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McDonald v. Springfield

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

June 24, 2019



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss, [R. 28], and Motion for Summary Judgment, [R. 29], filed by Defendants Wesley Burnett, Michael Springfield, Brendan Inglish, Michael Pillion, Jared Thompson, and Tami Baur (collectively, “Defendants”). Almost five months after these motions were filed, Plaintiff Johnny McDonald still had not filed a response to either motion. The Court issued an Order pursuant to United States v. Ninety-Three Firearms, 330 F.3d 414 (6th Cir. 2003), in which it informed McDonald of the consequences and requirements of the summary judgment rule, as well as the rule concerning a motion to dismiss. [R. 37 at 1-2.] The Court gave McDonald an additional 30 days to respond to the pending motions, and the Court noted that “[f]ailure to comply with this Order will result in dismissal of the action.” [Id. at 1.] It has been three months since that order was filed and McDonald still has not filed a response. This matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, [R. 29], is GRANTED and the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [R. 28], is DENIED AS MOOT. The Court will enter a separate Order and Judgment consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.


         Plaintiff Johnny McDonald, pro se, is an inmate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (“KSP”). The facts of his Complaint were previously summarized in the Memorandum Opinion and Order filed on August 3, 2018. [R. 21 at 1.] In short, there are two remaining matters: First, McDonald's First Amendment claim against Defendant Pillion in his individual capacity for all relief and in his official capacity for equitable relief, as well as under RLUIPA in his official capacity for injunctive relief. Second, McDonald's excessive force claims against Defendants Dornelle, Thompson, Inglish, and Springfield in their individual capacities. [Id. at 10.]


         Under Rule 12(b)(6), to survive a motion to dismiss, “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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). “[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 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955). The complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” yet must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955). In addition, “[a] pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)).

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists where “there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court “may not make credibility determinations nor weigh the evidence when determining whether an issue of fact remains for trial.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001); Ahlers v. Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir. 1999)). “The ultimate question is ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Back v. Nestlé USA, Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).

         The Court acknowledges that pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). The duty to be less stringent with pro se complainants, however, “does not require [the Court] to conjure up unpled allegations, ” McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir.1979) (citation omitted), nor to create a claim for a pro se plaintiff, Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir.1975).

         It should be noted that “‘a verified complaint . . . satisfies the burden of the nonmovant to respond' to a motion for summary judgment, unlike ‘mere allegations or denials' in unverified pleadings.” King v. Harwood, 852 F.3d 568, 578 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 385 (6th Cir. 1999)) (en banc).


         As stated above, McDonald never responded to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. This is after the Court warned McDonald and granted him additional time to respond. [R. 37.] Pursuant to Joint Local Rule of Civil Practice 7.1(c), “[f]ailure to timely respond to a motion may be grounds for granting the motion.” See also Humphrey v. U.S. Attorney General's Office, 279 Fed.Appx. 328, 331 (6th Cir. 2008) (recognizing that a party's lack of response to a motion or argument therein is grounds for the district court's grant of an unopposed motion to dismiss and noting that “if a plaintiff fails to respond or to otherwise oppose a defendant's motion, then the district court may deem the plaintiff to have waived opposition to the motion”); Paulmann v. Hodgdon Powder Co., Inc., No. 3:13-CV-0021-CRS-DW, 2014 WL 4102354, *1-2 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 18, 2014) (holding that plaintiff's failure to respond or otherwise oppose defendant's motion to dismiss established that the plaintiff had waived opposition to the motion). Because Plaintiff has failed to oppose Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, he waives opposition to the motion.

         Notwithstanding McDonald's lack of opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the legal arguments in Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment are well-taken. Specifically, the Court finds that Defendants have satisfied their burden under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by demonstrating that McDonald failed to properly exhaust his remedies under the policies and procedures of the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

         In Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and his claims are barred by the doctrine of issue preclusion. [R. 29 at 2.] The Court agrees that McDonald failed to exhaust administrative remedies, requiring the action be dismissed in its entirety.

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) bars a civil rights action challenging prison conditions until the prisoner exhausts “such administrative remedies as are available.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also Jones v. Bock,549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007) (“There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and that unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court”). In order to exhaust administrative remedies, prisoners must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the deadlines and other applicable procedural rules established by state law. Jones, 549 U.S. at 218-19. “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). However, “failure to ...

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