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Hill v. Lappin, 09-5575

By FindLaw Staff on December 28, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
Pro se inmate's civil rights action

Hill v. Lappin, 09-5575, concerned a challenge to the  district court's dismissal of an inmate's suit as frivolous, in the inmate's pro se civil rights action against the director of the Bureau of Prisons and four prison staff members, seeking damages, a temporary restraining order, and a preliminary injunction to prevent his transfer to a lock-down unit to another prison facility.

In reversing the district court's judgment and vacating the entry of dismissal, the court held that plaintiff's complaint established the protected-conduct element when scrutinized under the failure-to-state-a-claim standard, and because his allegations that the staff were being abusive is at least plausible, his complaint should not be dismissed as frivolous.  Also, because plaintiff's allegation that he was placed in segregated housing is at least plausible, and because being threatened with a transfer to a more restrictive living environment with fewer privileges would deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising the constitutional right to file grievances, plaintiff's complaint therefore established the adverse-action element of a First Amendment retaliation claim when scrutinized under the failure-to-state-a-claim standard.  Lastly, the court held that the evidentiary facts are sufficient at this stage of the proceedings to satisfy the retaliatory-motive element of plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim.

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