United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
E. CONRAD, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Rasheed Abdul-Rahman Rajah, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging that an officer made offensive comments
and gestures towards him. After review of the record, the
court concludes that the action must be summarily dismissed.
an inmate in the restricted housing unit at Keen Mountain
Correctional Center ("Keen Mountain"), alleges the
following sequence of events related to his § 1983
claims. On November 25, 2018, Rajah was washing himself in
preparation for his afternoon "Salat Prayers."
Compl. 2, ECF No. 1-1. Three officers approached his door,
and Officer T. McCowan knocked and asked Rajah "what
exactly" he was doing. Id. at 3. Rajah
answered, "I'm naked washing up." Id.
McCowan said, "I need to see you cleary [sic]," so
Rajah moved to stand in front of the toilet holding a
washcloth over his genitals, Id. McCowan then opened
the tray slot cover in the cell door, stuck his arm into the
cell, and "attempted to grab [Rajah's]
genitals." Id. Rajah jumped backwards, grabbed
his clothes, and dressed. McCowan "snatche[d] the paper
off [Rajah's] window and close[d] the tray slot."
Id. Rajah asked the officer for his name, and
McCowan answered, "Call me Daddy." Id., He then
said that he did not "speak African, '* and that if
Rajah cut off his beard, he "would make a pretty little
N***** Bitch." Id. Rajah asked to speak to
"the officer in charge." Id. McCowan said
that he "should handcuff [Rajah] to the bed and teach
[him] some manners and that "you Muslims should keep
your Asses in Saudi Arabia." Id. On February
11, 2019, Rajah noticed McCowan "staring at [him] thru
the glass hallway window licking his lips while
smiling." |d, at 5.
filed complaints about McCowan's racial and sexual
comments and gestures, which Rajah believed to be violations
of prison policy. However, investigators accused Rajah of
complaining about nothing and took no action.
§ 1983 complaint, Rajah names McCowan, the warden of
Keen Mountain, and the director of the Virginia Department of
Corrections ("VDOC") as defendants. Rajah contends
that McCowan's actions violated his constitutional rights
and that the warden and the director failed to prevent
McCowan's further misbehavior after being notified of his
past actions. Rajah claims that McCowan's conduct has
aggravated his mental health problems. As relief, he seeks
monetary damages and preliminary and permanent injunctive
court must dismiss any action filed by a prisoner against a
governmental entity or officer if the court determines the
action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Allegations of verbal abuse and harassment by guards, without
more, do not state any constitutional claim. Henslee v.
Lewis, 153 Fed.Appx. 178, 180 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing
Collins v. Cundy, 603 F.2d 825, 827 (10th Cir.
1979)). Mere words alone, however offensive or disrespectful,
do not state any constitutional claim. Carter v.
Morris, 164 F.3d 215, 219 n. 3 (4th Cir. 1999) (finding
that officers' alleged use of "racial epithets"
toward plaintiff did not "by itself rise to the level of
a constitutional violation"); Keves v. City of
Albany. 594 F.Supp. 1147, 1155-56 (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" or
support claim of race discrimination).
allegations describe comments and gestures by McCowan,
nothing more. While such racially and sexually offensive
remarks are disrespectful and disturbing if true, and highly
unprofessional, they are not sufficient to form the factual
basis of an actionable constitutional claim of any sort. Such
actions may violate VDOC procedures. Allegations that
defendants failed to follow their own policies or procedures,
however, do not amount to constitutional violations.
United States v. Caceres, 440 U.S. 741, 752-55
(1978); Riccio v. Cty. of Fairfax. 907 F.2d 1459,
1469 (4th Cir. 1990) (holding that if state law grants more
procedural rights than the Constitution requires, a state
official's failure to abide by that law is not federal
may be dismissed as frivolous if it is "based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory." Neitzke v.
Williams. 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989) (applying earlier
version of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) regarding dismissal of
claim as frivolous). For the stated reasons, the court
concludes that Rajah's claims here fall squarely within
this category and must be summarily dismissed, pursuant to
§ 1915A(b)(1), as frivolous. An appropriate order will
Clerk is directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion