in that action had not alleged that physical force had been used against him, or that actual threats had been made against his physical well being. Collins, supra, a case cited by the defendants, involved an allegation that a sheriff at the county jail in which plaintiff was being held laughed at the plaintiff and threatened to hang him. In neither of these cases were the alleged facts as disconcerting as those now before the court, where a prison employee is said to have brandished a butcher knife in front of an inmate and threatened to kill him or inflict serious bodily harm at what was quite obviously close range. If true, this was not a "mere threat" with words alone. More properly described, the alleged altercation was words along with action, the action being the threatening use of a weapon. Nor is the plaintiff's claim one of simple overly zealous intimidation, the object of which was to compel an inmate to comply with prison regulations. See McFadden, supra.
The Fourteenth Amendment protects an individual's liberty interest in personal security. Davidson v. O'Lone, 752 F.2d 817, 821 (3d Cir. 1984), aff'd sub nom. Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 88 L. Ed. 2d 677, 106 S. Ct. 668 (1986). This liberty interest covers attacks committed by persons other than state custodians, id. at 822, and infringement of this interest by intentional conduct gives rise to a claim under § 1983. Id. at 828. This is because the essential element of a § 1983 action is abuse by a state official of his or her official position. Id. at 827.
We feel that enough is pled in plaintiff's complaint to survive a motion to dismiss insofar as defendant Mariano is concerned. This case seems to straddle the fence between the line of cases such as Burton and Gaut, supra, which permits a § 1983 action to proceed without allegations of use of actual force as long as interference with a plaintiff's pursuit of judicial relief is implicated, and cases such as McFadden and Collins, supra, which deny the existence of a § 1983 cause of action if "mere threats" are involved. The rationale set out by the Third Circuit in Davidson, supra, can be comfortably extended to encompass a situation where a prison employee infringes on an inmate's personal security to the extent of threatening his life - not by mere words, but additionally while brandishing a dangerous weapon poised for immediate use, the act being unrelated to forcing compliance with institutional regulations. Surely one's personal security includes one's state of mind during daily interaction with others. To have this state of mind shattered through an armed assault by a government employee in close quarters with whom one must work is certainly a substantial invasion of the liberty interest every person possesses in his or her own personal security. What Douglas here alleges is not just an off-the-cuff verbal remark made out of anger or malice. Defendant Mariano is said to have gone at least one level beyond verbal harassment, and even perhaps beyond the use of slight physical force. He is charged with actually threatening plaintiff's life with a knife. The plaintiff, who, insofar as we can ascertain, is required to continue to work in the kitchen with Mariano, a kitchen supervisor, might very understandably be in fear of his life every time he enters the prison kitchen. To argue that such an ongoing fear is not an invasion of one's liberty interest strikes the court as incredible. That the source of such fear is alleged to be a prison official strikes us as outrageous. Outrageous conduct or abuse of official power clearly rises to the level of a § 1983 claim. Davidson, 752 F.2d at 829. It is irrelevant that there may be, as there is here, a post-deprivation remedy in state court. Id. at 828. Accordingly, and for the purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion only, we find that plaintiff's complaint alleges enough to constitute a valid § 1983 claim insofar as defendant Mariano is concerned. We do so without passing on the question of whether plaintiff's complaint also states a claim under the Eighth Amendment.
Douglas also charges that defendant Fuentes, a social worker at the prison, was ordered (by someone) to give defendant Parson, who appears to be a corrections officer at the prison, false information about what had happened. Assuming that Fuentes did give such false information, Douglas' due process rights may well have been violated. If it is a due process violation to fail to disclose exculpatory statements to a prisoner in disciplinary proceedings, Chavis v. Rowe, 643 F.2d 1281, 1285-1286 (7th Cir. 1981), cert. denied sub nom. Boles v. Chavis, 454 U.S. 907, 70 L. Ed. 2d 225, 102 S. Ct. 415 (1981), then surely truth is considered important for due process. If Fuentes did lie about the incident in question, the plaintiff's due process rights may have been violated. In addition, if a prisoner can be disciplined for making slanderous remarks about prison personnel in an internal complaint, Hadden v. Howard, 713 F.2d 1003, 1007-1008 (3d Cir. 1983), the inmate should also be able to expect a similar generosity in return. If true, plaintiff has stated a cause of action against Fuentes in his complaint.
We are unable, however, to save plaintiff's complaint insofar as it attempts to advance § 1983 claims against the remaining defendants. Defendant Parson, who appears to be a corrections officer at the prison, is said to have ordered defendant Ray, a psychiatrist at Leesburg, to examine the plaintiff after the incident because Parson wanted to "ship [plaintiff] out." Without more, we cannot see how this would rise to a violation of federal rights. The same is true for defendant Fish or Fisher, who is said to be the prison official to whom the plaintiff reported the assault, but is not charged with having done anything. Defendant Ray is alleged only to have "interviewed" the plaintiff; no claim arises from the encounter. Defendant Saul, plaintiff states, tried to get him to sign a paper stating that Douglas would not pursue the matter further. Alleging that alone does not indicate to the court any real attempt to interfere with the plaintiff's rights.
In conclusion, defendants Mariano and Fuentes' motions to dismiss the complaint against them for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted will be denied. The motions of the remaining defendants to dismiss the complaint will be granted.
An appropriate order has been entered.
ORDER - April 27, 1988, Filed
This matter having been opened to the court by defendants Richard Mariano, et al, on a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and the court, having considered the submissions of the defendants, the pleadings, relevant authority, and for good cause shown;
IT IS on this 27th day of April, 1988,
ORDERED that defendants Richard Mariano and Velma Fuentes' motions to dismiss plaintiff's complaint be, and hereby are, DENIED for reasons set out in the court's opinion of even date; and it is further
ORDERED that the motions of the remaining defendants to dismiss plaintiff's complaint be, and hereby are, GRANTED.
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