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Lowe v. Kentucky Court of Justice

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

April 2, 2015

KURT J. LOWE, Plaintiff,
v.
KENTUCKY COURT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

Kurt J. Lowe is a pretrial detainee confined at the Boone County Jail in Burlington, Kentucky. Proceeding without counsel, Lowe has filed an original and amended civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [R. 1, 24] The Court has granted Lowe's motion to proceed in forma pauperis by prior order. [R. 23]

This matter is before the Court to address a number of motions filed by the parties, and to conduct a preliminary review of Lowe's complaint because he has been granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis and because he asserts claims against government officials. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. Upon its own motion, a district court must dismiss any claim that 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. McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607-08 (6th Cir. 1997). The Court evaluates Lowe's complaint under a more lenient standard because he is not represented by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003). At this stage, the Court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, and his legal claims are liberally construed in his favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

I

In his original and amended complaints, Lowe names as defendants the Kentucky Court of Justice; the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy ("DPA"); the Kentucky State Police ("KSP"); the Boone County Sheriff's Department; the Boone County Jail; Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court John D. Minton, Jr.; DPA attorneys Edward C. Monahan, Steve Florian, and Rachael Neugent; KSP Captain Anthony Taulbee; Boone County Sheriff Michael Helmig; and Boone County Jailer Edward Prindle. Each of the individual defendants is named in his or her individual and official capacity. [R. 1, pp. 1-2; R. 24, pp. 1-2]

Lowe alleges that for more than a decade, the Boone County Sheriff's Department "has been used to brutalize and retaliate against citizens who exercise protected rights..." Lowe contends that the Boone County Sheriff's Department and certain unnamed staff at the Boone County Jail inflict emotional distress and use isolation cells to "break down" innocent citizens and force them to plead guilty to the charges against them under duress. Lowe further alleges that the Kentucky Court of Justice "has been engaged in a court case fixing scandal, to cover up the brutal tactics, " and that DPA attorneys have intentionally rendered ineffective assistance of counsel to perpetuate the scandal. Id. at p. 4. These allegations are essentially the same as those made by Lowe in Lowe v. Boone Co. Sheriff's Dept., No. 2:14-92-KKC (E.D. Ky. 2014) (" Lowe I "), now being asserted against the state judiciary and public defenders office as additional participants in the conspiracy.

With respect to the Kentucky Court of Justice, Lowe contends that judges employed by it have violated his due process rights by conspiring together to "fix" his criminal case, violated his right to a speedy trial, denied him bail, intimidated and retaliated against him for reporting "the frauds, " and ignored his complaints. Lowe alleges that Kentucky Chief Justice Minton ignored his complaints and supporting evidence of fraud and corruption in the Kentucky courts. [R. 24, p. 5]

With respect to the DPA and its attorneys, Lowe alleges that DPA attorneys Florian and Neugent conspired with court officials to deprive him of unspecified constitutional and statutory rights and retaliated against him, and that DPA Public Advocate Monahan ignored his complaints and evidence of fraud and corruption. [R. 24, pp. 5-6]

Lowe alleges that KSP and KSP Capt. Taulbee "obstructed justice" in the investigation of an assault by Boone County jail staff. With respect to the Boone County Jail, Lowe alleges that jail staff have assaulted him; retaliated against him for filing grievances; conspired with the county court officials to deprive him of his due process rights; concealed, tampered with, and fabricated evidence, and made defamatory statements about him.[1] [R. 24, pp. 6-7]

Lowe's complaint is largely devoid of factual details regarding the acts allegedly taken in furtherance of the conspiracy, the acts of retaliation about which he complains, or the specific rights he contends were violated by each of the identified defendants. Lowe does contend that the defendants violated his constitutional rights generally, and makes unexplained references to the right to be free from unwarranted searches, seizures, and arrest; excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment; as well as for selective law enforcement, malicious prosecution, and prosecutorial misconduct. Lowe asserts pendent state law claims for defamation, "malice, " "reckless & outrageous conduct, " intentional infliction of emotional distress and mental anguish, retaliation, intimidation, coercion, undue influence, duress, negligence, failure to train, failure to supervise, excessive force and criminal assault. Finally, Lowe asserts a separate claim under the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1964 et seq. ("RICO"). [R. 24, pp. 7-9]

II

As an initial matter, the Court will dismiss Lowe's civil RICO claim because Lowe claims only injury to his person, not to his property or business, and fails to allege either a pattern of racketeering activity or that any injury flowed from racketeering activity. Cf. Santana v. Cook Co. Bd. of Review, 700 F.Supp.2d 1023, 1034-35 (N.D. Ill. 2010), aff'd, 679 F.3d 613, 618 (7th Cir. 2012); Halpin v. Christ, 405 F.Appx. 403, 405-06 (11th Cir. 2010); Carpenter v. Kloptoski, No. 1:08-CV-2233, 2010 WL 891825, at *10 (M.D. Pa. March 10, 2010) ("Personal injuries, loss of earnings, and other indirect injuries do not confer standing under RICO."); Pagan v. Westchester Co., No. 12Civ. 7669(PAE)(JCF), 2014 WL 982876, at *17-20 (S.D.N.Y. March 12, 2014).

A

Lowe has sued three state agencies or entities - the Kentucky Court of Justice, the Department of Public Advocacy, and the Kentucky State Police - both directly as named defendants and through his assertion of official capacity claims against Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Minton; DPA attorneys Monahan, Florian, and Neugent; and KSP Capt. Taulbee. Cf. Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003) ("While personal-capacity suits seek to impose personal liability upon a government official for actions he takes under color of ...


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