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Knowles v. North Dakota Department of Corrections James River Correctional Center

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

July 5, 2018

Efrain Reyes Knowles, Plaintiff,
North Dakota Department of Corrections James River Correctional Center, Defendants.

          ORDER RE § 1915A SCREENING


         Plaintiff Efrain Reyes Knowles ("Knowles") is an inmate at the James River Correctional Center (“JRCC”) in Jamestown, North Dakota. He initiated the above-entitled action pro se in February 2018 with the submission of an incomplete “PLRA packet.” (Doc. No. 1). On March 14, 2018, he filed a complete “PLRA packet” along with an application to proceed in forma pauperis, which the undersigned granted. (Doc. Nos. 3, 4, and 10). On March 23, 2018, he filed notice of his consent to the undersigned's handling of this case. (Doc. No. 9).

         Knowles' Complaint is now before the court for an initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons set forth below, Knowles shall have until July 30, 2018, to file an Amended Complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 23, 2018, Knowles filed “Form Complaint” presumably provided to him by the Clerk's Office. Therein he names the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the JRCC as defendants. He then goes on to assert the following the under the heading “Statement of Claim:”

Mi left side intesting And were i process liquid hurts every time i eat and drink water the pain is so painful i feel its gonna failed and its gonna be to late. Please help me. Please dont let me die. Please i beg u.

(Doc. No. 12) (errors in original).[1] He seeks $1 billion in damages, access to the best surgeon, and a hearing before the United States Supreme Court with the President of the United States at his side. (Id.).

         On April 15, 2018, Knowles filed a copy of “doctor call notes” to supplement to his Complaint. (Doc. No 13). The notes, dated November 16, 2017, state that a trace of blood had been detected in Knowles urine and that he would be rechecked in a few weeks. (Id.).

         On April 23, 2018, Knowles filed a second supplement to his Complaint. (Doc. 14). The supplement consists of: (1) a copy of an April 9, 2018 “sick call inmate request” listing without explanation internal bleeding as the nature of the request; and (2) a handwritten note, dated April 6, 2018, in which Knowles complained to Officer Carpenter that he was experiencing significant side pain and different symptoms. (Id.).


         Congress 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 defendant. Id.

         In 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.

         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) (“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, 32-34 (1992).

         To 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 ...

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