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Haley v. Arnold

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

October 1, 2017

JOSHUA HALEY, Plaintiff,
KEITH ARNOLD et al., Defendants.


          David J. Hale, Judge

         This is a pro se civil rights action brought by a convicted prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff Joshua Haley leave to proceed in forma pauperis. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons set forth below, this action will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.


         Plaintiff is incarcerated at Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR). He brings this action against nine KSR officials in both their individual and official capacities - KSR Warden Aaron Smith, Teresa St. Clair, Steve Shulte, Ronyeld Shirley, Keith Arnold, Philip Campbell, Danny Perry, Scott Jones, and Ronnie Whittaker.

         Plaintiff alleges that he is a “30 year old gender nonconforming male that has an extremely feminine appearance housed within the male prison of [KSR].” Plaintiff further alleges that he has been classified as “at risk for sexual assault” due to a prior sexual assault within the prison setting. Plaintiff states that his troubles began on May 23, 2016, when another inmate, who was a “sexual predator, ” tried to have Plaintiff transferred to his cell. Plaintiff alleges that between May 23, 2016 and May 27, 2016, he was threatened and assaulted by this inmate and that Defendants Perry, Whittaker, Campbell, Shirley, Mitchell, Shulte, and Arnold knew that this inmate was a danger to Plaintiff but failed to protect Plaintiff from him. Plaintiff alleges that these Defendants' deliberate indifference to his safety culminated in a brutal attack on May 27, 2016, in which the other inmate assaulted Plaintiff with boiling water, beat him unconscious, and broke his jaw bone, while screaming, “If I can't have you, no one will.” Plaintiff states that this inmate did not stop attacking Plaintiff until the inmate thought Plaintiff was dead. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Arnold and Jones witnessed this attack and made no attempt to stop the assault. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Arnold and Jones told medical personnel that they were afraid to intervene in the attack because Plaintiff was HIV positive. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Arnold and Jones did not protect him because they had not been properly trained to work with inmates who are HIV positive. Plaintiff further states that the injuries he suffered as a result of this attack have required him to have multiple reconstructive surgeries.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Warden Smith violated his “8th, 14th, and 5th” Amendment rights by failing to contact the Kentucky State Police or “creating a E.O.R” after Plaintiff was attacked on May 27, 2016. Plaintiff further complains that Defendant Warden Smith permitted Defendants Perry and Whittaker to investigate the grievance he filed related to the attack even though they were involved in such. Finally, Plaintiff states that he was denied surveillance video that he needs to substantiate some of his claims and that this constitutes “concealment” of evidence by Defendant Warden Smith.

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and an order that he not be transferred to another institution in retaliation for filing this lawsuit.


         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 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). 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, 94 (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 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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         “Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere.” Flint ex rel. Flint v. Ky. Dep't of Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). Two elements are required to state a claim under § 1983. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635 (1980). “[A] plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). “Absent either element, a section 1983 claim will not lie.” Christy v. Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 1991).

         A. Official-Capacity Claims

         Plaintiff sues each Defendant in his/her official and individual capacities. “Official-capacity suits . . . ‘generally represent [] another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985) (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 n.55 (1978)). Because Defendants are employees of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the claims brought against them in their official capacities are deemed claims against the Commonwealth of Kentucky. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. at 166. State officials sued in their official capacities for money damages are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Thus, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks money damages from Defendants in their official capacities, he fails to state a cognizable claim under § 1983. Additionally, the Eleventh Amendment acts as a bar to claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. at 169. Thus, although it is not clear from Plaintiff's complaint which claims he seeks to bring against the State, all such ...

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