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Bruin v. White

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

September 27, 2017




         Plaintiff Brandon R. Bruin, a convicted prisoner at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP), filed a pro se complaint (DN 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On initial screening of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court allowed the following claims to proceed: Plaintiff's First Amendment Free Exercise and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection claims arising out of the cutting of his dreadlocks and refusal to allow Plaintiff to send the cut dreadlocks home against Defendants Charles Crick, Mitchell, James Smith, Beeler, and White in their official capacities for injunctive relief and in their individual capacities for damages and injunctive relief; and Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim against Defendants Von Dewingelo, Roberts, and Melton in their individual capacities for damages.

         Following the filing of the complaint, Plaintiff filed several amended/supplemental complaints. Currently before the Court on initial screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A are Plaintiffs' amended/supplemental complaints contained in DNs 20, 23 & 26.


         Neither DN 20 nor 23 was filed on a complaint form or indicated the capacity in which those persons mentioned were sued.

         In DN 20, Plaintiff wants to add KSP Shift Captain John Gibbs to the action alleging that Defendant Gibbs authorized a team to cut Plaintiff's dreadlocks in violation of the First Amendment.

         In DN 23, Plaintiff raises three claims: (1) that on May 31, 2016, [1] and August 1, 2016, [2]he was placed on a property and activity restriction for 24-25 hours in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) that his meat-substitute tray for his “Vegan/Ital Diet” that he observes as a Rastafarian “contains animal by products and animal. Eggs, milk, chees, mayonaise etc.” in violation of the First Amendment; and (3) that on May 31, 2016, Defendant Mitchell refused Plaintiff's request to contact his lawyer and that on a couple of occasions, his requests to contact “the Clerk of the courts via telephone” have been denied in violation of the First Amendment. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.

         Document Number 26 was filed on a § 1983 form and contains those claims asserted in DNs 20 & 23 and additional claims. Plaintiff names the following fifteen KSP workers as Defendants in their individual and official capacities: (1) Captain John Gibbs; (2) Internal Affairs Lt. James Beavers; (3) Sergeant George Henson; (4) Sergeant H.C. Vinson; (5) APRN Karen Vickery; (6) Deputy Warden Skyla Grief; (7) Correctional Officer (CO) Jonathan Ruch; (8) CO Terry Griffith; (9) Deputy Warden of Security Steven Ford; (10) Unit Administrator (UA) Darmice Ellis; (11) Case Treatment Officer (CTO) Marshall Peek; (12) UA Troy Belt; (13) RN Charles “‘Aaron'” Davis; (14) Lt. Jesse Jenkins; and (15) Dr. Shastine Tangilag. Plaintiff seeks monetary and punitive damages and an injunction to “cease the taking of inmates personal property as mean of punishment with procedural due process.” The Court also construes the pleading as seeking injunctions ordering a “Vegan/Ital Diet” for Plaintiff and ordering treatment for Plaintiff's high blood pressure.

         As Claim I, Plaintiff alleges that on April 7, 2016, when processed into KSP's Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), he informed “security and medical personnel” that he “adheres to an ital (vegan diet) due to religious beliefs as a practitioner of the Rastafarian Religious Group.” He claims that he has been denied that diet by Defendants Melton, Griffith, White, and Davis[3] in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). He also reports going on a religious fast for several days in August 2016.

         As Claim II, Plaintiff asserts that the shearing of his dreadlocks also violates RLUIPA and brings this claim against Defendant White, Belt, Mitchell, Grief, Melton, Griffith, Gibbs, Beeler, Crick, and James Smith.

         As Claim III, Plaintiff alleges Eighth Amendment violations on two occasions. First, Plaintiff alleges that on May 31, 2016, Defendants Belt, Mitchell, James Smith, and Beeler “stripped Plaintiff of Life Necessities. ie. Blanket, Sheets, socks, t-shirt, pants, Uniform Shirt, shower shoes, running water and a working toilet. Plaintiff was forced to endure life in a cell with self a mattress and tempatures at appr'x of 55˚. This occured at 10:30 a.m.” Plaintiff claims that at 3:30 p.m., while “Shivering uncontrollably, ” he asked Defendant Henson if he could have clothing or a blanket and that Defendant Henson told him to take it up with whomever took the items. Plaintiff reports that on the following day, June 1, at or around 11:00 a.m., Defendant Smith returned Plaintiff's state-issued property to him. Plaintiff claims that he was forced to eat breakfast and lunch without washing his hands. Second, Plaintiff alleges that from June 28 until July 5, he was not afforded the opportunity to shower over a seven-day period. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Von Dwingelo and Henson denied his requests for showers during that period.

