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Wilkey v. Adams

July 11, 2008

MICHAEL DALE WILKEY PLAINTIFF
v.
BILL ADAMS ET AL. DEFENDANTS



MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff, Michael Dale Wilkey, filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (DN 1). He also has filed an amended complaint (DN 14). This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed in part.

I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

At the time he filed his original complaint, the plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the McCracken County Jail. His original complaint stated that he was bringing a civil rights suit on behalf of himself and similarly jailed prisoners throughout the State of Kentucky against Bill Adams, jailer at McCracken County Jail; the McCracken County Jail; the City of Paducah; the head of the Department of Corrections in Frankfort, Kentucky; the State of Kentucky; and Ernie Fletcher, Governor.

In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that, during the third week of April 2007, he complained of "pain and suffering" and was seen by the head nurse of the jail who was "demeaning and sarcastic." The plaintiff states that, after he explained to the nurse that he had degenerative cervical disc disease and had undergone four surgeries to repair hernias, the nurse told him that she would give him ibuprofen but that from then on he would have to order it off the canteen and that, because his conditions were pre-existing, he would have to seek medical assistance on his own once he was released from prison. He states that, because he disagreed with the nurse's analysis, he refused her treatment. He alleges that "[t]his is standard operating procedure here at the jail." He states that he should receive surgery to "relieve the nerves" and surgery has been suggested before by specialists outside of the jail for his neck and shoulder. He states that he believes that surgery would help but that he is being denied by medical staff to see outside specialists for surgery because the jail does not want to be liable for the cost of treatment. He further alleges that he had to sleep on the floor until April 20, 2007, when he got a top bunk. He alleges that it was difficult and painful getting on and off the bunk. He states that prisoners who require different living conditions because of a medical condition generally are placed on medical watch, which is basically segregation; are given a mattress and perhaps a sheet or a blanket; must sleep on the floor; and are not afforded the same privileges as the general population, such as watching TV, access to the law library, and visits.

The plaintiff further alleges that on April 21, 2007, when he asked jail staff for a grievance, he was asked what the grievance was for and was told they would get to him when they could if it was about the law library. The plaintiff states that prisoners are only allowed to visit the library one hour at a time. He states that on April 20, 2007, he was allowed to go to the law library but was told by jail staff that that visit was a "favor." He alleges that "we aren't afforded or able to receive pens or pencils [from] the jail for the last 2 months."

The plaintiff also alleges that he has asked for relief from overcrowding, without any response. He states that the cell blocks are designed to hold 14 prisoners but regularly hold 27-32 prisoners. He states that prisoners are required to sleep on the floor or on dilapidated mattresses, some of which appear to be "varmint and lice infected." He also alleges that there is rampant staph infection, due to overcrowding, and that notices to that effect are posted throughout the jail. He also alleges that overcrowding has caused black mold to collect in the showers; that there is constant noise; that the jail is dirty; and that tempers are short due to the overcrowding. The plaintiff also alleges that prisoners, including himself, have continuous sinus infections, colds, staph infections, and eye problems but the medical staff refuses to "treat it as such."

The plaintiff further alleges that the grievance system afforded to McCracken County Jail prisoners is inadequate. He states that no one from the jail responds to them and that the forms get picked up by jail staff in no particular order and sometimes are read before they reach their destination.

Finally, the plaintiff alleges that the Department of Corrections and the State of Kentucky, particularly the Governor's Office, know of the ongoing mistreatment of the prisoners throughout Kentucky's jail system and choose to do very little about it. He alleges that, to look like they are complying with the courts, the McCracken County jailer spruces up the jail when federal, state, or local inspectors show up.

As relief, the plaintiff asks for monetary damages and punitive damages of $200,000,000 each; injunctive relief in the form of relieving overcrowding, stopping the mistreatment of prisoners, and better medical treatment; and to make sure no reprisals are taken against prisoners if the Court considers this case as a class action.

The plaintiff also has filed a Memorandum of Law, in which he adds citations to various state laws in his discussion regarding the overcrowding of McCracken County Jail (DN 11).

Also included in that document is the plaintiff's statement that he was injured playing basketball approximately four weeks previously and had not been afforded what he feels is appropriate treatment. He alleges that it took the medical staff four days to examine him. He states that he was sent for x-rays, but the x-rays were negative. He alleges that he injured his left shoulder and rotator cuff; has been in continuous pain and suffering; and has nerve damage. He alleges that he continuously sent requests to the medical staff and was seen by Dr. Cecil, who gave him a "20 second" examination and gave him "inflamatories";*fn1 that he still has pain; that he was seen by jail medical staff a few more times; and that, when he was seen by the doctor a second time, he was told that he should be given "an academy award." He alleges that the doctor ordered more "inflamatories" and denied his requests to be seen by an outside specialist to determine if he should have an MRI or CAT scan. The plaintiff asserts that the doctor told him that they could not spend more than $2,000 on the treatment and that his injury was not life threatening. He also alleges that he told the doctor that he had degenerative cervical disc disease and asked for "nerve conductive tests," but was denied.*fn2

Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint (DN 14). He states that he wishes to add as defendants Jailer Osborne; Carol Byrd, a treating assistant physician at Daviess County Detention Center (DCDC); DCDC; Daviess County, and Dr. Cecil, who is contracted by McCracken County Jail. He asserts that he has been placed on "med watch" under camera surveillance, he believes, for retaliatory reasons. He states that when he arrived at the DCDC, he told the Deputy Jailer, who was doing the booking, that he had sustained an injury to his left shoulder while at the McCracken County Jail and that it felt like he was having a "mini-stroke." He also states that the deputy sheriff who had transported him from Paducah had been ordered to transport him to the emergency room to get "clearance" and that that deputy sheriff threatened him with no provocation. He states, "Deputy Sheriff (transport) was . . . mad because had a prior engagement planned." He states that the emergency room doctors did order x-rays and a urine test, but that the x-rays were negative. He states that he believes that the reason he is not being seen by outside specialists, preferably an orthopedic surgeon and a neurologist, and given an MRI and a CAT scan is because of the expense.

