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Williams v. Wright

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

May 23, 2019

RODGER WILLIAMS, a/k/a Willow Williams, Plaintiff,
v.
LT. WRIGHT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          William O. Bertelsman United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Rodger Williams (aka, “Willow Williams”) is an inmate confined at the Campbell County Detention Center (“CCDC”) in Newport, Kentucky.[1] Proceeding without counsel, Williams has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [R. 3] Williams has also filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. [R. 9]

         The Court has reviewed the fee motion [R. 9] and the financial information submitted by Williams [R. 13] will grant the request on the terms established by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). Because Williams has been granted pauper status in this proceeding, the separate $50.00 administrative fee is waived. District Court Miscellaneous Fee Schedule, § 14. In addition, because the Court has granted Williams' motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, her motion to direct/order defendant's agents to complete certificate of plaintiff's inmate account [R. 8]; motion to compel defendant James Daley's agent to complete/furnish court with certificate of plaintiff's inmate account [R. 10]; and her motion for extension of time for in forma pauperis deadline [R. 11] will be denied as moot.

         Turning to the substance of Williams' complaint, the Court must conduct a preliminary review of Williams' complaint because she has been granted permission to pay the filing fee in installments and because she asserts claims against government officials. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. A district court must dismiss any claim that 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. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). When testing the sufficiency of the complaint, the Court affords it a forgiving construction, accepting as true all non-conclusory factual allegations and liberally construing its legal claims in the plaintiff's favor. Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir. 2012).

         In her complaint, Williams alleges that the medical department at the CCDC (which Williams indicates is run by Southern Health Partners (“SHP”)), has provided Williams with inadequate health care for the entire duration of Williams' incarceration. According to Williams, she has not been provided with any mental health treatment; she has never been to see a psychiatrist; she has been denied medications (specifically Premarin, a conjugated estrogen for hormone therapy, and Sinequan/doxepin, a medication used to treat depression and anxiety); she has had a dental infection that has been untreated; and she has had numerous anxiety and panic attacks. [R. 3 at p. 2] She also alleges that she has been “retaliated and discriminated against” by defendants Lt. Wright and Jailer James Daley. [Id.] She also claims that Daley has ignored her requests for grievances, and specifically refers to two grievances filed in September 2017, which were previously attached as exhibits to a complaint that Williams previously filed against Daley and other officials in this Court. [Id. (referring to Exhibits 2 and 3 (misidentified by Williams in this case as Exhibits 1 and 2) attached to Williams' complaint in Williams v. Daley, et al., No. 2:17-cv-193-DLB-EBA (E.D. Ky.) at R. 3][2] Williams further alleges that she “has not recovered fully from the psychical (sic) injury of her misshapen breasts that resulted in a physical sometimes painful deformity due to SHP Inc. and Jailer Daley's deliberate refusal to provide the plaintiff with her [prescription Premarin] (9/6/17, 3/27/19, 3/30/19, 11/5/17).” [R. 3 at p. 2-3] She also alleges that, on March 30, 2019, she asked a Nurse to stay in a medical cell for observation and was denied. [Id.]

         Williams also alleges that, on March 27, 2019, Lt. Wright “abused her authority” by denying Williams the ability to call her attorney for three days “for an infraction my cell mate committed while [Williams] slept.” [R. 3 at p. 2] According to Williams, Lt. Wright also addressed Williams “with slurs and obscene expletives whilst handling [Williams] a grievance.” [Id.] Although she also alleges that she was refused grievances [id. at p. 3], she alleges that the grievance regarding Lt. Wright has been ignored. [Id.] Williams acknowledges that some of the facts giving rise to her current complaint (namely, her claims regarding the denial of her prescription Premarin) were also the subject of her prior litigation, which she voluntarily dismissed in 2018. [Id. at p. 4]

         Based on these allegations, Williams alleges that defendants Lt. Wright, Jennifer Hairsine (identified by Williams as the President of SHP), and Jailer James Daley have caused “cruel and unusual punishments on [Williams] due to their egregious and depraved indifference violating the Equal Protection Clause/Act, Americas with Disabilities Act, [and] the fourth, 14th and 6th Amendments of the Constitution.” [Id. at p. 3] She seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as mandatory sensitivity treatment for all personnel and the termination of Lt. Wright. [Id.]

         Even construing Williams' allegations broadly, her complaint must be dismissed for multiple reasons. First, Williams fails to state a claim for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (“ADA”). Although Williams fails to specify her alleged disability upon which her claim is based, presumably she is inferring that she is disabled because she is transgendered. However, transsexualism and/or gender identity disorders not related to a physical impairments are not “disabilities” under the ADA. See 42 U.S.C. § 12211(b), 42 U.S.C. § 12102. See also Johnson v. Fresh Mark, Inc., 337 F.Supp.2d 996, 1001 (N.D. Ohio 2003), aff'd, 98 Fed.Appx. 461 (6th Cir. 2004).

