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Ball v. Medred

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

May 31, 2019

SHAWN BALL, Plaintiff,
v.
CHIEF MEDRED and C/O HORN, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JOHN JOHNSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Shawn Ball, a federal inmate proceeding in forma pauperis and without counsel, filed a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights during his incarceration at Crossroads Correctional Center. (Doc. 2.)

         I. SCREENING STANDARD

         Because Mr. Ball is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must review his Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A. Sections 1915A(b) and 1915(e)(2)(B) require the Court to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis and/or 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 case is malicious if it was filed with the intention or desire to harm another.” Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2005). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if a plaintiff fails to allege the “grounds” of his “entitlement to relief.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation omitted).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a complaint “that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the [plaintiff] is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This rule 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) (quotations omitted).

         A complaint's allegations must cross “the line from conceivable to plausible.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680. There is a two-step procedure to determine whether a complaint's allegations cross that line. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662. First, the Court must identify “the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 680. Factual allegations are not entitled to the assumption of truth if they are “merely consistent with liability, ” or “amount to nothing more than a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements' of a constitutional” claim. Id. at 679, 681. A complaint stops short of the line between probability and the possibility of relief where the facts pled are merely consistent with a defendant's liability. Id. at 678.

         Second, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a “plausible” claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A claim is “plausible” if the factual allegations, which are accepted as true, “allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. This inquiry is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679 (citation omitted). If the factual allegations, which are accepted as true, “do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not “show[n]”-“that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “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. Pardu, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); cf. Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice”).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Mr. Ball alleges that on January 5, 2019, Defendants placed him in general population where he was singled out because of the sexual nature of his charges and attacked by other inmates. He claims Defendants failed to protect him. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 8.)

         Mr. Ball lists 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as the basis for jurisdiction in this case. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 6, ¶ II.) The Court, however, takes judicial notice of the docket in Mr. Ball's criminal case, Criminal Action No. 18-cr-00112-BLG-SPW which indicates that he was taken into federal custody on September 20, 2018. Because Mr. Ball was in federal custody at all times giving rise to his allegations, his claims arise under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Bivens is the “federal analogue” to § 1983. Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 254, 255 n.2 (2006). Bivens provides for a private cause of action for damages to proceed against federal actors for constitutional torts. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009) (citing Corr. Serv. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 66 (2001)).

         Crossroads is a private prison where Mr. Ball was incarcerated presumably under an agreement with the United States Marshals. Accordingly, although the Crossroads' employees are private individuals, they are considered federal actors rather than state actors for purposes of this case. Pollard v. GEO Group, Inc., 607 F.3d 583, 588-89 (9th Cir. 2010), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Minneci v. Pollard, 132 S.Ct. 617 (2012); see also Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., Inc., 457 U.S. 922, 940-41 (1982); Florer v. Congregation Pidyon Shevuyim, N.A., 639 F.3d 916, 922 (9th Cir. 2011).

         Normally an action for constitutional violations committed by federal actors can be brought under Bivens, however, the United States Supreme Court has made clear that a prisoner cannot assert an Eighth Amendment Bivens claim for damages against private prison employees. Minneci v. Pollard, 565 U.S. 118, 132 S.Ct. 617, 181 L.Ed.2d 606 (2012). In Minneci, the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether a Bivens action based on the Eighth Amendment was available against employees of a privately operated federal prison. The plaintiff in Minneci was a prisoner at a federal facility operated by a private company and filed an Eighth Amendment claim against the prison medical staff. Id. at 121. The Court held that a person cannot assert an Eighth Amendment Bivens claim based on insufficient medical treatment against employees of a private prison. Id. at 131. The Court noted that a Bivens action will not succeed when there is an existing alternative process that provides adequate protection. Id. at 118, 120-121 (citing Wilkie v. Robbins, 551 U.S. 537, 550 (2007)).

         In Montana, state tort law provides for ordinary negligence actions. A negligence claim depends upon establishment of a legal duty on the part of the defendant, breach of that duty, causation, and damages. Lopez v. Great Falls Pre-Release Services, 1999 MT 199, ¶ 18, 295 Mont. 416, 986 P.2d 1081. Determination of the existence of a duty is an issue of law. Lopez, ¶ 31. Under the public duty doctrine, a government officer may have an actionable duty to a particular individual where the government has actual custody of ...


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