He further states that, while at the emergency room, the original deputy sheriff was relieved by a part-time deputy sheriff (name unknown) who pulled out a knife and remarked that he could get blood from the plaintiff when the medical staff were having trouble getting blood from him. He alleges that this treatment violated his civil rights. He asserts that each county facility's inability to treat him because of the cost is not relevant under state law and that he is being systematically denied treatment because of each jail's policy, which is unconstitutional because it violates state law.

II. ANALYSIS

When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the action, if the court determines that it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and (2). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007).

A. Claims on Behalf of Other Similarly Situated Prisoners

By separate order, this Court has denied the plaintiff's motion for permission to proceed as a class action (DN 8). "Standing is 'the threshold question in every federal case.'" Coyne v. Am. Tobacco Co., 183 F.3d 488, 494 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975)). To satisfy the standing requirement of Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff must show, among other things, that he has "suffered some actual or threatened injury due to the alleged illegal conduct of the defendant." Id. The plaintiff may not assert claims that are not personal to him. Coal Operators & Assoc., Inc. v. Babbitt, 291 F.3d 912, 915-16 (6th Cir. 2002). Therefore, the plaintiff in this case lacks standing to raise a claim on behalf of other inmates, and any claims on behalf of other inmates lack subject matter jurisdiction. Babbitt, 291 F.3d at 915 ("[S]tanding to sue . . . is a jurisdictional requirement."). Moreover, prisoners have no constitutional right to assist other prisoners with their legal matters. Gibbs v. Hopkins, 10 F.3d 373, 378 (6th Cir. 1993) (citing Smith v. Maschner, 899 F.2d 940, 950 (10th Cir. 1990)); Glassler v. Rahl, 862 F.2d 706 (8th Cir. 1988)). Therefore, all of the plaintiff's claims brought on behalf of similarly situated prisoners must be dismissed.

B. Claims for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief Against McCracken County Jail

Shortly after he filed his Memorandum of Law, the plaintiff informed the Court that he had been transferred to Owensboro Detention Center (DN 13). Therefore, all of his claims for injunctive and declaratory relief related to the McCracken County Jail are moot.

C. Claims Against the McCracken County Jail and Official-Capacity Claims Against Adams

McCracken County Jail is not a "person" subject to suit under § 1983 because municipal departments, such as jails, are not suable under § 1983. Compare Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir.1991) (holding that a police department may not be sued under § 1983); see also Marbry v. Corr. Med. Serv., No. 99-6706, 2000 WL 1720959, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2000) (holding that a jail is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983). In this situation, it is McCracken County that is the proper defendant in this case. Smallwood v. Jefferson County Gov't, 743 F. Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990) (construing claims brought against the Jefferson County Government, the Jefferson County Fiscal Court, and the Jefferson County Judge Executive as claims against Jefferson County itself). Further, McCracken County is a "person" for purposes of § 1983. Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). The Court will therefore construe the claims against McCracken County Jail as brought against McCracken County.

If an action is brought against an official of a governmental entity in his "official capacity," the suit should be construed as brought against the governmental entity. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). Therefore, in the case at bar, the plaintiff's official-capacity claims against Adams are actually brought against McCracken County, and the Court will construe them as such. See Watson v. Gill, 40 F. App'x. 88, 89 (6th Cir. 2002) ("Because the McCracken County Jail is a department of the county, the county is the appropriate party to address [plaintiff]'s suit.").

D. Official-Capacity Claims for Monetary Damages Against the Head of DOC, the State of Kentucky, and the Governor

The plaintiff sues each of the state defendants in their official capacities. Because he sues the employees in their official capacity, the claims brought against them are deemed claims against the Commonwealth of Kentucky itself. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege that a "person" acting under color of state law deprived the plaintiff of a right secured by the Constitution or federal law. See § 1983. States, state agencies, and state officials sued in their official capacities for money damages are not "persons" subject to suit under § 1983. Will, 491 U.S. at 71. Thus, because the plaintiff seeks money damages from these state officers in their official capacities, he failed to allege cognizable claims under§ 1983. Moreover, the defendants are immune from monetary damages under the Eleventh Amendment. See id.

Because the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and because he seeks monetary relief from defendants who are immune from such relief, the Court will dismiss these claims pursuant to §§ 1915A(b)(1) and (b)(2).

E. Individual-Capacity Claims Against the Head of KDOC and the Governor

The plaintiff states he was housed in a county facility, not a facility that is part of the state's prison system. Nor does his complaint allege any wrongdoing against the plaintiff by the head of the KDOC or the Governor. As already discussed, the plaintiff is not allowed to bring claims on behalf of any other prisoners. And, his request to certify this action as a class action has been denied. Therefore, he may raise only those claims personal to him. ...


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