         In addition, although Williams makes a reference to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution [R. 3 at p. 3], she fails to allege any facts that would suggest a Fourth Amendment claim. A complaint must set forth claims in a clear and concise manner, and 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); Hill, 630 F.3d at 470. Vague allegations that one or more of the defendants acted wrongfully or violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights are not sufficient. Laster v. Pramstaller, No. 08-CV-10898, 2008 WL 1901250, at *2 (E.D. Mich. April 25, 2008) (“Neither the Court nor Defendants are obligated to search through the Complaint and its voluminous exhibits in order to glean a clear and succinct statement of each claim for relief. It is Plaintiffs' responsibility to edit and organize their claims and supporting allegations into a manageable format.”). In sum, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Because the Court cannot create arguments or claims that the plaintiff has not made, Coleman, 79 Fed.Appx. at 157, Williams' failure to state any facts to support a Fourth Amendment claim warrant dismissal of this claim.

         With respect to Williams' claim that her right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment has been violated, although it is not entirely clear from her complaint, presumably, this refers to her allegation that Lt. Wright denied Williams the ability to call her attorney for three days “for an infraction my cell mate committed while [Williams] slept.” [R. 3 at p. 2] The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution affords a defendant facing criminal charges the right to counsel. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 71 (1932). By its terms, the Sixth Amendment applies “[i]n all criminal prosecutions.” U.S. Const. amend. VI. Indeed, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has recognized that “[i]t is ‘firmly established' that a person's Sixth Amendment right to counsel ‘attaches only at or after the time that adversary judicial proceedings have been initiated against him, '” Turner v. United States, 885 F.3d 949, 953 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting United States v. Gouveia, 467 U.S. 180, 187 (1984)) and is “offense specific.” Id. at 954. However, Williams does not allege any facts suggesting that her right to counsel in a pending criminal case against her has been impeded. Rather, Williams plainly indicates that she has been convicted of the crime for which she is serving her sentence. [R. 3 at p. 1]

         Moreover, although Williams seeks monetary relief for this claim, she does not allege that she has sustained any physical injuries as a result of the alleged violation of her Sixth Amendment rights. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), “[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury or the commission of a sexual act .” 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e(e). See also Minneci v. Pollard, 565 U.S. 118, 129, 132 S.Ct. 617, 625, 181 L.Ed.2d 606 (2012) (“Prisoners bringing federal lawsuits...ordinarily may not seek damages for mental or emotional injury unconnected with physical injury.”) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e)).

         For its part, the First Amendment affords any incarcerated person, whether a detainee awaiting trial or one convicted of a criminal offense, the right to meaningful access to the courts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 355 (1996). The constitutional right of access to the courts “requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law.” Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). By its terms, the right of access to the courts extends only to an inmate's direct criminal appeal, habeas corpus applications, and civil rights claims related to the conditions of confinement. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 354-55 (1996). See also Lewis v. Randle, 66 Fed.Appx. 560, 561-62 (6th Cir. 2003).

         Even if the Court construed Williams' complaint very broadly to suggest a denial of access to the courts claim, to state a claim for denial of access to the courts, a plaintiff must show actual injury to a nonfrivolous legal claim. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353-55 (1996). “Examples of actual prejudice to pending or contemplated litigation include having a case dismissed, being unable to file a complaint, and missing a court-imposed deadline.” Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 578 (6th Cir. 2005). See also Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996) (“Plaintiffs must demonstrate, for example, that the inadequacy of the prison law library or the available legal assistance caused such actual injury as the late filing of a court document or the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious claim.”). Here, Williams fails to identify or refer to any particular case, whether already pending or anticipated to be filed, or to describe any particular legal claim that he was hindered or prevented from asserting because of Lt. Wright's alleged conduct, thus she has failed to adequately allege an access-to-courts claim. Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 612 (6th Cir. 2011) (adequate pleading of access-to-courts claim requires allegation of actual injury to specific claim, allegation of the facts and the law in the underlying claim, and demonstration that underlying claim was non-frivolous) (citing Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002)); Clark v. Johnston, 413 Fed.Appx. 804, 812 (6th Cir. 2011).

         Moreover, to the extent that Williams alleges that Lt. Wright used “slurs and obscene expletives whilst handing the plaintiff a grievance, ” [R. 3 at p. 2], “[v]erbal harassment or idle threats by a state actor do not create a constitutional violation and are insufficient to support a section 1983 claim for relief.” Wingo v. Tenn. Dep't of Corr., 499 Fed.Appx. 453, 455 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 955 (6th Cir. 1987). “Just as the Constitution ‘does not mandate comfortable prisons,' it does not mandate polite prison guards or officials or fellow inmates. Derogatory or abusive language and conduct do not give rise to a claim under § 1983.” Ishaaq v. Compton, 900 F.Supp. 935, 944 (W.D. Tenn. 1995) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991))(other ...


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