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Factual Allegations Sufficient for Nutritional and Retaliation Claims to Proceed

by Robert Williams

Holding that sufficient facts had been alleged, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s claim of inadequate nutrition and retaliation for filing grievances.

Michael Strope, a litigious Kansas state prisoner, began receiving Kosher meals in 2003. He alleged that there was a routine practice of serving spoiled food, and that in response to filing grievances in 2005, the food he received was either inedible or sufficiently spoiled to make him subsequently sick. In an independent claim, Strope alleged state issued fans were removed from “excessively hot and improperly vented” prison units.

Strope filed a § 1983 complaint and was granted indigence status; his complaint was then dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit construed Strope’s dietary claim not as a First Amendment claim for Kosher diets, since he was receiving what the prison served as a Kosher diet, but as an Eighth Amendment claim for inadequate nutrition. The Court reversed the dismissal, finding that Strope had made a sufficient factual claim of both “a sufficiently serious deprivation of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities” and “deliberate indifference by prison officials to a substantial risk of serious harm.”

Turning to the retaliation claim, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s dismissal based on Strope’s allegations, which indicated the timing of the spoiled or inedible food servings had coincided with grievances he filed. This was “substantial enough to require a response from the government,” the Court ruled.

Finally, because Strope did not contest the fact that the prison sold fans and provided them to indigent prisoners, his ventilation claim was dismissed as it did not make a showing beyond his discomfort with prison life. See: Strope v. Sebelius, 189 Fed.Appx. 763 (10th Cir. 2006) (unpublished).

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Related legal case

Strope v. Sebelius