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Gadd v. Erwin

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

June 5, 2018



          Charles R. Simpson III, Senior Judge

         This matter is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff Owen Ray Gadd's pro se complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, the action will be dismissed.


         Plaintiff is a convicted inmate currently incarcerated at the Little Sandy Correctional Complex. He brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaining of events occurring during his detention at the Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR). He sues the following Defendants in their official capacities: (1) Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) Commissioner Jim Erwin; (2) KSR Warden Aaron Smith; (3) KSR Grievance Coordinator Casey Dowden; (4) KSR Mailroom Clerk David Airington; (5) KSR Mailroom Clerk Jennifer Parks; (6) KSR Deputy Warden Anna Valentine; (7) KSR Administrative Section Supervisor Philip Campbell; and (8) John Dunn, who Plaintiff identifies as the State Grievance Coordinator.

         In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that “twice the [KSR] staff of the mail room have mishandled my legal mail.” The first episode occurred in June 2017. Plaintiff claims, “I could have had my Federal Habeas Corpus dismissed because my legal mail was with held from me for 28 days. I had at most 14 days to prepare and submit a reply Motion.” He indicates that the withheld mail “was a timeless Motion from Warden Aaron Smith, represented by Assistant Attorney General, Jason B. Moore, Commonwealth of Kentucky.” Plaintiff further indicates that the “legal mail” had been mailed on June 2, 2017; that on June 28, 2017, he “received a letter from [Defendant] Dowden . . . stating she had my legal mail as well as a court CD”; and that on June 30, 2017, Defendant Dowden handed him his “legal mail” that “was not in an envelope [and] had been opened out of my presents[.]”[1]

         Plaintiff reports filing a grievance regarding the foregoing matter but that Defendant Dowden stated the grievance was dismissed because Plaintiff did not ask for any action. Plaintiff reports, however, that on August 7, 2017, Defendant Valentine provided a response; that on August 9, 2017, Defendant Campbell provided a response; that Plaintiff filed an appeal to Defendant Erwin; and that on August 18, 2017, Defendant Dunn answered the appeal.

         As the second episode involving his mail, Plaintiff reports an incident occurring in October 2013. He states:

[My] legal mail was mailed to me by a sheriff. This legal mail was also opened by the same legal mail/mailroom staff that mishandled the timeless Motion. My legal mail in that situation was sent to my dorm opened in general population mail, that had not been opened in my presents. This matter was also grieved and appealed to the Commissioner, this grievance was filed on October 29, 2013. This grievance was exhausted all the way to the Commissioner.[2]

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary and punitive damages.


         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, the Court must review the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and dismiss the complaint, or any portion thereof, 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).

         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 of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

         Although courts are to hold pro se pleadings “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), this duty to be less stringent “does not require us 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 courts “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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