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McClellan v. Hudson

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

March 2, 2017

JEFFREY ALLEN McCLELLAN, #277 145, Plaintiff,
LT. HUDSON, Defendant.


          Susan Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at the Kilby Correctional Facility in Mt. Meigs, Alabama, files this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Lieutenant John Hudson.[1] He complains that on December 27, 2016, Defendant Hudson subjected him to verbal abuse and harassment in response to his (Plaintiff's) efforts to defend against a disciplinary he received while incarcerated at the Loxley Work Release Center. Defendant Hudson's conduct, Plaintiff claims, violated prison administrative regulations that prohibit prison employees from subjecting inmates to threatening language. Plaintiff seeks damages and requests that Defendant Hudson be removed from his position. Doc. 7. Upon review, the court concludes that dismissal of this case prior to service of process is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).[2]

         I. DISCUSSION

         In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Plaintiff, a state inmate proceeding pro se, contends that Defendant Hudson, an officer at the Kilby Correctional Facility, subjected him to threatening and abusive language at a disciplinary hearing on December 27, 2016, because Plaintiff sought to challenge procedural errors on the disciplinary form. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hudson's conduct violated a prison regulation that directs prison employees to refrain from using verbally abusive language towards inmates. Plaintiff informed prison officials about Defendant Hudson's conduct but states that they “refused to do anything.” Doc. 7 at 3.

         A. Verbal Abuse

         To state a viable claim for relief in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, the conduct complained of must have deprived Plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution. American Manufacturers Mutual Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 119 S.Ct. 977, 985 (1999); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981); Willis v. University Health Services, Inc., 993 F.2d 837, 840 (11th Cir. 1993). Derogatory, demeaning, profane, threatening or abusive comments made by an officer to an inmate, no matter how repugnant or unprofessional, do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Hernandez v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 281 Fed.Appx. 862, 866 (11th Cir. 2008) (holding that inmate's claim of “verbal abuse alone is insufficient to state a constitutional claim”); Edwards v. Gilbert, 867 F.2d 1271, 1274 n.1 (11th Cir. 1989) (mere verbal taunts, despite their distressing nature, directed at inmate by jailers do not violate inmate's constitutional rights); Ayala v. Terhune, 195 F. App'x. 87, 92 (3rd Cir. 2006) (“[A]llegations of verbal abuse, no matter how deplorable, do not present actionable claims under § 1983.”); McBride v. Deer, 240 F.3d 1287, 1291 n.3 (10th Cir. 2001) (“[A]cts ... resulting in an inmate being subjected to nothing more than threats and verbal taunts do not violate the Eighth Amendment.”); Sims v. Hickok, 185 F.3d 875 (10th Cir. 1999) (district court's summary dismissal of inmate's complaint for failure to state a claim appropriate because officer's insults and racial slurs did not amount to a constitutional violation); Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997) (verbal abuse, even if racially or ethnically motivated, does not give rise to a cause of action under § 1983); Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1524 (10th Cir. 1992) (mere threats, even to inmate's life, made by guard do not satisfy the objective component of the Eighth Amendment as verbal threats and harassment are “necessarily excluded from the cruel and unusual punishment inquiry....”); Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954-955 (6th Cir. 1987) (verbal abuse alone does not violate the Eighth Amendment); O'Donnell v. Thomas, 826 F.2d 788, 790 (8th Cir. 1987) (“alleged verbal threats by jail officials ... did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.”); Gaul v. Sunn, 810 F.2d 923, 925 (9th Cir. 1987) (Eighth Amendment trivialized by assertion that mere threat constitutes a constitutional wrong); Purcell v. Coughlin, 790 F.2d 263, 265 (2nd Cir. 1986) (mere name-calling did not violate inmate's constitutional rights); Collins v. Cundy, 603 F.2d 825, 827 (10th Cir. 1979) (verbal abuse, including threat of harm, not actionable under § 1983).

         Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim regarding Defendant Hudson's use of profane or threatening language. This claim is, therefore, due to be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         B. Violation of Agency Regulations

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hudson violated an administrative regulation against using threatening language towards inmates. Doc. No. 1 at 3. Infringements of agency rules, regulations or procedures do not, standing alone, amount to constitutional violations. See Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183, 194 (1984) (recognizing that allegations of a violation of statutory or administrative provisions did not provide the basis for a claim of violation of a constitutional right); Magluta v. Samples, 375 F.3d 1269, 1279 n. 7 (11th Cir. 2004) (mere fact governmental agency's regulations or procedures may have been violated does not, alone, raise a constitutional issue); Myers v. Klevenhagen, 97 F.3d 91, 94 (5th Cir. 1996) (claim that prison officials have not followed their own policies and procedures does not, without more, amount to a constitutional violation); United States v. Caceres, 440 U.S. 741, 751-752 (1979) (mere violations of agency regulations do not raise constitutional questions); Weatherholt v. Bradley, 316 F. App'x 300, 303 (4th Cir. 2009) (same); see also Riccio v. Cnty. of Fairfax, 907 F.2d 1459, 1459 (4th Cir. 1990) (holding that if state law grants more procedural rights than the Constitution requires, a state's failure to abide by its law is not a federal violation). Plaintiff's challenge to Defendant Hudson's alleged violation of an agency regulation does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. It, therefore, provides no basis for relief in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action and is subject to dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).


         Accordingly, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge this case be DISMISSED with prejudice prior to service of process under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         It is further

         ORDERED that on or before March 16, 2017, Plaintiff may file an objection. Any objection filed must specifically identify the factual findings and legal conclusions in the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation to which Plaintiff objects. Frivolous, conclusive or general objections will not be considered by the District Court.

         Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations in the Magistrate Judge's report shall bar a party from a de novo determination by the District Court of factual findings and legal issues covered in the report and shall “waive the right to challenge on appeal the district court's order based on unobjected-to factual and legal conclusions” except upon grounds of plain error if necessary in the interests of justice. 11th Cir. R. 3-1; see Resolution ...

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