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Keeling v. Simpson

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

December 14, 2018

MIKE SIMPSON et al., Defendants.


          Claria Boom, District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A of Plaintiff Eric Scott Keeling's pro se complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court will allow his claim regarding black mold and poor ventilation to continue and dismiss all other claims.


         Plaintiff is a federal inmate currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute Hazelton. He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging his pretrial detention at the Oldham County Jail (OCJ). As Defendants, he names OCJ Jailer Mike Simpson and OCJ Major Jeff Tindell in their individual and official capacities.

         In his complaint, Plaintiff first alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights have been violated “[d]ue to black mold and poor [ventilation] which ha[ve] caused [irregular] breathing and [irregular] sleep patterns that ha[ve] resulted in depression.” [R 1. at p. 4] Plaintiff next alleges that in December 2017, he requested access to a federal law library, “and Jailer Mike Simpson told me that access to federal law books will be provided on the kiosk when [transferred] to [a] new facility.” Id. He claims he wrote a grievance, “and Major Tindell stated ‘Oldham County isn't required to have [a] law library and my [grievance] isn't grievable.'” [R. 1 at pp. 4-5]

         Finally, Plaintiff alleges that on March 18, 2018, he requested a § 1983 form and that Deputy Secor said he would provide one. Id. at p. 5. However, Plaintiff claims that the next day, Defendant Tindell told him he needed to pay $2.10 to obtain one. Id. He states that other officers told him to have his family or lawyer to send him a form; that on March 23, 2018, his mother sent him a form; but that “[t]hey sent the form back to sender and said [OCJ] policy states no copies of paper to be sent in.” Id. He claims that on March 24, 2018, he “received printed out case laws . . . that they let me keep which [contradicts] their policy.” Id. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and an injunction “providing federal law material.” Id. at p. 6.


         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, the trial court must review the complaint 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 28 U.S.C. § 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. ANALYSIS

         A. Black Mold/Poor Ventilation

         The Court will allow this Fourteenth Amendment[1] claim to proceed against Defendant Jailer Simpson in his individual and official capacities.

         Because Plaintiff does not mention Defendant Tindell as participating or otherwise being involved in the black mold/poor ventilation matter, the Court will dismiss that claim brought against him in his individual capacity.[2]See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (“[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”). Further, because the official-capacity claim against both Defendants is actually against their employer, Oldham County, see Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (indicating that official-capacity claims “‘generally represent [] another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent'”) (quoting Monell v. N.Y. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, ...

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