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Palomarez v. Young

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

December 15, 2016

DARIN YOUNG, Warden; JOHN DOE, Unknown Special Security, Defendants.




         Plaintiff, Alexander Schroder Palomarez, is an inmate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. He filed a pro se civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Docket 1, and now moves the court to order defendants to allow him to contact certain individuals outside of the prison and to grant him relief from a state court judgment. For the following reasons, the court denies Palomarez's motions and directs service of his complaint.


         In his complaint, Palomarez alleges that he has information concerning two Rapid City Police Officers who were killed. Docket 1 at 5. He alleges that he has tried to tell people this information through the mail, but the police and penitentiary do not want people to know what he has to say. Id. Six months into his sentence, he was taken to the special security office at the South Dakota State Penitentiary and handcuffed to a chair. Id. at 4. There, a special security officer ripped up Palomarez's mail, including legal mail. Id. The officer told Palomarez that he would not get his mail until he stopped trying to tell people his “story.” Id. When Palomarez asked the officer what his name was, he was rebuffed, being told “that's not important.” Id.

         Since this episode, Palomarez has had difficulties with his mail. Id. His envelopes have been brought back to his cell opened, with all of the contents missing. Id. He has tried different kinds of mail and postage, but nothing has worked. Id. at 5. He also alleges that his habeas claim is being interfered with as a result of the tampering with his mail. Id.

         On November 7, 2016, Palomarez filed this complaint. He raised claims that defendants violated his right to access the courts, violated his rights to use the mail system, and retaliated against him for accessing the courts and sending mail. Id. at 4-5. He states that he did not appeal his claims to the highest level of the prison grievance system because defendants did not respond to his complaints and only retaliated against him further. Id. As relief, Palomarez requests the court to order defendants to stop interfering with his mail and access to the courts. Id. at 7.


         The court must accept the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Schriener v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 774 F.3d 442, 444 (8th Cir. 2014). Civil rights and pro se complaints must be liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted); Bediako v. Stein Mart, Inc., 354 F.3d 835, 839 (8th Cir. 2004). Even with this construction, “a pro se complaint must contain specific facts supporting its conclusions.” Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985); Ellis v. City of Minneapolis, 518 F.App'x 502, 504 (8th Cir. 2013). Civil rights complaints cannot be merely conclusory. Davis v. Hall, 992 F.2d 151, 152 (8th Cir. 1993); Parker v. Porter, 221 F.App'x 481, 482 (8th Cir. 2007).

         A complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations . . . [but] requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “If a plaintiff cannot make the requisite showing, dismissal is appropriate.” Abdullah v. Minnesota, 261 F. App'x 926, 927 (8th Cir. 2008); Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir. 1985). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must screen prisoner complaints and dismiss them if they are “(1) frivolous, malicious, or fail[] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seek[] monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 1915A(b).


         I. Screening Under § 1915A

         A. Palomarez's Failure to Fully Grieve Claims

         In his complaint, Palomarez states that he did not fully exhaust his claims through the prison grievance process because defendants did not answer his kites, he is retaliated against because of his grievances, and he has tried to follow the “chain of command, ” but it did not “do [him] any good.” Docket 1 at 4. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has “excused inmates from complying with an institution's grievance procedures when officials have prevented prisoners from utilizing the procedures[.]” Gibson v. Weber, 431 F.3d 339, 341 (8th Cir. 2005). “An inmate's subjective belief that the ...

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