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Carpenter v. Bell

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 10, 2014

MAYOR WILLIAM BELL, et al., Defendants

Ruben Carpenter, Plaintiff, Pro se, Birmingham, AL.


JOHN E. OTT, Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

Ruben Carpenter, hereinafter referred to as " the plaintiff, " has filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that rights, privileges, or immunities afforded him under the Constitution or laws of the United States were abridged during his incarceration at the Birmingham City Jail. The plaintiff has since been released from custody. The plaintiff names as defendants Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Birmingham Police Chief Roper, Jailer Cathy Davis, Captain Wilson, Lieutenant Trebble, and Sergeant English. The plaintiff seeks monetary and injunctive relief. In accordance with the usual practices of this court and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the complaint was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a preliminary report and recommendation. See McCarthy v. Bronson, 500 U.S. 136, 111 S.Ct. 1737, 114 L.Ed.2d 194 (1991).

I. Standard of Review

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-134, § 804, 110 Stat. 1321, and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, requires this court to screen complaints filed by prisoners against officers or employees of governmental entities and to dismiss the complaint or any portion of the complaint that it finds frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Where practicable, the court may sua sponte dismiss a prisoner's complaint prior to service. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

A dismissal pursuant to § 1915A (b)(1) for failure to state a claim is governed by the same standards as dismissals for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, " a complaint must 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation omitted). A plaintiff must assert " more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not" suffice. Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Because " [p]ro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys[, ]" they are liberally construed. Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006).

II. Factual Allegations

The plaintiff claims he found rubber and glass in his food while incarcerated at the Birmingham City Jail, putting him " in danger of food poisoning." (Doc. 1 at 3). He states jail staff failed to provide him with clean bed linen for a month and did not give him a weekly change of uniforms. (Id. at 3, 4). The plaintiff complains that the heat in the jail was " [unbearable]" and the heating and cooling system was a " health hazard." (Id. at 3). He further complains inmates were not allowed to exercise on a consistent basis. (Id. at 3). He alleges that there was no steward assigned to the kitchen on weekends, only unqualified officers. (Id.) The plaintiff claims the jail was overcrowded and did not have enough bathrooms. (Doc. 1 at 3). He states there was no mirror in his cell and rust, mildew, and fungus were present in the showers. (Id. at 4). Additionally, sinks were out of order for 4-5 months. (Id.)

The plaintiff alleges Birmingham Mayor William Bell is responsible for hiring Chief of Police Roper, who oversees the Birmingham City Jail. (Doc. 1 at 6). He further alleges Roper is responsible for hiring Jailer Cathy Davis and Captain Wilson. (Id.) The plaintiff contends Davis is responsible for the officers at the Birmingham City Jail and must approve all matters. (Id.) He states that Wilson is the head administrator of the jail and controls functions relative to the kitchen, dorms, staff, and stewards. (Id.) The plaintiff alleges Wilson also supervises Lieutenant Trebble, whose duties include obtaining laundry supplies and food and overseeing the condition of the jail. (Id.) The plaintiff contends Sergeant English is responsible for morning meals, uniforms, bedding, and security for the jail. (Doc. 1 at 6). He claims Sergeant English is also in charge of ensuring that all inmates receive skin tests and blood work but English failed to do so. (Id.)

III. Discussion

A. Supervisory Liability

The plaintiff does not allege that defendants Bell, Roper, Davis, or Wilson personally violated his constitutional rights and the complaint is void of any specific allegations against these defendants. Rather, the plaintiff attempts to implicate Bell, Roper, Davis, and Wilson based on the actions of their subordinates. The law is well settled, however, that a defendant cannot be held liable in an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the doctrine of respondeat superior or on the basis of vicarious liability. Gray v. Bostic, 458 F.3d 1295, 1308 (11th Cir. 2006); Belcher v. City of Foley, 30 F.3d 1390, 1396 (11th Cir. 1994).

Although supervisory officials cannot be held liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional actions of their subordinates based on respondeat superior, supervisors can be held liable for their subordinates' constitutional violations on the basis of supervisory liability. Cottone v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1360 (11th Cir. 2003). " Supervisory liability under section 1983 may be shown by either the supervisor's personal participation in the acts that comprise the constitutional violation or the existence of a ...

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