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Allah v. Colorado Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 22, 2015

A'LA A. ALLAH (aka KIMANI WASHINGTON # 161525), Plaintiff,
v.
COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; RICK RAEMISCH, Executive Director; JOHN FALK, Warden; CHAPDELAINE, Associate Warden; and JOHN DOE, Officer of Offender Services, et al. Defendants.

ORDER TO DISMISS

LEWIS T. BABCOCK, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff, A'la A. Allah, aka Kimani Washington, is an inmate currently incarcerated at the Sterling Correctional Facility (SCC) located in Sterling, Colorado. Acting pro se , he initiated this action by filing a Prisoner Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the conditions of his confinement. For the reasons set forth below, this action will be dismissed.

A. Applicable Legal Principles

In the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), Congress adopted major changes affecting federal actions brought by prisoners in an effort to curb the increasing number of frivolous and harassing law suits brought by persons in custody. Pertinent to the case at bar is the authority granted to federal courts for sua sponte screening and dismissal of prisoner claims.

Specifically, Congress significantly amended Title 28 of the United States Code, section 1915, which establishes the criteria for allowing an action to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), i.e. , without prepayment of costs. Section 1915(e) (as amended) requires the federal courts to review complaints filed by persons that are proceeding in forma pauperis and to dismiss, at any time, any action that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In addition, Congress enacted a new statutory provision at 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, entitled "Screening, " which requires the court to review complaints filed by prisoners seeking redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). If the complaint is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, " or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief, " the court must dismiss the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

Further, the PLRA substantially amended the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e. In this regard, the PLRA amended section 1997e(c) to require the court "on its own motion or on the motion of a party" to dismiss any action brought by a prisoner with respect to prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the action is "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." See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1).[1]

Plaintiff is considered a "prisoner" as that term is defined under the PLRA, see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(h); 1915A(c), and he has been granted leave to proceed IFP in this action (ECF No. 9). Moreover, his Complaint concerns prison conditions and is filed against officers and employees of a governmental entity. Thus, his Complaint must be reviewed under the authority set forth above.

In reviewing complaints under these statutory provisions, a viable complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 554, 556 (2007) (rejecting the traditional standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The question to be resolved is: whether, taking the factual allegations of the complaint, which are not contradicted by the exhibits and matters of which judicial notice may be had, and taking all reasonable inferences to be drawn from those uncontradicted factual allegations of the complaint, are the "factual allegations... enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true even if doubtful in fact[.]" Bell Atlantic Corp. , 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, a legally frivolous claim is one in which the plaintiff asserts the violation of a legal interest that clearly does not exist or asserts facts that do not support an arguable claim. Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989). See Conkleton v. Raemisch , Civil No. No. 14-1271, ___ Fed.App'x ___, 2015 WL 794901 (10th Cir. Feb. 26, 2015) (upholding in part District Court's dismissal as frivolous of prisoner civil rights complaint); Ross v. Romero , 191 Fed.App'x 682 (10th Cir. 2006) (affirming district court's sua sponte dismissal of prisoner's civil rights complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b).

The Court must construe the Complaint liberally because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant. See Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon , 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). If a complaint reasonably can be read "to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, [a court] should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements." Hall , 935 F.2d at 1110. However, a court should not act as a pro se litigant's advocate. See id. Sua sponte dismissal is proper when it is patently obvious that plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged and allowing him an opportunity to amend his complaint would be futile. Curley v. Perry , 246 F.3d 1278, 1281-82 (10th Cir. 2001) (internal quotations omitted).

B. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff is a Muslim inmate who legally changed his name from Kimani Washington to "A'la A. Aziz-Allah." He objects to Colorado Department of Correction (CDOC) regulation A.R. 950-06, which provides that inmates shall be identified by the name on their commitment document. A.R. 950-06.IV.A. CDOC policy requires that any legal name change ordered by a court shall be recorded only as an AKA. A.R. 950-06.IV.B. Plaintiff claims that this policy is a violation of his rights as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendents of the United States Constitution as well as his rights under Colorado Revised Statue XX-XX-XXXX Article IV Section (e).

C. Liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Plaintiff seeks to assert liability against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must meet two threshold requirements. He must allege: 1) that the alleged misconduct was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and 2) that as a result, he was deprived of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42 (1988); Parratt v. Taylor , 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds , Daniels v. Williams , 474 U.S. 327, 330-331 (1986). In addressing a claim brought under § 1983, analysis begins by identifying the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Graham v. Connor , 490 U.S. ...


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