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Russell v. Smith

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

May 4, 2017




         This is a civil rights action brought by two state prisoners pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiffs leave to proceed in forma pauperis. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 594 U.S. 199 (2007). For the following reasons, this action will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.


         Plaintiffs Yale L. Balcar and Clarence Russell, inmates at Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR), bring this action against KSR Warden Aaron Smith, KSR official Captain Williams, and Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) Commissioner Rodney Ballard, in their official and individual capacities. Plaintiffs allege that on February 8, 2017, while Russell was pushing Balcar in his wheelchair, the two were attacked by three other inmates. Plaintiffs claim that these inmates pushed Russell “around” so that they could get to Balcar, and then stabbed Balcar in the eye and face. Plaintiffs further allege that Balcar was “taken to medical” for treatment of his stab wound and sent to an eye doctor “for the damage to the eye.”

         Plaintiffs seem to allege that KSR Defendants Warden Smith and Williams witnessed this assault on camera but did nothing to stop it. Plaintiffs further allege that these Defendants placed them in a “situation of danger from other who are known to be aggressive and violent.” Plaintiffs also state that the two KSR Defendants failed “to follow their own rules, regulations, or policies concerning protection of plaintiffs.” In addition, Balcar contends that he wants to file attempted murder charges against the imates who attacked him but that Defendant Williams is “trying to cover it up.”

         Plaintiffs state there are assaults, beatings, and stabbings at KSR “almost every day” and that “at least three” have been murdered so far this year. Plaintiffs further allege that “prisoners are getting hurt or kill daily and [Defendants Warden Smith and Williams] want this to happen. They refuse to stop all assault.”

         Plaintiffs claim that Defendants Warden Smith and Williams violated their constitutional rights by failing to protect them from other inmates. They state that Defendants Smith and Williams “encourage inmate assaults or actively permit assault to inmates. They stand by and do nothing about an assault that they witness. . . . They will place plaintiffs or prisoners in a situation of danger from other who are know to be aggressive and violent.” Plaintiffs also contend that Defendant Warden Smith fails “to classify plaintiffs or inmates and separate the particularly violent or vulnerable through prison officials.”

         Plaintiffs further claim that Defendant Warden Smith was negligent by failing “to keep prisoners safe and protect them from harm. He know that he is short of over two hunder guards and know the problems of gangs and their assault of prisoners. He failed to in his duty to keep Plaintiffs safe.”

         Finally, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant Commissioner Ballard was negligent “for letting Warden Smith for his breach of duty to keep prisoners safe and protect from assault and not having enough guards to protect the unreasonable harm.”

         As relief, Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief in the form of a “TRO-Protect Order.”


         Because Plaintiffs are prisoners seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court must review the instant action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the court determines that it 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. See § 1915A(b)(1), (2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d at 608.

         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)). “[A] pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, while liberal, this standard of review does require more than the bare assertion of legal conclusions. See 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. ...

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