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McGranahan v. KDOC

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

July 31, 2018



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         Plaintiff Joseph McGranahan, a prisoner at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP), filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (DN 1). This matter is before the Court on initial screening of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss some claims, allow other claims to continue, and allow Plaintiff to amend the complaint.


         Plaintiff brings suit against the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) and the following KSP officers and employees: Warden Randy White, Sgt. Jesse Coombs, Grievance Coordinator Dan Smith, Sgt. Rodriguez, C/O Burnette, C/O Larue, and Lt. Rasmussen. He sues Defendants White, Coombs, and Smith in their individual and official capacities but does not indicate the capacity in which he sues Defendants Rodriguez, Burnette, Larue, and Rasmussen.

         In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges:

on 5/14/17, while I was in 3C/H Segregation unit Sgt. Jesse Coombs came to my cell and told me to pack up my belongings to be moved to another cell. I then asked him where would I be moving to and what for? Sgt. Coombs assembled an extraction team, came back to my cell and said I was refusing to move and comply with his orders and I seen him aiming the OC pepper spray at my face and I said f*** you Coombs come and get me as he immediately began spraying me with mace. I was extracted from the cell and cuffed and restrained in a chair. I refused medical treatment but the nurse poured water over my head and I was being shocked several times with a shock shield.

         Plaintiff asserts that the “force was applied in a bad-faith effort, not to maintain or restore discipline, it was used maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” He claims that Defendants “Warden and KDOC knew or reasonably should have known Sgt. Coombs' illegal actions of excessive use of force because it is all on camera.” He also claims that Defendant Smith “t[h]warted my grievance process by abrogating and errecting a senseless rule to thwart the process.” Plaintiff alleges violations of the First and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and of Sections 1 and 17 of the Kentucky Constitution.

         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. See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). 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).

         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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