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Priest v. Holbrook

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

December 11, 2017

DAVID R. PRIEST, Plaintiff,



         BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 15. Plaintiff, a prisoner currently housed at the Airway Heights Corrections Center, ECF No. 16, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Defendants have not been served. Liberally construing the allegations in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds he has failed to cure the deficiencies of the initial Complaint.

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for the unauthorized deprivation of authorized eagle feathers at the Washington State Penitentiary. Plaintiff asserts alleged due process and equal protection violations, First and Eighth Amendment violations and violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-2000bb-4.


         Plaintiff states he was assembling 20 eagle feathers to make a fan for use in traditional Native American ceremonies, when he was moved to segregation on August 9, 2015. He complains Defendants C/Os Duncan and Doe packed up his property but failed to leave an inventory list and allegedly stole or destroyed his eagle feathers. Plaintiff contends these feathers are irreplaceable as the United States Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service had sent him a “one time only” package of 20 eagle feathers just over two weeks earlier. ECF No. 15 at 10.

         Plaintiff blames Defendant Sgt. Brewer for directing Defendants Duncan and Doe to pack Plaintiff's belongings without ensuring they were properly trained, without informing them Plaintiff was a practicing Native American, without providing them with Plaintiff's religious matrix of authorized items, and without supervising them. Plaintiff also accuses Defendant Brewer of failing to respond to a kite regarding the mishandling of his eagle feathers.

         Plaintiff blames Defendant Alverez-Jackson, the Custody Unit Supervisor, for failing to ensure Defendants Brewer, Duncan and Doe were trained to comply with policies for handling prisoners' property. He claims Defendant Holbrook is responsible for his staff's conduct as the facility Superintendent.

         Plaintiff asserts: “[B]ecause these kind [sic] of procedures are not being used at other facilities that cause Native Americans [sic] sacred items to be stollen [sic] or destroyed, the procedures used or allowed to be used by Brewer, violated plaintiffs 14th Amend. due process & Equal protection, and the 8th Amend. Cruel & Unusual punishment.” ECF No. 15 at 8. These blanket assertions do not state a claim on which relief may be granted.


         To establish an Eighth Amendment violation, an inmate must show the prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to his health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994). Deliberate indifference exists when the prison official “acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. at 842.

         Under the Eighth Amendment, the pertinent inquiry is (1) whether the alleged violation constitutes an infliction of pain or a deprivation of the basic human needs, such as adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, and medical care, and (2) if so, whether prison officials acted with the requisite culpable intent such that the infliction of pain is “unnecessary and wanton.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.

         Prison officials act with the requisite culpable intent when they act with deliberate indifference to the inmates' suffering. Id.; Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 302-03 (1991); Jordan v. Gardner, 986 F.2d 1521, 1528 (9th Cir. 1993)(en banc). The test for whether a prison official acts with deliberate indifference is a subjective one: the official must “know[] of and disregard[] an excessive risk to inmate health and safety; the official must both be aware of the facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.

         Here, Plaintiff has alleged no facts from which the Court could infer identified Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm to his health or safety or deprived Plaintiff of “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Plaintiff's conclusory assertions of cruel and unusual punishments and deliberate indifference do not support an Eighth Amendment claim. His contention the mishandling of federally protected eagle feathers “shocks the conscience” is insufficient to invoke Eighth Amendment protections.

         EQUAL ...

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