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Bruin v. White

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

February 13, 2019

BRANDON R. BRUIN PLAINTIFF
v.
WARDEN RANDY WHITE et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This matter is before the Court for initial review of Plaintiff Brandon R. Bruin's pro se amended/supplemental complaints (DNs 34, 54, 57 & 89) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, some claims will continue, and others will be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a convicted prisoner currently incarcerated at the Green River Correctional Complex (GRCC). His claims in this action, however, concern his incarceration at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP). On initial review (DN 48) of the complaint (DN 1) pursuant to § 1915A, the Court allowed the following claims to continue: (1) Plaintiff's First Amendment free-exercise and Fourteenth Amendment due-process and equal-protection claims arising out of the May 2016 cutting of his dreadlocks and refusal to allow Plaintiff to send the cut dreadlocks home against Defendants Charles Crick, Roger Mitchell, James Smith, James R. Beeler, and Randy White in their official capacities for injunctive relief and in their individual capacities for damages and injunctive relief; and (2) Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim arising out of an assault by another inmate in June 2016 against Defendants Bruce Von Dewingelo, Jill Roberts, and Micah Melton in their individual capacities for damages.

         On initial review (DN 97) of amended/supplemental complaints (DNs 20, 23 & 26), the Court allowed the following claims to continue: (1) the First Amendment free-exercise and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims regarding denial of a “Vegan/Ital Diet” against Defendants Melton, White, Terry Griffith, and Charles “‘Aaron'” Davis in their official capacities for injunctive relief and in their individual capacities for damages and injunctive relief; (2) the First Amendment free-exercise claim regarding the cutting of dreadlocks against Defendant John Gibbs in his official capacity for injunctive relief and in his individual capacity for damages and injunctive relief and the RLUIPA claim regarding the cutting of dreadlocks against Defendants Charles Crick, Mitchell, James Smith, Beeler, White, Belt, Skyla Grief, Melton, Griffith, and Gibbs in their official capacities for injunctive relief and in their individual capacities for damages and injunctive relief; (3) the Eighth Amendment excessive-force claims regarding the July 30/August 1, 2016, [1] cell extraction against Defendants Jonathan Ruch and Griffith in their individual capacities for damages; and (4) the Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need regarding Plaintiff's claims of untreated high blood pressure, migraine headaches, loss of vision, tingling in limbs/fingers/toes, and episodes of loss of consciousness against Defendants Davis, Karen Vickery, and Shastine Tangilag in their individual capacities for damages and injunctive relief.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court must review the amended/supplemental complaints 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. ANALYSIS

         At the outset, the Court must address a few issues that pertain to the already reviewed complaint (DN 1) and amended/supplemental complaints (DNs 20, 23 & 26) and to the amended/supplemental complaints currently before the Court for review (DNs 34, 54, 57 & 89).

         First, when Plaintiff filed his complaint and various amended/supplemental complaints previously and currently before the Court, he was incarcerated at KSP. He has since been transferred, first to Kentucky State Reformatory and then to GRCC, where he is currently incarcerated. A case, or portion thereof, becomes moot when events occur which resolve the controversy underlying it. Burke v. Barnes, 479 U.S. 361, 363 (1987). Generally, an inmate's release from prison or transfer to another prison moots his request for injunctive relief. See Colvin v. Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 289 (6th Cir. 2010) (finding an inmate's RLUIPA claim for injunctive relief, which was targeted at a particular institution's policies and procedures and not those of the state's department of corrections as a whole, mooted by his transfer out of that facility); Berryman v. Granholm, 343 Fed.Appx. 1, 5 (6th Cir. 2009) (holding, in regard to inmate's RLUIPA claim for injunctive relief, that “the district court correctly held that because [the inmate] had been transferred from the St. Louis facility, the claim had become moot”); Wilson v. Yaklich, 148 F.3d 596, 601 (6th Cir. 1998) (holding that a prisoner's § 1983 claims for injunctive relief became moot after he was transferred to another facility); Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1996) (finding in a § 1983 case, that “to the extent Kensu seeks declaratory and injunctive relief his claims are now moot as he is no longer confined to the institution that searched his mail”). Because Plaintiff has been transferred from KSP, all claims for injunctive relief will be dismissed.

         As to the § 1983 claims for damages, the Court in his prior Memoranda and Orders (DNs 48 & 97) dismissed the official-capacity claims for damages against state Defendants as barred by the Eleventh Amendment and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because they are not “persons” as defined in § 1983. The same analysis applies to the § 1983 official-capacity claims for damages against all state Defendants sued in the amended/ supplemental complaints currently under review. Accordingly, those claims will be dismissed.

         Finally, as to the RLUIPA claims for damages, the Eleventh Amendment bars claims for monetary damages from the state Defendants in their official capacities, Cardinal v. Metrish, 564 F.3d 794, 801 (6th Cir. 2009), and the RLUIPA does not permit damages claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. Haight v. Thompson, 763 F.3d 554, 569-70 (6th Cir. 2014). Thus, the RLUIPA claims will be dismissed.[2]

         The Court now will turn to the other claims asserted in the amended/supplemental complaints before the Court.

         A. Amended/Supplemental ...


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