United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. Hale, Judge.
Jovan Blackmon filed a pro se, in forma
pauperis complaint. This case 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 following reasons, some claims will
be dismissed, and some claims will be allowed to proceed.
SUMMARY OF CLAIMS
is a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Hardin County
Detention Center (HCDC). He names as Defendants HCDC and
Corrections Officer Elmore in his individual and official
capacities. He alleges that on February 28, 2017, another
inmate began “picking at [Plaintiff] because
[Plaintiff] was the new guy in the cell, ” calling him
“‘[n-word].'” He states that while this
was taking place, Defendant Elmore stood near the door,
watching, and allowing the other inmate to “disrespect
[Plaintiff] in the most racist way.” Plaintiff alleges
When I started to take up for myself for safety reasons only
C.O. Elmore grabed me put the cuffs on me threw me against
the wall, force me up the hallway telling me to stop
resisting and I was never resisting. That's when C.O.
Lewis join the party[, ] grabed me as well and shove me in
the drunk tank.
alleges that HCDC “is being run wrong, the C.O. here do
and say whatever they want.” He further alleges that
Defendant Elmore “had no regard for my safety as I was
getting push down the hall way in [HCDC]. C.O. Elmore states
that's why I hate dealing with monkeys[;] you gonn comply
boy.” He states that Defendant Elmore was
“overtly racist.” He also states that ever since
he “got this 1983 form I been in the hole. I almost had
a form filled out but when C.O. Elmore witness his name he
put in the toilet off camera.” As relief, Plaintiff
requests monetary and punitive damages.
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 Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Defendant Elmore, an employee of Hardin County, in his
official capacity is the same as suing the county itself.
See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491
U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Therefore, Plaintiff's
official-capacity claims against Defendant Elmore are
actually brought against the Hardin County government.
See Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir.
also sues HCDC. HCDC is not a “person” subject to
suit under § 1983 because municipal departments, such as
jails, are not suable under § 1983. Rhodes v.
McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir. 1991) (holding
that a police department may not be sued under § 1983);
see also Marbry v. Corr. Med. Serv., No. 99-6706,
2000 WL 1720959 at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2000) (holding that a
jail is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983). In
this situation, it is Hardin County that is the proper
defendant in this case. Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty.
Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990)
(construing claims brought against the Jefferson County
Government, the Jefferson County Fiscal Court, and the
Jefferson County Judge Executive as claims against Jefferson
County itself). Further, Hardin County is a
“person” for purposes of § 1983. Monell
v. N.Y.C. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690
(1978). The Court will therefore construe Plaintiff's
claims against HCDC as brought against Hardin County.
§ 1983 claim is made against a municipality, like Hardin
County, a court must analyze two distinct issues: (1) whether
the plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional
violation; and (2) if so, whether the municipality is
responsible for that violation. Collins v. City of Harker
Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). The Court will
address the issues in reverse order.
municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs
a tortfeasor - or, in other words, a municipality cannot be
held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior
theory.” Monell, 436 U.S. at 691 (emphasis in
original); Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282,
286 (6th Cir. 1994); Berry v. City of Detroit, 25
F.3d 1342, 1345 (6th Cir. 1994). “[T]he touchstone of
‘official policy' is designed ‘to distinguish
acts of the municipality from acts of employees of the
municipality, and thereby make clear that municipal liability
is limited to action for which the municipality is actually
responsible.'” City of St. Louis v.
Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 138 (1988) (quoting
Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80 (1986))
(emphasis in Pembaur).
municipality cannot be held responsible for a constitutional
deprivation unless there is a direct causal link between a
municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional
deprivation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Deaton v.
Montgomery Cty., Ohio, 989 F.2d 885, 889 (6th Cir.
1993). Simply stated, the plaintiff must “identify the
policy, connect the policy to the city itself and show that
the particular injury was incurred because of the execution
of that policy.” Garner v. Memphis Police
Dep't, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting
Coogan v. City of Wixom,820 F.2d 170, 176 (6th Cir.
1987), overruled on other grounds by Frantz v. Vill. of
Bradford, 245 F.3d 869 (6th Cir. 2001)). The policy or
custom “must be ‘the moving force of the
constitutional violation' in order to establish the
liability of a government body under § 1983.”
Searcy, 38 F.3d at ...