United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Parsley, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Jones United States District Judge.
plaintiff, Kevin Parsley, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that jail officials exposed him to unconstitutional living
conditions and provided him insufficient access to legal
materials. After review of Parsley's submissions, I
conclude that this action must be summarily dismissed.
is confined at the Duffield jail facility operated by the
Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority
(“SWVRJA”). He alleges that the menu of foods
served to him at the SWVRJA jail does not provide him with
enough vitamins because meals rarely include fruit and
include cookies far too often. Parsley states his belief that
the omission of fruit is intentional - to prevent inmates
from using fruit to make alcohol. When Parsley filed
grievances about the lack of fruit, jail officials advised
him that the jail's menus are planned to “meet the
dietary allowances as stated in the Recommended Dietary
Allowances (RDA), National Academy of Sciences.” Compl.
Attach. 2, ECF No. 1-1.
also complains that SWVRJA policy hampers his ability to do
legal research. Law library sessions are only thirty minutes
long, once per week. The library has no paper law books and
only one “Blacks Law Book for the whole jail.”
Compl. 5, ECF No. 1. Inmates have no access to the
“Prisoners Self Help Litigation Manual & The Jail
House Lawyers Manual.” Id. Parsley finds it
difficult to conduct research because the library has no work
area, and he must write everything down by hand. He alleges
that the jail charges inmates for copies and postage, and
although “they get a grant to cover the cost, they
double bill”! Id.
defendants to these § 1983 claims, Parsley names SWVRJA
and B. Parks. He seeks monetary relief for the alleged
violations of his constitutional rights.
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the
court determines the action or claim is frivolous, malicious,
or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). Section 1983 permits an aggrieved
party to file a civil action against a person for actions
taken under color of state law that violated his
constitutional rights. See Cooper v. Sheehan, 735
F.3d 153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013).
Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from cruel and unusual
living conditions. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337,
347 (1981). “In order to establish the imposition of
cruel and unusual punishment, a prisoner must prove two
elements - that the deprivation of a basic human need was
objectively sufficiently serious, and that
subjectively the officials acted with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind.” Shakka v. Smith, 71
F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995) (emphasis added).
[T]o demonstrate that a deprivation is extreme enough to
satisfy the objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim,
a prisoner must produce evidence of a serious or significant
physical or emotional injury resulting from the challenged
conditions, . . . or demonstrate a substantial risk of such
serious harm resulting from the prisoner's unwilling
exposure to the challenged conditions.
allegations fail to meet either of the two required showings
for an Eighth Amendment claim about the jail menus. He has
not alleged that his diet at the jail has caused him any
serious physical or emotional harm or demonstrated a
“substantial risk of such serious harm” from the
food in the future. Id. He also has not stated facts
from which any jail official could be on notice that the jail
meals put Parsley and other inmates at risk of serious harm.
Moreover, Parsley's own exhibits indicate that jail
officials try to serve meals that meet inmates' daily
nutritional needs. For these reasons, I conclude that Parsley
fails to state any constitutional claim concerning his jail
claim about legal materials is also factually deficient.
Inmates have a constitutional right to reasonable access to
the courts. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351-53
(1996); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817. 838 (1977).
They do not have a freestanding constitutional right to a law
library that contains certain resources, however.
Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351. To plead a claim that he has
been denied access to the courts, a plaintiff must identify,
with specificity, a non-frivolous legal claim that the
defendants' policies or actions have prevented him from
litigating. Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403,
415 (2002); Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353 n.3. If a
plaintiff fails to make specific allegations as to an actual
injury sustained, the court may appropriately dismiss his
access-to-courts claim summarily. See Michau v.
Charleston Cty., 434 F.3d 725, 728 (4th Cir. 2006)
(finding sua sponte dismissal appropriate where plaintiff did
not explain how he was injured by any limitations on his
access to legal materials).
does not mention any court case or pleading for which he has
a need to do legal research. He also does not describe any
specific legal claim that he wishes to pursue. Because he
does not demonstrate that he has a nonfrivolous legal claim
that has been harmed by the alleged lack of access to legal
materials at the jail, Parsley's complaint fails to state
any constitutional deprivation actionable under § 1983.
although Parsley names B. Parks as a defendant, he does not
describe any action that Parks has taken to violate his
constitutional rights. “‘Where a complaint
alleges no specific act or conduct on the part of the
defendant and the complaint is silent as to the defendant
except for his name appearing in the caption, the complaint
is properly dismissed, even under the liberal construction to
be given pro se complaints.'” Lewis-Bey v.