United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
JIMMIE D. ALEXANDER, Plaintiff,
SHAWN CARMIN, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. WILHOIT JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
D. Alexander is an inmate confined at the Kentucky State
Reformatory in Eddyville, Kentucky. Proceeding without an
attorney, Alexander has filed a civil rights complaint
against prison officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [R. 1.]
By separate order, the Court granted Alexander pauper status
in this proceeding. [R. 9.] Accordingly, the Court now
conducts a preliminary review of Alexander's complaint.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A.
this initial review, the Court must dismiss any claim that is
frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court
affords Alexander's complaint a forgiving construction,
accepting as true all non-conclusory factual allegations and
liberally construing the legal claims in his favor. Davis
v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir.
claims arise from his incarceration at two different
facilities- the Kentucky State Reformatory ("KSR")
in Eddyville, Kentucky, and the Little Sandy Correctional
Complex ("Little Sandy") in Sandy Hook, Kentucky.
[R. 1.] Alexander alleges he was sexually assaulted by four
different individuals at KSR and by one individual at Little
Sandy. [Id.] In addition to his allegations of
sexual assault, Alexander also mentions "theft of inmate
property" and "refusal of medication and medical
treatment" as grounds for relief in his complaint.
[Id. at 4.]
preliminary matter, the Court notes that Alexander has
improperly joined the KSR claims and Little Sandy claims in
the same action. The joinder of multiple claims against
multiple defendants is governed by Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 20(a), which states:
(2) Persons ... may be joined in one action as defendants if:
(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly,
severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising
out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences; and
(B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will
arise in the action.
Fed. R Civ. P. 20(a)(2). Thus, under the plain language of
Rule 20(a)(2), joinder is appropriate only if both
requirements are met: (1) the plaintiffs claims arise from
the "same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences;" and
(2) "any question of law or fact common to all
defendants will arise in the action." Id.
allegations in Alexander's complaint set forth claims of
unconstitutional treatment against the KSR defendants arising
from Alexander's confinement at that facility, as well as
a separate claim of unconstitutional treatment against a
Correctional Officer at Little Sandy. These claims do not
arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences. Although the claims are based on
the same legal theory-namely, that Alexander has been
sexually assaulted in violation of his Eighth Amendment right
to be free from cruel and unusual punishment-they are still
separate and independent claims. See Murriel-Don Coal Co.
v. Aspen Ins. UK Ltd., 790 F.Supp.2d 590, 600 (E.D. Ky.
2011) ("[T]he test for joinder is not whether claims
arise from the same source of law."). The two facilities
are separate facilities with separate staff and procedures.
Moreover, whether or not Alexander was sexually assaulted by
KSR officials has no relevance as to whether or not he was
also assaulted at Little Sandy, as Alexander has not claimed
the institutions were operating pursuant to a shared policy
or custom or that the two institutions were otherwise acting
in concert. Accordingly, Alexander's KSR and Little Sandy
claims are not properly joined. See, e.g., George v.
Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007)
("Unrelated claims against different defendants belong
in different suits . . ..").
as here, a plaintiffs claims are improperly joined, Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 21 gives the Court broad discretion
to sever the unrelated claims. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
21; Proctor v. Applegate, 661 F.Supp.2d 743, 7801
(E.D. Mich. 2009). Severing Alexander's action into two
separate actions, though, is not appropriate, because
Alexander's KSR claims are not properly filed in this
district in the first instance. A plaintiff must file a civil
rights action in a district where one defendant resides if
all defendants reside in the same state, or in a district
where a substantial part of the relevant events occurred. 28
U.S.C. § 1391(b). While the Little Sandy claim was
properly filed in the Eastern District of Kentucky, the
events giving rise to the KSR claims occurred in Lyon County,
Kentucky, which is located in the Paducah division of the
Western District of Kentucky. See 28 U.S.C. §
97(b); Local Rule 3.1(b)(4).
lawsuit is filed in the wrong district, the Court may either
dismiss the case or transfer it to the proper district. 28
U.S.C. § 1406(a). Typically, in the interests of justice
and for the convenience of the parties and witnesses, the
Court would simply transfer the action to the proper district
for further review. However, "the plain language of [28
U.S.C. § 1404(a)] authorizes only the transfer of an
entire action, not the transfer of individual claims within
an action." In re Brand-Name Prescription Drugs
Antitrust Litig., 264 F.Supp.2d 1372, 1377 (J.P.M.L.
2003)(citations omitted). Thus, "[a] court acting under
section 1404(a) may not transfer part of a case while
maintaining jurisdiction over another part." Id. See
also Coast to Coast Health Care Services, Inc. v.
Meyerhoffer, No. 2:10-CV-734, 2012 WL 169963, at *7
(S.D. Ohio Jan. 19, 2012) ("This Court does not have the
authority or ability to parse or bifurcate this action,
transferring some, but not all, of the case to [a different
Alexander's Little Sandy claim arose in this judicial
district, and the Court retains jurisdiction over that claim.
But the Court's only choice with respect to the KSR
claims is to dismiss those claims without prejudice. If
Alexander wishes to pursue those claims, he may do so in the
Paducah Division of the Western District of
then, the Court turns to Alexander's claims arising from
events that occurred at Little Sandy against the only named
Little Sandy defendant, Correctional Officer Alexander
Ledford. Although Alexander mentions theft and medical
treatment as causes of action, he states no facts about those
claims anywhere else in his complaint and he certainly does
not describe any theft or inadequate medical care at Little
Sandy. [See R. 1.] Therefore, to the extent
Alexander wished to bring those claims against Little Sandy
Correctional Officer Ledford, they will be dismissed for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
However, the Court finds that Alexander's claim for a
violation of his constitutional rights stemming from the
alleged sexual assault warrants a response from Officer