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Tarter v. Kentucky State Reformatory

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

April 28, 2017

TROY TARTER, Plaintiff,


          David J. Hale, Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Troy Tarter, a prisoner incarcerated at the Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR), filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The complaint[1] is 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 that follow, this action will be dismissed.


         In the complaint, Plaintiff names the following four Defendants in this action: (1) KSR; (2) Aaron Smith, the Warden at KSR; (3) Casey Dowden, a Correctional Officer at KSR; and (3) Randy Orway, [2] also a Correctional Officer at KSR. Plaintiff sues the individual Defendants in both their individual and official capacities.

         According to the complaint and documents attached thereto, Plaintiff states that on December 3, 2014, his television was stolen by another inmate. Plaintiff states that the following day, December 4, 2014, Defendants Dowden and Orway entered Plaintiff's cell to conduct a search for his missing television. On this same date, Defendants Dowden and Orway searched the dorm looking for Plaintiff's television. Plaintiff represents that they located the television in the cell of another inmate. According to Plaintiff, Defendants Dowden and Orway failed to lock up the inmate for stealing Plaintiff's television. Plaintiff states that on December 4, 2014, the inmate who had taken Plaintiff's television assaulted Plaintiff and “Beat the living He** out of Plaintiff.” Plaintiff represents that he was taken to the University of Louisville Healthcare Emergency Room for treatment. According to Plaintiff, as a result of the assault, he sustained “a Head injury or a contusion, . . . bruis[ing] all over his body, lower Back injury, right hip and left leg injury.”

         Plaintiff asserts failure to protect and deliberate indifference claims against Defendants. He seeks monetary relief, protection from assault, and a declaration that the “acts and omissions” described in the complaint violated Plaintiff's rights.


         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 district 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).


         A. Kentucky State Reformatory

         Title 42, Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere. As such, it has two basic requirements: (1) the deprivation of federal statutory or constitutional rights by (2) a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Flint v. Ky. Dep t of Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). KSR is part of the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC is a department within the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. See Exec. Order No. 2004-730 (July 9, 2004); Ky. Rev. Stat. § 12.250. A state and its agencies, however, are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); see also Crockett v. Turney Ctr. Indus. Prison, No. 96-6067, 1997 WL 436563, at *1 (6th Cir. Aug. 1, 1997) (“The prison is a state agency . . . . A state agency is not considered a ‘person' subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”). Because KSR is not a “person” under the Act, the Court will dismiss the claims against KSR for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         Additionally, the Eleventh Amendment[3] acts as a bar to all claims for relief against KSR. A state and its agencies, such as the DOC, may not be sued in federal court, regardless of the relief sought, unless the state has waived its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment or Congress has overridden it. Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 124 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 78l, 782 (l978). In enacting § l983, Congress did not intend to override the traditional sovereign immunity of the states. Whittington v. Milby, 928 F.2d l88, 193-94 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (l979)).

         Accordingly, the Court will dismiss KSR and all claims against KSR for ...

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