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Miller v. Hardin County Jail

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

July 18, 2018

LESTER MILLER PLAINTIFF
v.
HARDIN COUNTY JAIL et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Greg N. Stivers, Judge.

         Plaintiff Lester Miller filed the instant pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action proceeding in forma pauperis. This matter is before the Court on initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons stated below, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's claims upon initial screening.

         I.

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Hardin County Jail (HCJ). He sues the HCJ; HCJ Jailer Danny Allen; and Jamie Motter and Robert Reynaldes, both identified as lieutenants at HCJ. He sues Defendants Allen, Motter, and Reynaldes in their official capacities only.

         Plaintiff states that on February 2, 2018, at around 5:30 pm six inmates started a fire in a cell out of view of a camera. He reports that, as a result, everyone in his cell pod “was locked down in our cells so the Deputy's an Shift Leader could do a investigation.” He maintains that at 3:00 am two non-Defendant deputies came to the pod having completed their investigation. Plaintiff states, “They had reviewed the cameras an knew exactly who was at falt an could clearly see that there was only 6 people who was involved. They passed out write-ups to them 6 an we was told it was over.” However, Plaintiff asserts, “Later that morning around 8:00 am Deputy House came in an locked everyone down again. He said Lt. Motter was responcable. She wanted everyone locked down until Lt. Reynaldes came in on Monday an could sort it out.” (Emphasis by Plaintiff.) He states that the inmates asked to talk to Defendant Motter but their request was denied.

         Plaintiff maintains that on February 4, 2018, his family made plans to take off work and bring his children to see him. He states that because his family members “work 12 hour days 7 days a week I had not seen any of them in over 3 ½ months.” Plaintiff asserts that when they came on that Sunday, they were “turned away.” He states, “In all this I and 12 other people were punished for somethin we had no involvement in. I belive that we were punished do to the fact that people who work at this jail belive that thay can do whatever thay want an that the rules dont apply to them.” He further states, “I belive Mass. Punishment is covered the Constitutional Rights of Prisoner and The Equal Protection Clause § 7.3.”

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief in the form of a letter of apology sent to his family and a transfer to Meade County Jail.

         II.

         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 complaint, or any portion of it, if the court determines that the complaint 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 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)). “But the district court need not accept a ‘bare assertion of legal conclusions.'” Tackett, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). “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 this Court recognizes that pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991), “[o]ur duty to be ‘less stringent' with pro se complaints does not require us to conjure up unpled allegations.” McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation omitted). And this Court is not required to create a claim for 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.

         Plaintiff sues HCJ and sues Allen, Motter, and Reynaldes in their official capacities only. HCJ is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983 because municipal departments, such as jails, are not suable under § 1983. Marbry v. Corr. Med. Servs., No. 99-6706, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 28072, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2000) (holding that a jail is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983); see also Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir. 1991) (holding that a police department may not be sued under § 1983). In this situation, Hardin County is the proper defendant. Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502. 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990). Further, Hardin County is a “person” for purposes of § 1983. See Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978). The Court therefore will construe the claim against HCJ as a claim brought against Hardin County.

         Moreover, “[o]fficial-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, 165 (1985) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 n.55). Suing employees in their official capacities is the equivalent of suing their employer. Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439-40 (6th Cir. 2008); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994); Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. at 503. Therefore, the ...


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