United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a federal prisoner appearing pro se, brought this action
alleging a deprivation of his constitutional right against
cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The
matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Charles
B. Goodwin for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b). On June 28, 2018, Judge Goodwin issued a
Report and Recommendation (“R&R” or
“Report”) [Doc. No. 9] recommending that
Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed without prejudice for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Plaintiff timely filed his objection to the R&R [Doc. No.
10]. Exercising de novo review, and as stated more fully
below, the Court adopts the R&R in its entirety.
events leading to Plaintiff's claims occurred while he
was temporarily housed at the Federal Transfer Center (FTC)
in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Plaintiff alleges he was subject
to conditions that violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on
cruel and unusual punishment; specifically, Plaintiff's
Complaint alleges that he asked Defendant for: (1) a jacket
to go to the outside yard; (2) two blankets instead of one;
(3) the ability to mail a letter every weekday instead of
Wednesday only; (4) a bigger holding room; and (5) a shorter
holding period of time when arriving or leaving the FTC.
See Amend. Compl. at 1. Plaintiff further contends
that inmates arriving or departing the FTC are “placed
in a holding cell for several hours that is too noisy and
crowded like a chicken cage.” Id. Plaintiff
alleges he attempted to discuss these conditions with
Defendant, but Defendant denied his requests and further
stated there would be no changes to the FTC's current
procedures. Id. at 1-2. Plaintiff contends
Defendant's actions were “motivated by evil motive
or intent and involved reckless or callous indifference to
Plaintiff's rights.” Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff
requests monetary damages and injunctive relief. Id.
Goodwin conducted an initial review of Plaintiff's
Complaint to identify any cognizable claims. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (noting a pro se complaint may be
dismissed on initial review if the claim is malicious or
frivolous, fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief). Upon conducting such review, Judge
Goodwin determined that Plaintiff's allegations were
“sparse” and “fail[ed], at a minimum, to
raise a plausible inference that he suffered any
‘sufficiently serious' deprivation while housed at
[the] FTC.” R&R at 4. Regarding Plaintiff's
request for a jacket and extra blanket, Judge Goodwin held
the Complaint offered no additional factual contentions and
thus “[did] not plausibly show that [Plaintiff]
suffered anything more than discomfort while at FTC.”
Id. Regarding Plaintiff's contentions of crowded
facilities, Judge Goodwin found such allegations were not
“sufficiently serious” as to constitute an Eighth
Amendment violation. R&R at 4-5. Lastly, Judge Goodwin
found Plaintiff's allegations regarding the mail system
were not “extreme deprivations” and did not state
a plausible cause of action under the amendment. Id.
magistrate judge issues a recommendation on a dispositive
matter, the Court is required to “determine de novo any
part of the magistrate judge's [recommendation] that has
been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). In
conducting its review, the Court may accept, reject, or
modify the recommendation, receive further evidence, or
return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.
See id.; Birch v. Polaris Indus., Inc., 812
F.3d 1238, 1246 (10th Cir. 2015).
se litigant's pleadings are to be liberally construed and
held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings
drafted by attorneys. United States v. Green, 886
F.3d 1300, 1307 (10th Cir. 2018). Nonetheless, the Tenth
Circuit has repeatedly insisted that pro se parties follow
the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.
Id. (citing Garrett v. Selby Connor Maddux &
Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir. 2005)). Thus, the
broad construction a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are
afforded does not “relieve the plaintiff of the burden
of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal
claim could be based.” Riddle v. Mondragon, 83
F.3d 1197, 1202 (10th Cir.1996) (citation omitted).
to the seminal decisions of Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), to survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact,
taken as true, “to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Khalik v. United Air
Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Under this standard,
“the mere metaphysical possibility that some
plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support
of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must
give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff
has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for
these claims.” Robbins v. Oklahoma,
519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Ridge at
Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th
Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original)).
“plausibility” standard announced in
Twombly and Iqbal is not considered a
“heightened” standard of pleading, but rather a
“refined standard, ” which the Tenth Circuit has
defined as “refer[ring] to the scope of the allegations
in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a
wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the
plaintiff [has] not nudged [his] claims across the line
from conceivable to plausible.” Khalik, 671
F.3d at 1191 (citing Kansas Penn Gaming, LLC v.
Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011)). The
Tenth Circuit has noted that the nature and specificity of
the allegations required to state a plausible claim will vary
based on context. Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1248.
“Thus, [it has] concluded the Twombly/Iqbal
standard is ‘a middle ground between heightened fact
pleading, which is expressly rejected, and allowing
complaints that are no more than labels and conclusions or a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action,
which the Court stated will not do.'” See
id. at 1247.
Eighth Amendment protects a prisoner from a prison
official's “deliberate indifference” to a
substantial risk of serious harm, ” as well as the
intentional use of excessive force. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). Prison officials are
not obligated to absolutely guarantee the safety of their
prisoners, but they are responsible for taking reasonable
measures to insure an inmate's safety. Lopez v.
LeMaster, 172 F.3d 756, 759 (10th Cir. 1999). In this
regard, an Eighth Amendment claim consists of two elements.
First, the prison official must cause an injury that,
objectively, is “sufficiently serious, ” i.e., an
injury that equates to the “denial of the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities.” Second,
under a subjective analysis, the official must have a
“sufficiently culpable state of mind.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.
Plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to state a
“sufficiently serious deprivation” resulting from
his conditions of confinement at the FTC. First, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant denied his request for a jacket to
visit the outside yard and his request for two blankets
instead of one. Amend. Compl. at 1. Plaintiff offers no
factual averments indicating he suffered serious harm to his
health or safety resulting from the denial of a jacket or
extra blanket. Although Plaintiff's Objection indicates
he was subjected to below freezing temperatures, the Court is
guided by the allegations of the Complaint, and
Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts showing that these
deprivations posed a threat or risk of serious harm to his
health or safety.
respect to Plaintiff's request to mail a letter every
weekday instead of every Wednesday, Plaintiff again fails to
sufficiently allege a “sufficiently serious”
deprivation. “Because routine discomfort is part of the
penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses
against society … only those deprivations denying the
minimal civilized measure of life's necessities are
sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment
violation.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9
(1992) (citations and internal quotations omitted). In the
Court's view, limiting prisoners to sending mail one day
per week is not an objectively “harsh” measure,
much less a condition that is “cruel ...