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Cooper v. Bower

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky

February 28, 2017

MICHAEL COOPER PLAINTIFF
v.
SOJNIA BOWER DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS B. RUSSELL JUNIOR JUDGE UNITED STATE DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court upon a motion for reconsideration filed by pro se Plaintiff Michael Cooper (DN 69). In his motion, Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider his allegations against certain Kentucky State Penitentiary officials, which were dismissed upon initial screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, to reinstate them as Defendants, and to consider new allegations against new Defendants. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff initiated this prisoner civil rights action on December 18, 2015. In his initial complaint (DN 1), he named one Defendant. Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint on April 4, 2016 (DN 10). The first amended complaint included retaliation claims against twelve additional Defendants. Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on April 18, 2016 (DN 12); this complaint included retaliation and other claims against “all staff mentioned herein.” On June 20, 2016, the Court conducted an initial review of these complaints, and allowed Plaintiff's claims to proceed against sixteen Defendants (DNs 23 & 24). Then, between June 30, 2016, and August 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed three additional amended complaints. The Court then entered a Memorandum and Order on September 19, 2016, advising Plaintiff that all of his additional allegations and claims in this action had to be set forth in one final third amended complaint (DN 46). Plaintiff was also informed that this third amended complaint would supersede the three additional amended complaints he had attempted to file. Plaintiff filed his third amended complaint on September 29, 2016 (DN 52). On November 10, 2016, the Court conducted its initial screening of Plaintiff's third amended complaint, allowing certain claims to proceed and dismissing others (DN 63). The Court also entered a revised Scheduling Order to govern the development of all of the claims the Court had allowed to proceed (DN 64).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Plaintiff's motion is essentially a motion for reconsideration and a motion to amend and/or supplement his complaint.

         The Court may reconsider interlocutory orders under either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) or its inherent, common law authority to control the administration of the case before it. Rodriguez v. Tenn. Laborers Health & Welfare Fund, 89 F. App'x 949, 959 (6th Cir. 2004); Mallory v. Eyrich, 922 F.2d 1273, 1282 (6th Cir. 1991); see also Simmerman v. Ace Bayou Corp., 304 F.R.D. 516, 518 (E.D. Ky. 2015). Reconsideration of an interlocutory order is appropriate where “there is (1) an intervening change of controlling law; (2) new evidence available; or (3) a need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Louisville/ Jefferson Cty. Metro Gov't v. Hotels.com, L.P., 590 F.3d 381, 389 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Rodriguez, 89 F. App'x at 959) (internal quotation marks omitted). The standard vests the Court with “significant discretion.” Rodriguez, 89 F. App'x at 959 n.7.

         Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the amendment of complaints.Rule 15 provides that leave to amend should be freely given when justice so requires. The Sixth Circuit had held that a district court must consider the following factors when determining whether to grant or deny a motion to amend:

Undue delay in filing, lack of notice to the opposing party, bad faith by the moving party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment are all factors which may affect the decision.Richardson v. Rose Transp., Inc., 617 F. App'x 480, 486 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Wade v. Knoxville Utils. Bd., 259 F.3d 452, 458-59 (6th Cir. 2001)

         III. ANALYSIS

          A. Steven Ford and William Thomas

         In his motion, Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider his claims against Defendants Ford and Thomas because “they rejected [his] reading material violating [his] First Amendment.”

          In its screening of Plaintiff's third amended complaint, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Ford and Thomas because Plaintiff only alleged that they did not intervene and require Defendant Beavers, whom Plaintiff states is their subordinate, to provide Plaintiff with the copy of the Quran he had received in the mail. In its reading of Plaintiff's third amended complaint, it appeared to the Court that Plaintiff sought to hold these Defendants liable simply because they were copied on a memorandum that Plaintiff received from Defendant Beavers regarding this issue. The Court held that Plaintiff failed to state a claim against these Defendants based upon these allegations because government officials cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009); Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2009).

         Plaintiff attaches several exhibits to his motion to reconsider. The first exhibit is a memorandum from Defendant Ford advising Plaintiff that he received his correspondence regarding his rejected mail and that Plaintiff had five days to appeal a mail rejection. The memorandum then notes: “All mail rejections are handled at the warden's level.” Plaintiff's exhibit also includes the memorandum he attached to his third amended complaint which shows that Defendants Ford and Thomas were copied on a memorandum from Defendant Beavers to Plaintiff regarding the rejection of Plaintiff's mail. These exhibits show that the Court's initial analysis of Plaintiff's claims against these Defendants was correct - Plaintiff has not stated a claim against these Defendants. As noted in its Memorandum Opinion and Order, “a claimed constitutional violation must be based upon active unconstitutional behavior.” Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 575-76 (6th Cir. 2008); Greene v. Barber, 310 F.3d 889, 899 (6th Cir. 2002). The acts of one's subordinates are not enough, nor can supervisory liability be based upon the mere ...


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