         As Claim IV, Plaintiff reports that Defendants Belt, Mitchell, Beeler, Peek, Roberts, [4] and Ellis denied him access to the courts when they denied his requests to call his attorney and the Clerk of Court.

         Plaintiff titles Claim V as “Deliberate Indifference and exsposure to a serious risk of harm, ” but he also seems to allege a retaliation claim. He alleges that on “July 28, 2016 after gaining knowledge Plaintiff was assisting and recieving legal help while on 14 Right walk, three cell house RHU as a form of reprisal of protected conduct [Defendant] Jesse Jenkins delegated Plaintiff to be moved from a lower range from which he currently resided to an upper-range to 13 Right walk 3 cell house [] cell 15 above 14 Right Walk.” Plaintiff maintains that he could still “communicate by yelling aloud to inmates on 14 walk” and that when Defendant Jenkins became aware, he said that Plaintiff was suicidal. Plaintiff maintains that because of this, he was moved back to a “lower range” and stripped of all property as authorized by Defendant Jenkins. Plaintiff claims that he was placed five cells down from an inmate with whom he had a documented conflict; thus, Defendant Jenkins placed him in “substantial risk of harm and injury.” Plaintiff states that two days later on July 30, he was taken off of property restriction and denied the offer of recreation. Plaintiff reports that on August 1, he informed the psychologist of “Defendant Jenkins Machination” and that the psychologist had the inmate with whom Plaintiff had the conflict moved.

         As Claim VI, Plaintiff alleges “Theft and Breach of Privleged Correspondence.” He alleges an incident on July 30/August 1, 2016, [5] wherein legal mail was forcibly taken from him after a cell extraction by Defendants Beeler, Griffith, and Ruch.

         In Claim VII, Plaintiff continues that after the cell extraction in Claim VI, Defendants Ruch and Griffith used excessive force in obtaining the legal mail and that Defendant Davis would not treat his injuries of bloody ankles, a bulge in the left shoulder, and “swollen and hurting” wrists.

         Plaintiff titles Claim VIII as “Neglect to a Serious Medical Need.”[6] He claims that after the cell-extraction incident, he was taken on August 2 to “Medical, ” where he was seen by Defendants Tangilag and Davis. He states that his main concerns were lower back pain and “left arm functioning” but that Defendant Tangilag “merely looked at Plaintiff, checked [his] vitals and prescribed ice and Ibuprofin for seven (7) days. Defendant Griffith informed Defendant Tangilag the incident was recorded and Defendant Tangilag responded: ‘it does'nt look broke or fractured to me.'” Plaintiff also alleges that from April 7, 2016, to August 20, 2016, he had high blood pressure readings of “stroke level” that Defendants Davis, Vickery, and Tangilag “neglected to treat until Plaintiff Request treatment due to constant headaches, chest pain and blurred vision.” He also claims that on August 20, 2016, he stated by sick-call form to Defendant Davis, “‘Im on clonidine, I need to be taken off and placed on a blood pressure pill that can co-exist with psyc. recommendations.'” On August 22, Defendant Davis prescribed Lisinopril, and the next day, Defendant Vickery co-signed Defendant Davis' recommendation against Plaintiff's request to be placed on a medication that can co-exist with current medication. Plaintiff states that on both August 24 and 26, he lost consciousness after receiving clonidine and lisinopril. Plaintiff reports that lisinopril was discontinued and that his blood pressure is untreated. He claims that he continues to lose consciousness and has migraine headaches, loss of vision, and tingling in his limbs/fingers/toes.


         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. See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). 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).

         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 claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[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 pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation ...

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