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Butts v. Harmon

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green

January 11, 2018




         This is a pro se civil rights action brought by a pretrial detainee pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff Corey James Butts 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 and allowed to continue in part.


         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee, was formerly incarcerated at the Warren County Regional Jail (WCRJ). He brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against nine WCRJ officials in both their official and individual capacities - Captain Laura Vance; Captain Kim James; Lieutenant Deputy Douglas Miles; Sergeant Deputy Amir Ziga; Lieutenant Deputy Jeff Bryant; Sergeant Deputy Irina Avakova; Deputy Megan Sundel; Jailer Stephen Harmon; and Chief Deputy Jailer Misse Causey.

         Plaintiff first alleges that Defendants Vance and James violated his constitutional rights by putting him in a “restraint chair” for over 4 hours “without medical attention, drinking water, and restroom privilege.” Plaintiff claims that as a result of this incident he sustained “prolonged injury to [his] shoulder, arm/nerve damage.” He then writes: “This is cruel and unusual punishment.” Plaintiff also claims that he was denied due process because he was not allowed to file a complaint against these Defendants.

         Plaintiff next alleges that Defendants Miles and Ziga “conducted a strip search on me, made me bend over and squat and [Defendant] Miles called me a rapeist and slapped me on my right butt cheek so hard that it left a bruised hand print and [Defendant] Ziga was holding my head down to where I could not move.” Plaintiff then writes: “This was cruel and unusual punishment along with physical assault.” Plaintiff then states that his due process rights were also violated because he was not allowed to “file a PREA with an outside agency until almost 1 month later.” Plaintiff next claims that Defendants Bryant and Avakova “left [him] in the restraint chair for 10 hours without drinking water, medical attention, or restroom use.” He further states that he was mentally and physically abused by both of these Defendants and that he sustained “prolonged injuries as a result.” Plaintiff again states that this constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

         Plaintiff then claims that Defendant Sandel violated his constitutional rights by retaliating against him for filing a grievance. He claims she made a false report against him “which is now in outside court, terroristic threatening, 3rd degree.”

         Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Harmon and Causey “knew about the wrong doing but did not try to stop the abuse or even fix the problem. They also failed to oversee the people who caused the wrongdoing, such as by hiring unqualified people and failing to adequately train their staff.” Plaintiff continues: “The Warren County Regional Jail created a policy or custom that has allowed wrongdoing to occur to the helpless inmates. Due to this situation, my life was in danger I was mentally and physically abused by the deputies and I have also sustained a life time of ‘nerve damage' and ‘kidney problems.'”

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.


         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 Natural 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. ...

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