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Whitaker v. Thornton

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

February 14, 2014

ROGER WAYNE WHITAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
LADONNA THORNTON et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, Jr., Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Roger Wayne Whitaker filed the instant pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action proceeding in forma pauperis. This matter is before the Court on initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Upon review, the Court will dismiss the action.

I.

Plaintiff was a convicted inmate at the Hardin County Detention Center (HCDC) at the time of filing this lawsuit. He has since been transferred and is currently housed at the Grayson County Detention Center. He sues LaDonna Thompson, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections (DOC), and Danny Allen, Jailer of the HCDC. He sues both Defendants in their official and individual capacities.

Plaintiff states that he is a Class D felon but is being housed at a county facility instead of a state prison. He states, "Because I have a Class D felony, I'm being denied the same opportunity that a class A & B & C felony has." Plaintiff maintains that, because he is housed in a county facility instead of a state prison, he is being denied the following: "access to the law library with trained legal aids & grievance aids and access to case workers"; a "full medical screening & dental check"; vocational training & college courses which allow inmates to obtain good-time credit; "access to a recreational yard with weights softball etc."; and "better quality & quantity of food." Plaintiff also contends that he is being denied the opportunity to acquire the same amount of good-time credits as inmates housed in state facilities. He also states that "in class D they take 50 percent of all money you receive toward you[r] housing fee even after becoming a state inmate." He maintains that state inmates are housed with county inmates and are housed "in poor living conditions." He states, "If you receive a disciplinary report you are being denied due process, court call & a hearing & a trained legal aid if you are indigent...." Plaintiff also avers that the DOC does not provide "state issued clothes" or boots to state inmates in county facilities "like you would if you went through R.C.C. assessment center." He states that he is "being charged for indigent packets that are suppost to be free." He avers that he "asked for a medical screening which was denied." Finally, he states that HCDC takes inmates' sheets and blankets for 6 to 8 hours and makes inmates sleep on "ice cold mattresses."

II.

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 complaint, or any portion of it, if the court determines that the complaint 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 §§ 1915A(b)(1), (2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). 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 the plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

III.

While state law may dictate the duration and circumstances under which a convicted inmate can be held in a county facility, an inmate does not enjoy a constitutional right to be housed in any particular facility. See Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 576 (6th Cir. 2005); Biliski v. Harborth, 55 F.3d 160, 162 (5th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (rejecting claim that being held in a county facility was more disagreeable than if plaintiff had immediately been transferred to a state facility). Therefore, Plaintiff's claim based generally on being a state inmate housed in a county facility will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

The Court will now address Plaintiff's specific allegations concerning his incarceration at HCDC.

Law library

Plaintiff contends that he was denied access to a law library at HCDC. While prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts under the First Amendment, Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977), the courts have recognized repeatedly that there is no constitutionally protected right of access to a law library. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350-51 (1996). In order to state a claim for interference with access to the courts, a plaintiff must show actual injury. Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 394 (6th Cir. 1999). "An inmate cannot establish relevant actual injury simply by establishing that his prison's law library or legal assistance program is subpar in some theoretical sense. That would be the precise analog of the healthy inmate claiming constitutional violation because of the inadequacy of the prison infirmary." Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. at 351. Plaintiff fails to allege actual injury or prejudice to a pending legal action or what legal action he may have even been pursuing. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claim that he was denied access to a law library fails to state a constitutional violation, and this claim will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

Medical screening

Plaintiff states that he was denied a medical and dental screening. The Eighth Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment of prisoners, including denial of inadequate medical care. To establish an Eighth Amendment violation premised on inadequate medical care, a prisoner must demonstrate that the defendant acted, or failed to act, with "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)); Terrance v. Northville Reg'l Psychiatric Hosp., 286 F.3d 834, 843 (6th Cir. 2002). Thus, to state a cognizable claim, a prisoner must show that the ...


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