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Brown v. Gonzalez

February 4, 2008

KARO BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL; HARLEY G. LAPPIN, DIRECTOR, U.S. BUREAU OF PRISONS; ROBERT OUTHOUSE, SHERIFF, CAYUGA COUNTY; C.O. WALBORN, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, CAYUGA COUNTY JAIL; JOHN DOES, CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS, CAYUGA COUNTY JAIL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe, District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

I. Background

Presently before this Court is a civil rights complaint filed by Karo Brown. Brown, who has not paid the filing fee for this action, seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

In his pro se complaint, Brown asserts claims arising out of his confinement at Cayuga County Jail during the period November, 2004 to February, 2005. At the time, Brown was confined at Cayuga County Jail as a federal pre-trial detainee; he is presently incarcerated at Hazelton U.S. Penitentiary, in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. According to Brown, he was assaulted by defendant Walborn and a second unidentified correctional officer on November 15, 2004. Id. at 3. Brown claims that he was denied medical care for the injuries inflicted during the assault, and that his due process rights were violated in the course of disciplinary proceedings on charges arising out of that incident. Id. at 5. In addition to C.O. Walborn and several "John Doe" corrections officers, plaintiff names as defendants former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Harley G. Lappin and Cayuga County Sheriff Robert Outhouse. Brown brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).*fn1 For a complete statement of Brown's claims, reference is made to the complaint.

II. Discussion

(A) In Forma Pauperis Application

Based upon a review of Brown's in forma pauperis application, the Court finds that he has demonstrated sufficient economic need.

(B) The Sufficiency of the Complaint

Since the Court has found that Brown meets the financial criteria for commencing this case in forma pauperis, the Court must consider the sufficiency of the complaint in light of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Section 1915(e) directs that when a plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court:

(2) [S]hall dismiss the case at any time if the Court determines that -***

(B) the action ... (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).*fn2 Thus, even if a plaintiff meets the financial criteria to commence an action in forma pauperis, it is the Court's responsibility to determine that a complaint may properly be maintained in the District before it may permit the plaintiff to proceed with his or her action in forma pauperis.

It is well settled that the personal involvement of a defendant is a prerequisite for the assessment of damages in a section 1983 or Bivens action, McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930, 934 (2d Cir. 1977), and that the doctrine of respondeat superior is inapplicable to these damages claims. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981); Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d Cir. 1973).

In Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 323-24 (2d Cir. 1986), the Second Circuit detailed the various ways in which a supervisory defendant can be personally involved in a constitutional deprivation. A supervisory official is deemed to have been personally involved if that official directly participated in the infraction; if, after learning of a violation through a report or appeal, he or she failed to remedy the wrong; if he or she created a policy or custom under which unconstitutional practices occurred or allowed such a policy or custom to continue; or if he or she were grossly negligent in managing subordinates who caused the unlawful condition or event. Id. "Generally, the allegation that a supervisory official ignored a prisoner's letter protesting unconstitutional conduct is not itself sufficient to allege the personal involvement of the official so as to ...


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