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Smith v. Myers

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 30, 2018

LOWELL B. SMITH, DONALD G. DOWDEN, EDDIE JAMES BROWN, JR., MELVIN GENE FOREE, JARED ALLEN MICHAEL PARTON, DANIEL L. ROBBINS, SEAN GARRET GRIFFITH, SEAN ROBERTS, JADEN L. BALLARD, RANDY HAKIM WILSON, ANTON LAMONT THOMPSON, JARED EVANS, DAVID COPP, KENNETH COLE SIDWELL, Plaintiffs,
v.
MATT MYERS, BOOTH, Defendants.

          ENTRY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         I. Filing Fee

         The plaintiffs are a group of 14 inmates at the Bartholomew County Jail. Multiple-plaintiff actions for prisoners, while allowed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 20, present significant practical difficulties. The first is that the law in this Circuit is that each plaintiff must pay the $400 filing fee or seek in forma pauperis status. Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852, 855 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Hubbard v. Haley, 262 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         II. Screening Standard

         Because the plaintiffs are “prisoners” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) to screen their complaint before service on the defendants. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal,

[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se complaints such as that filed by the plaintiffs are construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).

         III. The Complaint

         The plaintiffs have joined together to file this civil action against Sheriff Matt Myers and Officer Booth. On July 18, 2018, the plaintiffs were allegedly subjected to Officer Booth's inappropriate and unprofessional conduct. Specifically, when Officer Booth was returning clean laundry to the housing unit some inmates complained that their laundry had not been picked up for cleaning earlier in the morning. In response Officer Booth allegedly stated

I don't know how you didn't hear me because I've got a big f***ing mouth and I hollered five or six different times. I've also got a big f***ing dick. Do you want to see?

         Then the officer allegedly grabbed his penis. The plaintiff allege that the defendants are liable to them for sexual harassment based on this interaction. They seek an apology and $250, 000 split equally between the plaintiffs.

         IV. Complaint is Dismissed

         The plaintiffs' complaint must be dismissed because it does not allege a violation of a federally secured right.

         For example, the claim that Officer Booker's statement while grabbing himself violated the inmates' constitutional rights would necessarily arise pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The first inquiry in every § 1983 case is whether there has been the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, for without a predicate constitutional violation one cannot make out a prima facie case under § 1983. Juriss v. McGowan, 957 F.2d 345, 349 n.1 (7th Cir. 1992). The complaint falters at this point, because, although indefensible and unprofessional, isolated verbal abuse, harassment, and unprofessional conduct do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation for which relief may be granted in a civil rights case. DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 612 (7th Cir. 2000). ‚ÄúStanding alone, simple verbal harassment does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, deprive a ...


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