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Odom v. Pheral

United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky, Paducah Division

February 3, 2015

GLENN D. ODOM, II Plaintiff,
GARY PHERAL, et al. Defendants.


Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

This matter comes before the Court pursuant to the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Tammy Smith, Raymond Vinson, and Diane Yeager. (Docket No. 121.) Plaintiff Glenn D. Odom, proceeding pro se, in forma pauperis has responded. (Docket No. 122.) Odom has also submitted a motion for summary judgment. (Docket No. 120.) This matter stands ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will DENY both the motions of the Defendants’ and Odom.

Factual Background

Odom is an inmate confined at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (“KSP”) in Lyon County, Kentucky. He initially alleged claims against nineteen defendants, seeking monetary damages, punitive damages, and several varieties of injunctive relief against numerous individuals associated with KSP. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), this Court screened Odom’s complaint. Two claims survived this initial review, each contending that KSP mailroom staff improperly opened two pieces of Odom’s mail outside his presence. (See Docket No. 61.)

Odom attached to his complaint the envelopes at issue, postmarked August 10, 2012, and November 23, 2012. The former indicates a return address from the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) in Louisville, Kentucky, and is clearly marked “Privileged & Confidential Legal Mail.” (See Docket No. 121-1.) The envelope contained a letter from the ACLU dated November 19, 2012, in which the organization denied Odom’s request for legal assistance. (See Docket No. 121-3.) The latter is marked “Legal Mail, Attorney Client Privilege, ” and bears a return address from the ALCU in Indianapolis, Indiana. (See Docket No. 121-2.) According to Odom, Pheral “stole” the letter contained within. Odom claims that this letter “positively inquired” into his allegations and referenced a questionnaire that Odom says he failed to receive.

Legal Standard

A. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss or Motion for Summary Judgment

Although the Defendants’ have styled their motion as seeking summary judgment, they cite Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) as its basis, arguing that Odom fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted. Different standards apply to each kind of motion. When evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must “construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff” and “accept all of the factual allegations as true.” Riverview Health Institute LLC v. Medical Mutual of Ohio, 601 F.3d 505, 512 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal citation mitted). Such a motion tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s complaint. By contrast, a court will grant a motion for summary judgment only if the pleadings and other record evidence “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Cox v. Kentucky Dep’t of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 149 (6th Cir. 1995).

It does not appear that non-pleading matters were attached to the motion. Therefore, the motion is properly considered a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b), in part to avoid a potentially serious defect: were the motion construed as one for summary judgment, Odom should have been provided an opportunity to submit evidentiary materials in opposition to the Defendants’ motion. Although Odom has not suggested that he possesses any such evidentiary materials, the Court will treat the Defendants’ filing as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b).

B. Odom’s Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

“[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of his position; he must present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably find for him. See Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment: “[T]he mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate.” Monette v. Elec. Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir. 1996), abrogated on other grounds by Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., 681 F.3d 312 (6th Cir. 2012).

Furthermore, federal courts hold pro se pleadings to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991). However, the Court’s “duty to be ‘less stringent’ with pro se complaints does not require [it] to conjure up unpled allegations.” McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation omitted). Accordingly, the Court need not “explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, ” as this would “transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper ...

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