United States District Court, D. Delaware
INNOCENT E. ROGERS, Plaintiff,
OFFICER DIAZ, et al., Defendants.
plaintiff, Innocent E. Rogers ("Rogers"), an inmate
at the Sussex Correctional Institution ("SCI"),
Georgetown, Delaware, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 alleging unlawful conditions of
confinement. (D.I. 1.) He appears pro se and was
granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28U.S.C.§ 1915.
a pretrial detainee, alleges that the defendant Officer Diaz
("Diaz") denied him chow on four different
occasions in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United
States Constitution. Rogers has also named Warden G. R.
Johnson ("Johnson") as a defendant. Rogers states
that he has problems with high blood pressure, must take
medication, and must eat. He alleges he was deprived of a
basic human need which is aggravated by his high blood
first instance occurred on April 20, 2017. When Rogers
arrived for chow, Diaz told him that a piece of his T-shirt
was hanging out of his pants. Diaz denied him chow. The
second instance occurred on May 12, 2017, when Rogers and his
cellmate arrived for chow a second or two late, "but not
outrageously late." Rogers was denied chow. The third
instance occurred on June 4, 2017, when Rogers walked out for
chow without his Id. Rogers had not noticed it had
fallen because the clip which secured it was broken. When
Diaz asked Rogers for his ID, Rogers explained it was broken,
and Diaz denied Rogers chow. The last instance occurred on
October 19, 2017, when Rogers was "a second late"
for chow. Plaintiff did not hear Diaz call his side for chow.
Rogers seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
federal court may properly dismiss an action sua
sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and § l9l5A(b) if "the action
is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v.
Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); see
also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma
pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in
which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant);
42 U.S.C. § l997e (prisoner actions brought with respect
to prison conditions). The court must accept all factual
allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light
most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips
v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir.
2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007).
Because Rogers proceeds pro se, his pleading is
liberally construed and his complaint, "however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).
action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and § l9l5A(b)(1), a court may dismiss
a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly
baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual
scenario. Neitzke, 490 at 327- 28; Wilson v.
Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see,
e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92
(3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison
officials took an inmate's pen and refused to give it
legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to
state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and §
1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when
ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v.
McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to
state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). However, before
dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening
provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the
court must grant Rogers leave to amend his complaint unless
amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v.
Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).
well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and
conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009); Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007). A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that
a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City
of Shelby, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A
complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect
statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.
See Id. at 346.
the pleading regime established by Twombly and
Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a
complaint must take three steps: (1) take note of the
elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2)
identify allegations that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and
(3) when there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d
Cir. 2016) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the
complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to
relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a
"context-specific task that requires the reviewing court
to draw on its judicial experience and common sense."
alleges the defendants violated his constitutional rights.
Because Rogers was a pretrial detainee at the relevant time,
the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause governs his
claims as opposed to the Eighth Amendment, which applies to
convicted prisoners. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520,
535-37 (1979); Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150, 164
(3d Cir. 2005) ("Hubbard I”); Natale v. Camden
Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2003).
The Due Process Clause prohibits "punishment" of a
pretrial detainee prior to an adjudication of guilt in
accordance with due process of law. Bell, 441 U.S.
at 535-37; Hubbard I, 399 F.3d at 164-65.
determine whether conditions of confinement amount to
"punishment", courts "ask, first, whether any
legitimate purposes are served by the[ ] conditions, and
second, whether the[ ] conditions are rationally related to
these purposes." Hubbard v. Taylor, 538 F.3d
229, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) ("Hubbard II”)
(citing Union Cnty. Jail Inmates v. Di Buono, 713
F.2d 984, 992 (3d Cir. 1983)). As to the first inquiry, the
facts as alleged are that on each of the four occasions Each
time, Rogers was denied chow after he disobeyed a prison
rule. It is well-established that prison administrators are
accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution
of policies and practices that are needed to preserve
internal order and to maintain institutional security.
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 527 (1979).
the second prong (whether these conditions are rationally
related to their purpose), the court considers whether the
conditions caused Rogers to "endure such genuine
privations and hardship over an extended period of time,
" that they became "excessive in relation to the
purposes assigned to them." Hubbard I 538 F.3d
at 233 (citing Union Cnty., 713 F.2d at 992 (in turn
quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 542 (alterations &
quotations omitted)). The "excessiveness" analysis
requires courts to consider the totality of the circumstance.
Id. The allegations are Rogers was not allowed chow
on four discrete occasions over a six month period after
Rogers, by his own admission, did not obey prison rules. As
alleged, it cannot be said ...