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Johnson v. Murray State University

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

March 7, 2014



THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Jeffrey Johnson, filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed.


On September 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant action, naming as Defendants Murray State University; Cynthia Elliott; Camisha Duffy; Nancy Phillips; Velvet Wilson; Janet Harper; Debra Shepard; Cheryl Sons; Stacy Johnson; Boyd Baxter; and Jothan Baxter. He sues each in their individual and official capacities. He requests compensatory and punitive damages.

Plaintiff previously filed suit against Murray State University; "Randy Dunn Murray State University President Velvet Wilson Disability Services Nancy Philips teacher Camisha Duffy Equal Opportunity Janet Harper Financial Aid Debra Shepard Financial Aid Cheryl Son Vocational Rehab Steve leach Wellness Center Aden Murray library Tracy Roberts Registration Boyd Baxter Student Stacy Johnson Student." See Johnson v. Murray State University, Civil Action No. 5:13CV-14-R. That suit was dismissed on June 11, 2013. Both that complaint and the instant one concern allegations against Murray State University and various of its employees and students who all, Plaintiff alleges, discriminated against him and violated his rights while he was a student there. In the instant complaint, he alleges that at Murray State University "discrimination is part of the curriculum as well as sexual harrassment, unethical conduct, civil right violation, tortuous act, denial of education material in federal funded programs and violation of Americans with Disibilitys Act." The only Defendants about whom any specific allegations are made in the body of the complaint are Murray State University, Camisha Duffy, Cheryl Sons, and Cynthia Elliott.


This Court must review the instant action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d at 604-05. Upon review, this Court must dismiss a case at any time if the Court determines that the action 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). 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 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). A complaint, or portion thereof, should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted "only if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Brown v. Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 867 (6th Cir. 2000).

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. Res judicata

The doctrine of res judicata prohibits a plaintiff from relitigating a claim that was asserted or which could have been asserted in earlier litigation against the same defendants or their privies. Federated Dep't Stores v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 398 (1981); United States v. McMichael, 525 F.Appx. 388, 392 (6th Cir. -). Where jurisdiction in the prior litigation was based on a federal question, a federal court applies federal law in determining the preclusive effect of a prior federal judgment. See Blonder-Tongue Labs., Inc. v. Univ. of Ill. Found., 402 U.S. 313, 324 n.12 (1971) ("It has been held in non-diversity cases since Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, that the federal courts will apply their own rule of res judicata. ") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). The elements of res judicata are: "(1) there is a final decision on the merits of the first action by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) the second action involves the same parties, or their privies, as the first; (3) the second action raises an issue actually litigated or which should have been litigated in the first action; and (4) there is identity of claims." Walker v. General Tel. Co., 25 F.Appx. 332, 336 (6th Cir. 2001) (per curiam).

The Court will consider each of these four elements in order to determine whether Plaintiff's present suit is barred.

1. Final decision on the merits

A dismissal of a complaint pursuant to the provisions of § 1915(e) "constitutes an adjudication on the merits for purposes of res judicata. " Burton v. Cleveland Ohio Empowerment Zone, 102 F.Appx. 461, 463 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 34 (1992); Smith v. Morgan, 75 F.Appx. 505, 507 (6th Cir. 2003)). The dismissal of claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) "creates a res judicata bar to the presentation of further in forma pauperis cases raising the same claims." Taylor v. Reynolds, 22 F.Appx. 537, 539 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Harmon v. Webster, 263 F.Appx. 844, 845-46 (11th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (dismissal of prior complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) constituted an adjudication on the merits for res judicata purposes). Thus, the first element is satisfied.

2. Parties

The parties in the prior suit and the present action are nearly identical. All but two of the Defendants in the instant case were named in the prior action. ...

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