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Powell v. Osborne

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

August 14, 2017



          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff Marcus Powell, a prisoner incarcerated in the Daviess County Detention Center (DCDC), filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (DN 1). The complaint is before the Court for initial review 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, the Court will dismiss the claim regarding Plaintiff being housed with county inmates and allow the other claims to proceed.


         Plaintiff names David Osborne, the Jailer at the DCDC as the sole Defendant in this action. Plaintiff indicates that he is suing Defendant in both his individual and official capacities, and he seeks monetary damages. Plaintiff also seeks to be transferred to “a state facility that has a law library, ” for a law library to be “installed” at DCDC, and for state and county inmates to “be separated.”

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is “denying [him] of [his] constitutional rights by not having a adequate legal law library here at the detention center, where I can file a meaningful direct appeal from my conviction . . . .” According to Plaintiff, he has been incarcerated at the DCDC since March 31, 2016. He states that he has filed numerous grievances about the lack of a law library and represents that he has been told that he has “no right to legal materials or a law library.” Plaintiff states that he has “missed numerous court filing deadlines as a result” of the lack of law library and has “not been able to challenge [his] conviction.”

         Plaintiff alleges that since he has been incarcerated at the DCDC, he has been “subject to contininuous housing with county inmates and have been treated as a county inmate myself.” According to Plaintiff, “[i]t causes [him] servere mental anguish to continually watch inmates come and go with me being a class B felon no even able to be classified or worked at a local facility.”

         Plaintiff further alleges that since being incarcerated at the DCDC on March 31, 2016, he has “been continually subjected to sleep on the floor as a result of this detention center being over crowded.” Plaintiff also states that it has “been extremely hot, where water puddled from sweat from the walls and there are black mold all over the walls from the moisture.” Plaintiff states that his “breathing is harder now and [he] had severve headaches and the smell is unbearable.”


         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner 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.

         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 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 Nat. 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).


         A. Access-to-Courts Claim

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has denied him access to a law library and that this denial has caused Plaintiff to miss numerous court deadlines and rendered him unable to “challenge his conviction.” “[P]rison law libraries and legal assistance programs are not ends in themselves, but only the means for ensuring ‘a reasonably adequate opportunity to present claimed violations of fundamental constitutional rights to the courts.'” Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996) (quoting Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 825 (1977)). Thus, the courts have recognized repeatedly that there is no constitutionally protected right of access to a law library. Id. (noting that “Bounds did not create an abstract, freestanding right to a law library or legal assistance”). However, prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts. Id.; Bounds v. Smith, 430 ...

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