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Hill v. Kohut

United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division

June 20, 2018

RICHARD HILL, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
DR. KOHUT, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DANA L. CHRISTENSEN, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         On January 26, 2018 Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston entered his Findings and Recommendations, recommending that all of Plaintiff Richard Junious Hill's ("Hill") claims be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 13.) Hill timely objected (Doc. 15) and then filed a Formal Request for Production Court Mandate (Doc. 16).[1] Hill's objection entitles him to de novo review of those findings to which he specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The Court reviews for clear error those findings and recommendations to which no party objects. United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003); Thomas v. Am, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Clear error exists if the Court is left with a "definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). Notwithstanding the above, "[w]here a petitioner's objections constitute perfunctory responses argued in an attempt to engage the district court in a rehashing of the same arguments set forth in the original [complaint], the applicable portions of the findings and recommendations will be reviewed for clear error." Rosling v. Kirkegard, 2014 WL 693315, at *3 (D. Mont. Feb. 21, 2014) (citations omitted).

         Because the parties are familiar with the factual and procedural background detailed in Judge Johnston's Findings and Recommendations it will only be restated here as necessary to understand the Court's order. For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts Judge Johnston's recommendations in full.

         Discussion Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, a court should dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis by a prisoner against a governmental defendant before it is served if it 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. A complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to allege the "grounds" entitling the plaintiff to relief. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). "A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e) ("Pleadings must be construed as to do justice.").

         I. Excessive Force

         Judge Johnston recommended dismissing Hill's claim of excessive use of force under the Eighth Amendment, finding that Hill alleged nothing more than negligence. (Doc. 13 at 4.) Hill objects and provides greater factual development for the incident.

         To meet the standard required by the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must show that a government employee used force "maliciously and sadistically" with the purpose to cause harm. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992).

         Here, Hill alleges that Officer Rowling "deliberately disregarded plaintiffs (sic) safety and security" by violating prison protocol which requires a guard to monitor the unit control cages. Hill opines that anyone who leaves their post in order to "grab a cup of coffee or a donut" violates the attentiveness required by the prison staff. He alleges that Officer Rowling's actions must amount to intentional acts designed to cause harm because "the officer was not even at the control panel when [Hill] was attempting to get her attention to open the door so he could get loose." (Doc. 15 at 10.)

         Hill's argument alleges the factual basis for a classic negligence claim. While the Court is sympathetic to Hill's continued pain resulting from the incident, Hill has alleged no facts indicating "force ... applied maliciously and sadistically for the purpose of causing harm." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6.

         Having reviewed the allegations de novo, the Court adopts Judge Johnston's recommendation and will dismiss this claim.

         II. Deliberate Indifference to Safety

         Judge Johnston recommended dismissing Hill's complaint that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his safety when they placed him in the top bunk. As Judge Johnston points out, Hill has not attributed the allegedly indifferent act to any single person. Because Hill does not object, the Court will review for clear error. Finding none, the Court affirms Judge Johnston's recommendation to dismiss.

         III. Denial ...


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