants Rajah has named, Warden Kanode and Dr.
Sturdivant, may be subject to being sued under § 1983 in
their individual capacities. Rajah's allegations,
however, do not state any actionable § 1983 claim
against either of these defendants. At the most, Rajah
alleges that the doctor verbally "threatened" him
in an unspecified way. Such verbal comments alone did not
violate Rajah's constitutional rights. See Henslee v.
Lewis, 153 Fed.Appx. 179, 179 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing
Collins v. Cundy., 603 F.2d 825, 827 (10th Cir.
also asserts that the warden is automatically responsible and
liable under § 1983 for the allegedly inadequate care
unspecified RNCC mental health staff have provided to Rajah.
Rajah is mistaken. Under § 1983, "liability will
only lie where it is affirmatively shown that the official
charged acted personally in the deprivation of the
plaintiffs' rights." Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550
F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (citation, alteration, and
internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, the warden may
lawfully rely on the professional judgment of the mental
health staff at RNCC to determine the appropriate diagnoses
and course of treatment for Rajah's mental health
conditions. See Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d 848, 854
(4th Cir. 1990) (overruled on other grounds
by Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 838 (1994)).
reasons stated, Rajah's allegations do not provide a
factual or legal basis for any constitutional claim
actionable against the defendants he has named. Accordingly,
the court dismisses Rajah's civil action without
prejudice, pursuant to § l997e(c)(1), as
frivolous. An appropriate order will be entered
herewith. Dismissal without prejudice leaves Rajah the
opportunity to refile his claims in a new and separate civil
action, provided that the new complaint states facts
concerning the actions of each defendant in violation of his
Clerk is directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion
and accompanying order to plaintiff.