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Williams v. Dunning

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky

November 28, 2017

ANTHONY EUGENE WILLIAMS PLAINTIFF
v.
MAJOR DUNNING et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge

         This is a civil rights action brought by a former inmate pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff 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, the action will be dismissed in part, but Plaintiff will be allowed to amend his complaint.

         I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC); the Todd County Detention Center (TCDC); and TCDC Major Dunning. Plaintiff does not indicate whether he is suing Major Dunning in her official or individual capacity.

         Plaintiff alleges that on the day he was being transported from the TCDC to Louisville, Defendant Dunning insisted that he take off his Todd County jumpsuit even though Plaintiff told Defendant Dunning that he had nothing else to wear. Plaintiff states that Defendant Dunning “didn't give a damn what I left in.” Plaintiff further states that the Jefferson County Sheriff did not want to transport Plaintiff in his boxers but had no choice because he had “four other stops” to make. Plaintiff writes that although he pleaded with Defendant Dunning not to make him leave the jail in his boxers, she “laughed and smirked with remarks and thought it was funny.” Plaintiff states that his transport to Louisville took three hours and that he was “boxed in with other inmates with clothing and embarrassed at every stop.” As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and requests that Defendant Dunning be reprimanded.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         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 608 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).

         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)). “[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 (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, 640 (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 § 1983 claim will not lie.” Christy v. Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 1991).

         A. DEFENDANT KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

         The Court first notes that Plaintiff does not make any specific allegations against the KDOC in his complaint. However, even if he had, his claim against the KDOC would fail because the KDOC is an agency of the Commonwealth. Under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a state and its agencies may not be sued in federal court, regardless of the relief sought, unless the state has waived its immunity or Congress has overridden it. Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146, (1993); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 124 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978). The Commonwealth of Kentucky has not waived its immunity, see Adams v. Morris, 90 Fed.Appx. 856, 857 (6th Cir. 2004), and in enacting § 1983, Congress did not intend to override the traditional sovereign immunity of the states. Whittington v. Milby, 928 F.2d 188, 193-94 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979)). “[T]he Eleventh Amendment is a true jurisdictional bar” to such claims. Russell v. Lundergan-Grimes, 784 F.3d 1037, 1046 (6th Cir. 2015). Thus, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's claim against the KDOC for failure to state to a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         B. DEFENDANT TODD ...


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