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Vaughan v. Erwin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

May 6, 2019




         Pro se Plaintiff Michael Vaughan filed a renewed motion for leave to file a fourth amended complaint (DN 64) with an attached proposed fourth amended complaint. For the following reasons, the Court will grant that motion in part and deny it in part.

         Plaintiff's complaint and second amended complaint, which the Court considered on initial review, were filed while Plaintiff was housed at the Roederer Correctional Complex (RCC). Plaintiff has since been transferred to the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex (LLCC).

         Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint seeks to add twelve new Defendants in their individual and official capacities. Five of the newly named Defendants are employees at the RCC: Unit Administrator Rebecca Barker; computer technician Eric Ribenboim; Major Arnold Chisholm; Lt. Geisler; and Angela French. The remainder of the newly named Defendants are employees of LLCC, where Plaintiff has been transferred: Warden Scott Jordan; Deputy Wardens James Coyne, Jessie Stacks, and Jessie Ferguson; Cathy Buck; Dagon Moon; and Captain Tim Forgy.

         All claims arising after the dates of the complaint and amended complaints considered by the Court on initial review are actually considered to be supplementing rather than amending the complaint. Rule 15(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in pertinent part: “On motion and reasonable notice, the court may, on just terms, permit a party to serve a supplemental pleading setting out any transaction, occurrence, or event that happened after the date of the pleading to be supplemented.” “[A] supplemental pleading addresses events occurring subsequent to the initial pleading and adds to such pleading.” Habitat Educ. Ctr., Inc. v. Kimbell, 250 F.R.D. 397, 401 (E.D. Wis. 2008).

         The granting of a motion to file a supplemental pleading is within the discretion of the trial court and, as a general rule, applications for leave to file a supplemental pleading are normally granted. Stewart v. Shelby Tissue, Inc., 189 F.R.D. 357, 362 (W.D. Tenn. 1999). Motions to supplement under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d) must be presented within a reasonable period of time. Id.

         A supplemental pleading may include new facts, new claims, new defenses, and new parties. Id. at 361. Such events need not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the original claim but must have some relationship to the original pleading. Habitat, 250 F.R.D. at 402. In considering whether to allow a plaintiff to supplement his complaint, the Court should consider (1) undue delay in filing the motion; (2) lack of notice to adverse parties; (3) whether the movant is acting in bad faith or with a dilatory motive; (4) failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments; (5) the possibility of undue prejudice to adverse parties; and (6) whether amendment is futile. Bromley v. Mich. Educ. Ass'n-NEA, 178 F.R.D. 148, 154 (E.D. Mich. 1998). Where the original pleading placed the defendant on notice that the disputed conduct was of a continuing nature, the supplemental complaint should be allowed. Id.

         The rule does not, however, allow a plaintiff to add new claims relating to new events at a completely different prison involving not the original defendants but a whole new cast of characters. In such circumstances, leave to supplement should be denied, because there is “no linkage” between the new allegations and those set forth in the original complaint. See Klos v. Haskell, 835 F.Supp. 710, 716 (W.D.N.Y. 1993).

         Therefore, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion insofar as it seeks to add the LLCC Defendants, i.e., Defendants Jordan, Coyne, Stacks, Ferguson, Buck, Moon, and Forgy, and causes of action related to occurrences at LLCC, i.e., Plaintiff's claim that the LLCC law library is inadequate.

         Defendant Barker

         Plaintiff's only allegation regarding Barker has to do with grievances he filed. However, Plaintiff does not have a cause of action against Barker because “there is no cause of action for the improper adjudication, or failure to adjudicate, an inmate's grievances.” Shankle v. Tennessee, No. 07-2454B/P, 2007 WL 4255245, at *2 (W.D. Tenn. Nov. 29, 2007); see also Skinner v. Govorchin, 463 F.3d 518, 525 (6th Cir. 2006) (“Skinner's complaint regarding Wolfenbarger's denial of Skinner's grievance appeal, it is clear, fails to state a claim.”); Lee v. Mich. Parole Bd., 104 Fed.Appx. 490, 493 (6th Cir. 2004) (“Section 1983 liability may not be imposed simply because a defendant denied an administrative grievance or failed to act based upon information contained in a grievance.”); Nwaebo v. Hawk-Sawyer, 83 Fed.Appx. 85, 86 (6th Cir. 2003) (holding that defendants “cannot be subject to § 1983 liability simply because they denied [the plaintiff's] administrative grievances or failed to act based upon information contained in his grievances”). Consequently, the Court will deny leave to add Barker as a Defendant to this action because to do so would be futile.

         Defendant French

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant French is the RCC mail-room supervisor. He states that he filed a grievance about Defendant French reading two pieces of legal mail after RCC and the Kentucky Department of Corrections were notified that Plaintiff had filed suit. He states that this grievance was “quashed using ‘grievance gaming' by Defendant Barker.” The Court will allow Plaintiff's claim against Defendant French for reading his legal mail out of his presence to go forward. See, e.g., Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 174 (6th Cir. 1996); Odom v. Pheral, No. 5:12CV-P73-R, 2013 WL 1703868, at *9 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 19, 2013).

         As already explained to Plaintiff in the Court's initial review, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacities are deemed claims against the Commonwealth of Kentucky itself. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege that a “person” acting under color of state law deprived the plaintiff of a right secured by the Constitution or federal law. See § 1983. States, state agencies, and state officials sued in their official capacities for money damages are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Thus, Plaintiff cannot seek money damages ...

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