United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. MCKINLEY JR., SENIOR JUDGE
Erin Jermaine Smith-Spencer filed a pro se, in
forma pauperis complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v.
Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997),
overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549
U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, this action
will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.
SUMMARY OF CLAIMS
is a pretrial detainee at the Louisville Metro Department of
Corrections (LMDC). He names as Defendants in their
individual and official capacities LMDC Special Operations
Response Team (SORT) Corrections Officers M. Smith and Ray.
He states that on January 31, 2019, SORT team officers
brought another inmate into the single cell where he was
housed. He states that the neighboring inmate set off the
fire alarm, causing the SORT team to mace and
“shoot” his neighbor, put him in a restraint
chair, and take him somewhere. Plaintiff states that
“[a]bout 20 minutes later I started to use the toilet
and for privacy I covered my window.” According to the
complaint, SORT officers came to the door and told him to
take the paper down and go to the back of his cell. He states
that when he told them he was using the bathroom, “All
of a sudden they open my slot on the cell door spraying mace,
sometimes opening my door slightly to shoot pepper balls in
my cell, they did these things a couple of time[s] or
further alleges that SORT officers eventually ran into his
cell with a shock shield and someone punched him, although he
does not know who because they were wearing helmets, gas
masks and protective vests which covered the names on their
clothing. He states that he could only make out who two of
them were. He further states that, when he was on the ground,
they put him in shackles and a restraint chair. He states
that the shackles were extremely tight cutting off
circulation in his left wrist and turning it purple.
Plaintiff states that he asked them to take pictures of his
scars and bruising but they did not do so until the next day
after most of the swelling had gone down. He further states
that his rights were violated by illegal use of force, and
I was . . . aimed at by M. Smith with the pepper ball gun to
my head. And he was shooting towards my head also. Several
times M. Smith SORT Officer did this. And SORT Correction
Officer Ray had the shock shield and charged me with it
taking me to the ground.
As relief, Plaintiff requests monetary damages.
prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a
governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court
must review the complaint and dismiss the action, 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) and (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 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. When determining
whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can
be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light
most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all factual
allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside,
Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a
reviewing court must liberally construe pro se
pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365
(1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint must
include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
action is brought against an official of a governmental
entity in his official capacity, the suit should be construed
as brought against the governmental entity. Will v. Mich.
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
Therefore, in the case at bar, Plaintiff's claims against
the employees of LMDC in their official capacities are
actually brought against the Louisville Metro government.
See Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir.
§ 1983 claim is made against a municipality, like the
Louisville Metro government, a court must analyze two
distinct issues: (1) whether the plaintiff's harm was
caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) if so, whether
the municipality is responsible for that violation.
Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex.,
503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). The Court will address the issues
in reverse order.
municipality cannot be held liable solely because it
employs a tortfeasor - or, in other words, a municipality
cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat
superior theory.” Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't
of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (emphasis in
original); Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282,
286 (6th Cir. 1994); Berry v. City of Detroit, 25
F.3d 1342, 1345 (6th Cir. 1994). “[T]he touchstone of
‘official policy' is designed ‘to distinguish
acts of the municipality from acts of
employees of the municipality, and thereby make
clear that municipal liability is limited to action for which
the municipality is actually responsible.'”
City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 138
(1988) (quoting Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469,
479-80 (1986)) (emphasis in Pembaur).
municipality cannot be held responsible for a constitutional
deprivation unless there is a direct causal link between a
municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional
deprivation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Deaton v.
Montgomery Cty., Ohio, 989 F.2d 885, 889 (6th Cir.
1993). Simply stated, the plaintiff must
“‘identify the policy, connect the policy to the
city itself and show that the particular injury was incurred
because of the execution of that policy.'”
Garner v. Memphis Police Dep't, 8 F.3d 358, 364
(6th Cir. 1993) (quoting Coogan v. City of Wixom,
820 F.2d 170, 176 (6th Cir. 1987), overruled on other
grounds, Frantz v. Vill. of Bradford, 245 F.3d
869 (6th Cir. 2001)). The policy or custom “must be
‘the moving force of the constitutional violation'
in order to establish the liability of a government body
under § 1983.” Searcy, 38 F.3d at ...