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Elliott v. Commonwealth of Kentucky

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

November 13, 2014



JOHN G. HEYBURN, II, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Keenan 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, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed.


Plaintiff, who is incarcerated in the Kentucky State Reformatory, names as Defendants the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Honorable Judge Steve Wilson, Prosecutor Amy Milliken, and Attorney Michael Bratcher, Plaintiff's former attorney. In his complaint, Plaintiff states that he is asking the Court to enter a default judgment and a summary judgment against all Defendants in a state-court case, Keenan Elliott v. William Elliot, 09-CI-0213. He complains that this state-court case is taking too long. He states, "I [] feel that whats the sue of wasting tax payers money, and what funds I scrape up. When I can't get the proper help from the courts or my ex attorney. As you view I have to fight him (Michael Bratcher[)] over his malpractice... I have many times asked the courts of Warren County to give me counsel or even transport me to all court hearings All Denied." (Emphasis in original.) He asks this Court to grant him a change of venue on any and all cases dealing with Warren County, Kentucky, because he was sentenced "by these same people, this is a big personal conflict. Mr. Wilson sentenced mo it but I'm in jail but the ones that come against me are free." Plaintiff asks this Court to:

Grant me parole on the rest of my sentence[.] I have 3 yrs left on a 13 yr sentence, this is to get my affairs taken care of. And to move on with my life, this Warren County Court has nothing but hindered my life. Justice has not been fair out of this Court of Jail in Warren County Kentucky. I do feel its prejudice, not by color but deliberate indifference, me (Keenan Elliott) serving time for theft by unlawful taking, sentenced by Hon. Judge Mr. Steve Wilson, and no one that has come against me for thousand of dollars, not in jail or prison, and also the Prosecutors Office have my federal claims at hand. Big, conflict.

As relief, he requests monetary and punitive damages and to "be released ASAP." He attaches a docket sheet from case number 09-CI-0213 in the Warren Circuit Court, showing that Defendant Wilson is the judge in that case.

After filing his complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend (DN 5). His motion is GRANTED.[1] That document asks the Court to add as Defendants Corey Smith Bell, a federal prisoner, and William Ray, Jr., William Elliott's son. The amended complaint asks that these new Defendants each be held liable "for knowing and selling and receiving of my property and add the max penalty of jail time allowed."


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).

Claim against Commonwealth of Kentucky

The Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against the Commonwealth of Kentucky, including the named state actors in their official capacities, see Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 572 (6th Cir. 2008), for damages by operation of the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment specifically prohibits federal courts from entertaining suits brought directly against the states. Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 687-88 (1993) ("Absent waiver, neither a State nor agencies acting under its control may be subject to suit in federal court." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)); Daleure v. Kentucky, 119 F.Supp.2d 683, 687 (W.D. Ky. 2000).

Although the Eleventh Amendment does not address the situation where a state's own citizen initiates suit against it, case law has interpreted the amendment in such a way as to foreclose that possibility. Barton v. Summers, 293 F.3d 944, 948 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890)). The Sixth Circuit has opined that "[a] state is sovereign within the structure of the federal system, and it is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of an individual without its consent.'" Id. (quoting Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996)).

Because Plaintiff's claims against the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the state actors in their official capacities for damages, Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 572 (6th Cir. 2008) (§ 1983 suit against state employees in their official capacities for damages fail to state a claim), are barred by the ...

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