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Getzlaff v. Westby

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

February 7, 2017

Bowe Bently Getzlaff, Plaintiff,
v.
Tim Westby, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          Charles S. Miller, Jr., Magistrate Judge United States District Court

         The plaintiff, Bowe Bently Getzlaff (“Getzlaff”), is an inmate at the James River Correctional Center (“JRCC”). He initiated the above-entitled civil rights action pro se in late October 2016, with the submission of an application to proceed in forma pauperis, which the court granted in an order dated November 11, 2016, and a complaint. On November 18, 2016, Getzlaff filed notice of his consent to the undersigned's exercise of jurisdiction. This matter is now before the undersigned for an initial screening as mandated by 42 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         I. DISCUSSION

         Getzlaff alleges:

My #31 moler tooth was broken beyond repare, and subsequently cut out by a dentist due to a piece of metal I bit into located inside an oatmeal creme pie. The creme pie was purchased by me and distributed by TW Vending.
* * *
I am seeking relief of $500, 000 due to ongoing fear and anxiety concerns. I have great trouble eating after broken tooth extraction.

(Docket No. 7) (errors in original).

         Notably, Getzlaff neglects to mention when or where he purchased the oatmeal creme pie in question. Given that he has named Ward County as a defendant, the court shall assume for the purposes of its initial review that he purchased the oatmeal creme pie from the commissary while in custody at the Ward County Jail.

         II. STANDARD GOVERNING INITIAL REVIEW

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”) requires an initial court screening of all civil actions brought by prisoners that relate to prison conditions or that seek redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The screening is required even when the prisoner has paid the filing fee. Lewis v. Estes, Case No. 00-1304, 242 F.3d 375 (table); 2000 WL 1673382, at *1 (8th Cir. Nov. 8, 2000) (unpublished per curiam). The purpose of the screening requirement is to weed out claims that clearly lack merit with the hope that this will help to lessen the burdens imposed by the ever-rising numbers of prisoner suits, which too often are frivolous and without merit. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 202-03 (2007); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83-84 (2006). In conducting the screening, the court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if its claims are legally frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (c)(1).

         Neither 42 U.S.C. § 1983 nor the PLRA imposes any heightened pleading requirements. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. at 211-12. Consequently, in order to state a cognizable claim, the complaint need only meet the minimum requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), which are that it contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam).

         The court is obligated to construe a pro se complaint 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). This does not mean that the court must accept everything or anything that is filed by pro se prisoners, 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.

         To meet 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). 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. at 93 (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555). And, even though the complaint is to be liberally construed, it must also contain enough to satisfy Bell Atlantic's “plausibility standard.” E.g., Ventura-Vera v. Dewitt, 417 F. App'x 591, 592, 2011 WL 2184269, *1 (8th Cir. 2011) (unpublished per curiam) (citing Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2007) for the appropriate post-Bell Atlantic standard); see also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004) (pro se complaints must allege sufficient facts to state a claim). ...


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