Watkins v. Three Administrative Remedy Coordinators of the Bureau of Prisons, No. 19-40869 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), claiming that various prison officials violated his constitutional rights by tampering with his meals and denying his grievance.
The court concluded that, even if plaintiff's claims were timely, they must be dismissed. The court declined to extend Bivens to include First Amendment retaliation claims against prison officials, joining its sister courts that have recently considered the matter. In this case, although plaintiff asserts Bivens claims against the food administrators and foremen under the First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment, his claims are best construed under the First Amendment since he claims that defendants retaliated against him for filing grievances. Because plaintiff's claims appear nothing like the Bivens trilogy, the court concluded that his claims arise in a new context. Furthermore, this case presents special factors counseling hesitation. The court explained that Congress should decide whether to provide for a damages remedy. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's claims against the administrative remedy coordinators where, even if plaintiff had a viable Bivens claims, vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens suits. Because he failed to assert standalone claims against the administrative remedy coordinators, plaintiff's claims against them must be dismissed.