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Elliott v. Causey

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 13, 2013

MISSY CAUSEY et al., Defendants.


JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff, Keenan S. Elliott, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 594 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.


Plaintiff, who was incarcerated at the Warren County Regional Jail (WCRJ) when he filed his complaint, named as Defendants in his complaint the following WCRJ employees: Missy Causey, Tim Robinson, Heather Miller, Taffy Stafford, Kim Keith, Jackie Strode, Miles Douglas, Adam Jackson, Pat Watt, and Lt. Shawn Wittsley.[1] Plaintiff later filed an amended complaint adding as Defendants the following WCRJ employees: Major William Baker, Major Jeff Robinson, Sergeant Rebecca, Captain Stillman, and Kalie Weatherford (DN 19).[2]

Plaintiff states that on or about January 12, 2013, after a search of his cell by Lt. Tim Robinson and Officer Heather Miller, he returned to find his $185 Air Jordan shoes torn open. Plaintiff states that as he was leaving his cell before the search he showed Defendants Robinson and Miller his medical receipt stating that he is allowed to wear those shoes at all times due to "pins" in his foot. Plaintiff states: "[Defendant Robinson] said no you can't[.] I said so your overiding medical[.] [H]e just laughed and said you can't wear them. After we returned I told [Defendant Robinson] my shoes were torn up[.] He said write a grievance."

Apparently, Plaintiff filed a grievance about this incident with Defendant Pat Watt. He states that after Defendant Missy Causey checked with medical it was determined that he was allowed to wear his shoes at all times due to having pins in his foot. He alleges that, after he filed grievances, Defendant Causey immediately changed his medical receipt to reflect that he could not wear the shoes during a cell search. He also alleges that other inmates wear their shoes all the time, even to court and recreation. He states that Defendant Causey told him to get an attorney, that she has never lost a case, that he should not to write anymore grievances, and that she does not have to answer anything he says. He asks for monetary and punitive damages.


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. When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). 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, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

A. Due Process claim relating to destruction of his shoes

A prisoner claiming an unauthorized, intentional deprivation of property in violation of the Due Process Clause must show that state post-deprivation remedies are inadequate. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 531-33 (1984); Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 479 (6th Cir. 1995). Kentucky has adequate post-deprivation remedies for the confiscation or destruction of property, such as a tort action for conversion against individual defendants. See Wagner v. Higgins, 754 F.2d 186, 192 (6th Cir. 1985). Consequently, Plaintiff's claims related to the damage to his shoes must be dismissed.

B. Claim regarding grievances

To the extent his allegations concern the denial of his grievances, such allegations do not state a § 1983 claim. A plaintiff's claim is against the subjects of his grievances, not those who merely decided whether to grant or deny the grievances. See Skinner v. Govorchin, 463 F.3d 518, 525 (6th Cir. 2006) ("Skinner's complaint regarding Wolfenbarger's denial of Skinner's grievance appeal, it is clear, fails to state a claim."); Lee v. Mich. Parole Bd., 104 F.App'x 490, 493 (6th Cir. 2004) ("Section 1983 liability may not be imposed simply because a defendant denied an administrative grievance or failed to act based upon information contained in a grievance."); Simpson v. Overton, 79 F.App'x 117, 120 (6th Cir. 2003) ("[T]he denial of an appeal cannot in itself constitute sufficient personal involvement to state a claim for a constitutional violation."); Martin v. Harvey, 14 F.App'x 307, 309 (6th Cir. 2001) ("The denial of the grievance is not the same as the denial of a request to receive medical care."). Thus, where the only allegation against a defendant relates to the denial of a grievance, a plaintiff fails to allege any personal involvement by the defendant in the alleged constitutional violation.

C. Discrimination claim

Plaintiff also alleges that the destruction of his shoes was a "deliberate act of discrimination." He states other inmates were allowed ...

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