United States District Court, D. North Dakota
Anthony M. Washington, Plaintiff,
Reliance Telephone Systems and McLean County Jail, Defendants.
R. HOCHHALTER, MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Anthony M. Washington (“Washington”) is a
pretrial detainee at the McLean County Jail in Washburn,
North Dakota. He initiated the above-captioned civil rights
action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with the submission
of an application to proceed in forma pauperis, which the
court granted, and a complaint. (Doc. Nos. 1, 4 and 6). He
subsequently filed notice of his consent to the Magistrate
Judge's exercise of jurisiction. (Doc. No. 7). This
matter is now before me for an initial review as mandated by
28 U.S.C. §1915A.
complains about the lack of legal resources available to him
at the McLean County Jail, his inability to have private
telephone conversations with his attorney, and his struggles
with PTSD. Specifically, he asserts:
While Detained @ McLean County Jail N.D.C.C. 12-44.14(7) as
well as 28 C.F.R. 543.11 Lack of Law Library has hendered me
from representing my self with the same defense as the States
Attorney. Also phone calls between attorney and client has no
privacy which is a violition to my 5th Amendment.
N.D.C.C. 28-04-04 action against domestic corporations and
limited liability companies.
I have P.T.S.D. which causes Restless sleeps at night and
loss of weight Due to loss. of apitite.
(Doc. No. 6) (errors in original). He seeks, amongst other
things, an award of $1, 200, 000 in damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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, 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2000 WL 1673382, at *1 (8th Cir. Nov. 8, 2000) (unpublished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
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).
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 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
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 Fed.Appx. 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). Complaints that offer
nothing more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic
recitation of the elements are not sufficient. Frivolous
claims are those that are clearly baseless, fanciful,
fantastic, or delusional. See Denton v. Hernandez,
504 U.S. 25, 32-34 (1992).
state a cognizable claim under § 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 ...