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Hunter v. Parnell

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

July 27, 2017



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         Plaintiff, Michael Hunter, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, initiated this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. 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, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.


         Plaintiff is a convicted inmate currently housed at the Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR). His complaint concerns incidents occurring while he was housed at the Fulton County Jail. He sues in their individual and official capacities Fulton County Jailer Ricky Parnell, Fulton County Jail Captain Daniel Thomas, and Department of Public Advocacy (DPA) attorney Margot Merrill.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Parnell and Thomas brought contraband, including a cell phone and tobacco, into the jail and gave them to Plaintiff. He states that he obtained a body camera and started recording “everything they did.” Plaintiff states that, thereafter, Defendant Thomas called him into his office where he held a loaded gun to Plaintiff's head and threatened to kill Plaintiff “if he did not keep his mouth shut.” He states that after this incident, Defendants Parnell and Thomas “paid other inmate to assault or beat the living hell out me, ” causing him extreme emotional distress.

         Plaintiff also states that unnamed jail guards failed to properly supervise the jail, allowing the assault by other inmates to occur and failed to provide Plaintiff with medical assistance. He also alleges: “All defendant's recklessness, failure to properly train and manage jail guards or medical care of the county of Fulton . . . and failure to adequately supervise and protect Hunter from acts complained of cause the deprivation of Hunter rights.” Plaintiff alleges that, after the assault, two Fulton County Jail guards came to Plaintiff to help him escape because they were afraid that Defendants Parnell and Thomas were planning to kill him. He states that he was on the run for three days until he was caught and that escape charges were filed against him leading to a five-year sentence, which he is now serving.

         Plaintiff alleges that medical care at Fulton County Jail was inadequate and that medical records were not used to assist diagnoses. He states that he often had to “beg” for basic medical care. He states that the Fulton County Jail had numerous insects and that he had to sleep on the floor or a table due to overcrowding. He alleges that his mat was inadequate and unsanitary and the floor was dirty. He also alleges that there was inadequate ventilation or fresh air.

         Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Thomas, in addition to threatening him with a gun, put him in segregation; denied him proper food, hygiene material, and medical care; and intercepted legal papers in retaliation. He further alleges that Defendant Thomas committed the torts of intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Merrill, his attorney in the criminal case regarding his escape, would not listen to him regarding his reasons for escape and that he could not get a fair trial because she was in a relationship with a Commonwealth's Attorney. He alleges that the trial court violated his due process rights by improperly admitting hearsay statements and by not allowing the defense attorney to question prosecution witnesses regarding bias and credibility. He also alleges that he was denied effective assistance of counsel in a number of ways.

         As relief, Plaintiff asks for a declaration that Defendants violated his constitutional rights; injunctive relief in the form of ordering Defendants to drop the escape charges and release him from prison and for Defendants Parnell and Thomas to “cease their violence and threats toward Plaintiff”; and compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. ANALYSIS

         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 action, 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 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and (2). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The 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. When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Injunctive and declaratory relief

         Because Plaintiff has been transferred away from the Fulton County Jail, his claims for injunctive and declaratory relief are moot. See Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1996) (“[T]o the extent Kensu seeks declaratory and injunctive relief his claims are now moot as he is no longer confined to ...

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