United States District Court, D. North Dakota
Darrell W. Clifford, Plaintiff,
Governor Jack Dalrymple, et. al., Defendants.
Charles S. Miller, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
is an inmate at the North Dakota State Penitentiary. His
complaint is now before the undersigned for initial review as
mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons set forth
below, the undersigned recommends that the complaint be
is suing defendants solely in their official capacities over
issues for their failure to provide him with a special diet.
Specifically, he asserts:
For the reason of not having or being provided with the Dash
diet, I've been experiencing fatigue and sluggishness.
With the Dash diet, it provides the necessary contents for my
hypertension. The current food service menu provides very
limited to nothing for my hypertension. That's why my
request is very urgent and I'm already experiencing the
physical effects as of now. Lack of oxygen to my brain.
(Docket No. 3). He requests that the court order
defendants "to provide [him] access to all exercise
equipment and to have access to the DASH diet and sea food
(shell fish, lobster, crab, shrimp), lean boneless roast meat
(beef tenderloin)--basically better food.") Id.
enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995
(“PLRA”) to address the burden imposed by
prisoner suits that are too often frivolous and without
merit. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 203-04 (2007);
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84 (2006). One of the
reforms enacted as part of the PLRA for cases in which
prisoners are seeking to sue a governmental entity, officer,
or employee requires courts to conduct an early screening to
weed out claims that clearly lack merit. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. In conducting the screening, the court is required to
identify any cognizable claims and to dismiss the complaint,
or any part of it, that is frivolous, malicious, fails to
state a claim, or seeks monetary relief from an immune
screening a pro se prisoner complaint, the court is
obligated to construe it liberally and hold it to a less
stringent standard than what normally would be required of
attorneys. Id.; see also Federal Express Corp.
v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 402 (2008); Solomon v.
Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (“When
we say that a pro se complaint should be given liberal
construction, we mean that if the essence of an allegation is
discernible . . . then the district court should construe the
complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to
be considered within the proper legal framework.”)
(internal quotation marks omitted). This does not mean that
the court must accept everything or anything that is filed by
a prisoner proceeding pro se, however. In enacting
the screening requirement, Congress obviously expected it to
be more than an a ritualistic exercise and that courts would
only allow to go forward those claims that are cognizable,
that seek relief from a non-immune party, and that are not
obviously frivolous or malicious.
the minimal pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) for stating
a cognizable claim, something more is required than simply
expressing a desire for relief and declaring an entitlement
to it. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 556 n.3 (2007) (“Twombly”). The
complaint must state enough to “‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.’” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Also, it must state
enough to satisfy the “plausibility standard” for
stating a cognizable claim as established in Twombly
and further amplified by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-84 (2009)
(“Iqbal”). And, even though a pro
se prisoner complaint is entitled to a liberal
construction, these minimal pleading requirements must still
be satisfied. E.g., Story v. Foote, 782
F.3d 968, 969 (“To state a claim, . . . [the pro
se prisoner’s] complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.”) (internal quotation
marks omitted and citing Twombly and
Iqbal). Complaints that offer nothing more than
labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the
elements are not sufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555; Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680-81. Frivolous claims are
those that are clearly baseless, fanciful, fantastic, or
delusional. See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
normally allege a violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or the laws of the United States and that the
alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under
color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
(1988); Walker v. Reed, 104 F.3d 156, 157 (8th Cir.
1997). Even under liberal pleading standards, a pro
se litigant, at the very least, must invoke rights under
the Constitution or federal law in order to plead a §
1983 claim. Walker v. Reed, 104 F.3d at 157-58.
Also, the pleading must allege a sufficient causal link
between the alleged violation and the basis upon which the
particular defendant is to be held responsible, keeping in
mind that persons sued in their individual capacities must be
personally involved or directly responsible since § 1983
does not impose respondeat superior liability.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676-77; Gordon v.
Hansen, 168 F.3d 1109, 1113 (8th Cir. 1999)
the court is not required to ignore facts that are pled by a
prisoner when they undermine the prisoner’s claim. The
court may accept as true all facts pled in the complaint and
conclude from them that there is no claim as a matter of law.
E.g., Thompson v. Ill. Dep’t of
Prof’l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753-54 (7th Cir.
2002) (citing other cases).
have "recognized prisoners have a right to nutritionally
adequate food and that failure to provide adequate nutrition
may qualify as a deliberate indifference that violates the
Eighth Amendment." Cody v. CBM Corr. Food Svs.,
250 Fed.App'x 763 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing Wishon v.
Gammon, 978 F.2d 446, 449 (8th Cir. 1992); see also
King v. Lewis, 358 Fed.App'x 459 (4th Cir. 2009)
(opining that "[a]llegations of inadequate food for
human nutritional needs or unsanitary food service facilities
are sufficient to state a cognizable constitutional claim . .
. so long as the deprivation is serious and the defendant is
deliberately indifferent to the need." (internal
citations omitted)); Taylor v. Anderson, 868 F.Supp.
1024, 1026 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (allegation that prison official
threatened diabetic's health by failing to provide
diabetic with the proper diet sufficient to state a claim
under § 1983). "However, a prisoner must show
'. . . food he was served was nutritionally inadequate or