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Deuerling v. Claud

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

May 18, 2015

PAUL DEUERLING, Plaintiff,
v.
KEN CLAUD et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Paul Deuerling, a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, initiated this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by filing a complaint on his own paper (DN 1). The Clerk of Court sent Plaintiff a deficiency notice directing him, in part, to resubmit his complaint on a Court-approved form. Plaintiff complied with the deficiency notice and filed his complaint on the appropriate form (DN 4). This action is now before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 608 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, this action will be dismissed.

I. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Plaintiff Deuerling brings his action against three Defendants: (1) Ken Claud, the Jailer at the Calloway County Jail (CCJ) where Plaintiff is presently incarcerated; (2) Dennis Foust, a Circuit Court Judge[1] in Marshall County, Kentucky; and (3) Mark Blankenship, the Commonwealth Attorney for Marshall County, Kentucky. Plaintiff sues Defendants Claud and Foust in their individual and official capacities. He fails to state the capacity in which he sues Defendant Blankenship.[2] Plaintiff seeks punitive damages and injunctive relief. As to the injunctive relief, Plaintiff states, "Refer to 28 U.S.C. § 2241." In the originally filed complaint, Plaintiff requested that "[a]ll Sentences Being Served and Any and All pending Cases Against Mr. Deuerling Must immediately Be Dismissed and Vacated as well as Compensatory and Punitive Damages in the Amount of $1, 000, 000.00."

In his complaint, Plaintiff states as follows:

[O]n January 30, 2015 legal Mail Concerning the plaintiff Addressed to Retained Counsel was opened by jail Staff and the letter Removed then 8 Days the letter/Envelope was shoved under the door of Cell #228 in An Attempt to deceive plaintiff into thinking the envelope had Been Returned to Sender. First, the Envelope was opened in violation of Federal Law pertaining to Attorney/Client Correspondence and in Addition the envelope was Not Stamped "Return to Sender" thus it would be impossible for the Murray post office to have Returned it. In Addition the postMaster of Murray Kentucky has Verified that the Envelope (Marked plaintiffs Exhibit 1[3]) Did Not Come through the Murray post office and Could Not have Been Returned to plaintiff As there was No "Return to Sender" stamp.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 it 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d at 604. A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 90 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The trial 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. 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)).

"[A] district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true." Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). "But the district court need not accept a bare assertion of legal conclusions.'" Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). The court's duty "does not require [it] to conjure up unpled allegations, " McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979), or to create a claim for a plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To command otherwise would require the Court "to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Official-Capacity Claims

1. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

Defendants Foust and Blankenship are sued in their official capacities as employees of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, [4] a state and its agencies may not be sued in federal court, regardless of the relief sought, unless the state has waived its immunity or Congress has overridden it. See Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993) ("This [Eleventh Amendment] withdrawal of jurisdiction effectively confers an immunity from suit. Thus, this Court has consistently held that an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.'") (quoting Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-663 (1974)); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 120 (1984) ("[I]f a lawsuit against state officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleges a constitutional claim, the federal court is barred from awarding damages against the state treasury even though the claim arises under the Constitution. Similarly, if a § 1983 action alleging a constitutional claim is brought directly against a State, the Eleventh Amendment bars a federal court from granting any relief on that claim.") (citation omitted); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) ("There can be no doubt, however, that suit against the State and [one of its departments] is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless [the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit."). The Commonwealth of Kentucky has not waived its immunity, see Adams v. Morris, 90 F.Appx. 856, 857 (6th Cir. 2004), and in enacting § 1983, Congress did not intend to override the traditional sovereign immunity of the states. Whittington v. Milby, 928 F.2d 188, 193-94 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979)); see Ferritto v. Ohio Dep't of Highway Safety, No. 90-3475, 1991 WL 37824, at *2 (6th Cir. Mar. 19, 1991) ("The Eleventh Amendment prohibits actions against states and state agencies under section 1983 and section 1985.").

The Eleventh Amendment similarly bars damages claims against state officials sued in their official capacity. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985) ("This [Eleventh Amendment] bar remains in effect when State officials are sued for damages in their official capacity."); McCrary v. Ohio Dep't of Human Servs., No. 99-3597, 2000 WL 1140750, at *3 (6th Cir. Aug. 8, 2000) (finding § 1983 and § 1985 claims against ...


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