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Price v. Ky. Dept. of Corr. Commissioner

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

March 30, 2018




         Plaintiff, Mark A. Price, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.


         Plaintiff, who was incarcerated at the Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR) at the pertinent time, names as Defendants the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) Commissioner; the KDOC Deputy Commissioner; KSR Warden Aaron Smith; and Michael D. Williams, John R. Grooms, and Jeremy Ball, all with KSR Internal Affairs. Plaintiff alleges that on December 7, 2016, he notified Defendants Grooms and Ball that a group of inmates had approached him with shanks to extort him and his friend. He states that Defendants Grooms and Ball walked away, with Defendant Grooms stating “‘Welcome to KSR.'” He states that they ignored his request to see “Capt. Mike Williams (their boss).” Plaintiff further states that approximately ten minutes later, he was approached by the inmates with shanks who demanded that he pay them “25 [dollars] a week extortion fee.” He states that when he refused, he was cut across the neck by inmate Andrews. He alleges that he “ran to medical bleeding bad in fear for my life. Medical fixed me. Staff placed me in seg.” Plaintiff alleges that the KDOC Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner are responsible for the safety and security of Kentucky prisoners, but that prisoners are not safe. He alleges that they fail to provide a secure environment and that they are well aware of the problem. He alleges that it is Warden Smith's responsibility to protect the KSR inmates, but KSR is understaffed and dangerous. He further alleges that Defendants Williams, Grooms, and Ball are internal affairs investigators, but they failed to protect him.

         Plaintiff next alleges that Defendants Grooms and Ball “did the disciplinary report on inmate Andrews. In the report [Defendant] Grooms implicated Plaintiff's name multiple times. Prison staff are forbidden by due process and equal protection not to be grossly negligent in prison disciplinary reports.”

         The complaint refers to the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments “and unknown state laws and guidelines that were violated.”

         Plaintiff attaches several documents to his complaint, including a grievance and an incident report summary about the incident on December 7, 2016. He also includes a grievance information form in which he grieves the fact that his name was included in another inmate's paperwork. That form states that Defendants Grooms and Ball work in the internal affair office under Defendant Williams. In that form, Plaintiff accuses Defendants Grooms and Ball of falsifying a report and states:

These officers['] actions are a clear violation of Ky DOC policies & procedures and violation of other constitutional laws. Mr. Groom and Mr. Ball put my life in danger while at KSR where I was almost killed and have put my life in danger or harm while incarcerated in Ky. DOC by their actions. Copies of the report are being passed out like candy.

         As relief, Plaintiff requests declarative relief and punitive and monetary damages against Defendants in their individual and official capacities.

         II. ANALYSIS

         When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the action, 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 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and (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 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. When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         A. Official-capacity claims

         Title 42 of the United States Code, Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere. As such, it has two basic requirements: (1) the deprivation of federal statutory or constitutional rights by (2) a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Flint v. Ky. Dep't of Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff's claims for damages against Defendants in their official capacities must be dismissed. “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. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 n.55 (1978)). Because Defendants are officers 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 damages are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. at 71. Thus, because Plaintiff seeks damages from state officers in their official capacities, he fails to allege cognizable claims against them under § 1983. Additionally, the Eleventh Amendment acts as a bar to claims for damages against all Defendants in their official capacities. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. at 169. For these reasons, the official-capacity claims for damages against all Defendants will be dismissed.

         B. ...

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