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Sublett v. Delaney

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

August 15, 2017




         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Kaci Simmons' motion to dismiss. [DN 70.] Plaintiff Damien Sublett, pro se, responded, [DN 75], and Simmons replied, [DN 87]. Fully briefed, Simmons' motion is ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, her motion is DENIED.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         The Court summarized the facts of this case in greater detail in its previous Memorandum Opinion and Order. See [DN 65.] Damien Sublett is a prisoner currently housed at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex. During a previous period of incarceration at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP), he alleges Kaci Simmons, a KSP nurse, violated his Fourth Amendment bodily privacy rights by looking at his genitals while he showered. Specifically, Sublett claims that Simmons was about to conduct a pill call on his walk while Sublett was preparing to shower. [DN 8-1 at 21.] According to Sublett, “Simmon's asked the officer is he (Plaintiff) getting in the shower the officer replied yes. Nurse Simmon's then looked at Plaintiff, and said (‘Showtime').” [Id. (sic throughout).] Simmons then began her rounds at the other end of the walk. When she reached the end of the walk, where the shower was located, Sublett says Simmons “pushed her cart up in front of the shower in clean view of Plaintiff naked body. At this time Plaintiff still Naked in the Shower was drying his genital area with a Towel Simmon[s] stood and watch plaintiff, for a full five minutes in the Shower . . . .” [Id. (sic throughout).] Sublett then told Simmons her actions violated the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). [Id. at 22.] In response, Sublett claims, Simmons threatened to issue a disciplinary report against him for masturbating. [Id.] Sublett further alleges Simmons engaged in similar actions on five or six other occasions. [DN 9-1 at 2-3.]

         Simmons was served via certified mail on September 26, 2016. [DN 24.] However, she did not appear, answer, or otherwise defend this action until June 13, 2017, by which time Sublett had already moved for a default judgment against her. In response to the Court's show cause order, Simmons indicated that shortly after being served, she handed off Sublett's complaint to her supervisor, who indicated that she would handle the matter on Simmons' behalf. [DN 68.] The Court granted Simmons' motion to file a late answer, and afforded her an opportunity to file a motion to dismiss before this matter proceeds to trial. [DN 71.]

         II. Standard of Review

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Civil Rule 12(b)(6), a party must “plead enough factual matter to raise a ‘plausible' inference of wrongdoing.” 16630 Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank, F.S.B., 727 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim becomes plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Should the well-pleaded facts support no “more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” then dismissal is warranted. Id. at 679. The Court may grant a motion to dismiss “only if, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint in favor of the plaintiff, the complaint still fails to allege a plausible theory of relief.” Garceau v. City of Flint, 572 F. App'x 369, 371 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-79).

         III. Discussion

         Simmons asserts two grounds for dismissal. First, she suggests Sublett's complaint should be dismissed because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. Second, Simmons contends that even if Sublett has exhausted his remedies, his complaint fails to state a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Administrative Exhaustion

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 requires a prisoner to exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing any action “with respect to prison conditions” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or any other federal law. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement “applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002); accord Freeman v. Francis, 196 F.3d 641, 644 (6th Cir. 1999). Exhaustion is mandatory and the remedies provided “need not meet federal standards, nor must they be ‘plain, speedy, or effective.'” Porter, 534 U.S. at 524 (quoting Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001)). “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with [the prison's] deadlines and other critical procedural rules, ” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006), and so “it is the prison's requirements, and not the PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion, ” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007); accord Lee v. Wiley, 789 F.3d 673, 677 (6th Cir. 2015).

         In Jones, the Supreme Court held that “failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA, and . . . inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints.” Jones, 549 U.S. at 216. Nevertheless, Sublett took it upon himself to note in his complaint that he filed a grievance following Simmons' alleged actions. [DN 8-1 at 22.] His grievance was ultimately denied. [Id.] For Defendant Simmons, this case is at the motion to dismiss stage. Courts may only grant such a motion based on an affirmative defense when “the plaintiff[‘s] complaint contains facts which satisfy the elements of the defendant's affirmative defense.” Estate of Barney v. PNC Bank, Nat. Ass'n, 714 F.3d 920, 926 (6th Cir. 2013). Here, Sublett's complaint does the opposite, explaining why Simmons is not entitled to the affirmative defense of lack of PLRA exhaustion. This is sufficient to survive Simmons' motion.[1]

         B. Fourth Amendment

         Sublett's sole claim against Simmons, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, is for a violation of his Fourth Amendment right to privacy. “[A] convicted prisoner maintains some reasonable expectations of privacy while in prison, particularly where those claims are related to forced exposure to strangers of the opposite sex.” Cornwell v. Dahlberg, 963 F.2d 912, 916 (6th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). This limited right to privacy, among other things, “protects [prisoners] from being forced unnecessarily to expose their bodies to guards of the opposite sex.” Kent v. Johnson, 821 F.2d 1220, 1226-27 (6th Cir. 1987). The court has clarified the extent of this right, stating that “a prison policy forcing prisoners to . . . be exposed to regular surveillance by officers of the opposite sex while naked-for example while in the shower ...

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