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Maynard v. Huttonsville Correctional Center

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Martinsburg

May 9, 2018




         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff was previously a state inmate[1] confined at Huttonsville Correctional Center, in Huttonsville, West Virginia. ECF No. 1. According to the West Virginia Office of Parole Services, Plaintiff was released upon parole on April 12, 2018. During Plaintiff's confinement at Huttonsville, he filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         II. Factual and Procedural History

         On August 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights by the defendant Huttonsville Correctional Center. Plaintiff's complaint lists only one ground for relief but includes no supporting facts for the claim. ECF No. 1 at 8. Plaintiff claims that a number of his personal items including a CD player, CDs, headphones, jogging pants, and shoes were stolen, and that a correctional officer said he would write “it all down.” Id. Plaintiff claims that he suffered injuries including a knot on his forehead that would “never go aw[ay]”, and that unnamed people stomped on his hands while wearing boots causing damage to his hands. ECF No. 1 at 9. For relief Plaintiff asks for “what the judge feels is right” and to be moved to another prison. Id.

         III. Standard of Review

         A. Pro Se Litigant

         Because plaintiff is a prisoner seeking redress from a governmental entity or employee, the Court must review the complaint to determine whether it is frivolous or malicious. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court is required to perform a judicial review of certain suits brought by prisoners and must dismiss a case at any time if the Court determines that the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         Courts must read pro se allegations in a liberal fashion. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, a complaint is frivolous if it is without arguable merit either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (superseded by statute). The Supreme Court in Neitzke recognized that:

Section 1915(d) is designed largely to discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial and private resources upon, baseless lawsuits that paying litigants generally do not initiate because of the costs of bringing suit and because of the threat of sanctions for bringing vexatious suits under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. To this end, the statute accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Examples of the former class are claims against which it is clear that the defendants are immune from suit. . .

490 U.S. at 327.

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only “‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99 (1957)). Courts long have cited, “the accepted rule that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46.

         Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and therefore the Court must liberally construe his pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 - 1, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596 (1972) (per curiam); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197 (2007). While pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, even under this less stringent standard, a pro se complaint is still subject to dismissal. Haines, supra, at 520-21. “[T]he mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings ‘means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the petitioner could prevail, it should do so.'” Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir.1999). However, “judges are [ ] not required to construct a party's legal arguments for him.” Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417 - 8 (7th Cir.1993).

         Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation in pleading “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do....” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (2007). Accordingly, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” to one that is “plausible on its face.” Id. at 555, 570. In Twombly, the Supreme Court found that “because the plaintiffs [ ] have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed.” Id. ...

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