United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
DAMIEN A. SUBLETT, Plaintiff,
KEITH HELTON, et al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. WILHOIT, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Damien A. Sublett is an inmate confined at the Green River
Correctional Complex located in Central City, Kentucky.
Proceeding without an attorney, Sublett has filed a civil
rights action against prison officials at the Little Sandy
Correctional Complex ("LSCC") in Sandy Hook,
Kentucky (where Sublett was previously incarcerated),
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [D.E. No. 1]
separate order, the Court has granted Sublett's motion to
proceed without prepayment of the filing fee. [D.E. No. 10]
Thus, the Court must conduct a preliminary review of
Sublett's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2), 1915 A. 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. McGore v.
Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607-08 (6th Cir. 1997).
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 v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470 (6th
Cir. 2010). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8. In addition,
"a plaintiffs 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).
Court evaluates Sublett's complaint under a more lenient
standard because he is not represented by an attorney.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007);
Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003).
At this stage, the Court accepts the plaintiffs factual
allegations as true, and his legal claims are liberally
construed in his favor. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56.
However, the principles requiring generous construction of
pro se pleadings are not without limits. Wells
v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); Wilson
v. Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, No.
07-cv-95-KSF, 2007 WL 1136743 (E.D. Ky. April 16, 2007).
Although the Court has an obligation to liberally construe a
complaint filed by a person proceeding without counsel, that
obligation does not extend so far as to require or permit it
to create arguments or claims that the plaintiff has not
made. Coleman v. Shoney's, Inc., 79 Fed.Appx.
155, 157 (6th Cir. 2003). Thus, vague allegations that one or
more of the defendants acted wrongfully or violated the
plaintiffs 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."). The Court is not required to create a claim
for the plaintiff, nor to "conjure up unpled
allegations." Moorman v. Herrington, No.
4:08-CV-PI27-M, 2009 WL 2020669, at *l (W.D. Ky. July 9,
complaint, Sublett alleges that on September 9, 2018, he was
speaking with a legal aide about serving summons on a
defendant in another civil rights case filed by Sublett
against Correctional Officer Jason D. Howard. Sublett alleges
that Defendant Correctional Officer Audrea Lewis repeatedly
told Sublett not to speak to the legal aide about the lawsuit
against Howard. After Sublett went to his cell and came back
to hand the legal aide a Court order, Lewis "became
vexed" and told the legal aide to go back to his room
and told Sublett to stand where he was. While he was standing
there, inmate Rick Poore (identified by Sublett as a white
inmate) approached Lewis, but Lewis said she did not have
time to talk because Sublett wanted to talk about his lawsuit
against Howard. Poore then turned to Sublett, used a racial
slur and said that he "needed his [expletive] guts cut
out." Sublett alleges that Lewis claimed not to hear
anything, took Sublett to the segregation unit and issued a
disciplinary report against Lewis.
then alleges that, in September 2018, he wrote two separate
letters to Defendant Warden Keith Helton and informed him
that Sublett feared for his life because of these
interactions with inmate Poore and Officer Lewis. He alleges
that Helton responded with a letter stating that he would
look into the matter and a copy of this letter was sent to
Defendant Correctional Treatment Officer Ronda D. May.
Sublett states that May, a case worker in the Special
Management Unit, told Sublett that she had received the
letter from Helton and asked what had happened. He alleges
that he told her about the threat from Poore and other gang
members and requested protective custody and that May said
that she would look into it.
alleges that, after he was returned to the general
population, he and four other black inmates were approached
by Poore and other white supremacist gang members and told to
get off their yard. Although he reported the incident to an
officer, the officer laughed and told him to "stay with
your own kind and you'll be alright." He further
alleges that he never heard back from May or Helton, and that
he continued to be taunted by staff and white inmates.
to Sublett, on November 5, 2018, he went out to the GB
bullpen by himself and, after seeing that there were only
white inmates out in the bullpen, was trying to go back
inside when Poore ran at him with a shank using racial slurs
and threatening to gut him. Sublett alleges that Poore cut
Sublett's check during the altercation. He further states
that, although Howard was posted in the guard tower, the
attack lasted for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, Correctional
Officer Valandingham came out to the bullpen and placed
Sublett in handcuffs. Although Sublett concedes that he
"made an effort at defending himself during the physical
altercation, he claims that, in his 20-year incarceration,
this is the first disciplinary report he has ever received
for a physical altercation with another inmate. After this
incident, he was placed in administrative segregation. He
further alleges that, from November 2018 through January
2019, his requests for protective custody were refused and,
on multiple occasions, May threated to force Sublett back
into the general population. [D.E. No. 1 at p. 2-9]
on these allegations, Sublett claims that both Helton and May
failed to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
[Id. at p. 10] With respect to the relief sought,
Sublett states that he seeks injunctive relief enjoining May
and Helton from forcing Sublett back into "a dangerous
condition GB," as well as to "have defendants
defray the expended cost in litigation this action."
[Id. at p. 14] No. requests for compensatory or
punitive damages are made.
after filing his complaint, Sublett filed a notice that he
had been transferred from LSCC to the Green River
Correctional Complex. This renders his claims for injunctive
relief against May and Helton moot. While a claim for
monetary damages may survive beyond an inmate plaintiffs
transfer from one facility to another, an inmate's claim
for declaratory or injunctive relief becomes moot when he or
she is transferred away from the institution where the
underlying complaint arose. See, e.g., Colvin v.
Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 289 (6th Cir. 2010) (finding that
the inmate's facility transfer mooted his request for
injunctive relief where the inmate's claims were directed
specifically towards his prior facility's policies and
procedures); Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th
Cir. 1996) ("However, to the extent [the plaintiff]
seeks declaratory and injunctive relief his claims are now
moot as he is no longer confined to the institution that
[allegedly violated his constitutional rights]").
Because Sublett is no longer incarcerated at LSCC, his claim
for injunctive relief in the form of enjoining May and Helton
from forcing him back into the general population will be
dismissed as moot. As this is the only relief requested in
the complaint, Sublett's complaint will be dismissed for
failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 A, 1915(e)(2).
Sublett does request that the Defendants be required to
"defray the expended costs" in this litigation,
this request is not sufficient to preclude dismissal of his
lawsuit. First, as Sublett is proceeding in forma
pauperis, the costs expended by him thus far are
minimal. Even so, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(f)(1) provides that
"Judgment may be rendered for costs at the
conclusion of the suit or action as in other
proceedings..." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(f)(1) (emphasis
added). In turn, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1)
states that "[u]nless a federal statute, these rules, or
a court order provides otherwise, costs - other than
attorney's fees - should be allowed to the prevailing
party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). However, because
Sublett's complaint is dismissed, he is not the
prevailing party. Thus, he is not entitled to an award of
has also filed a motion to supplement his complaint pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(d), seeking to
"raise issues of fact" with regard to whether he
exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to his
claims. [D.E. No. 7] However, as the Court finds that this
case must be dismissed, Sublett's motion to supplement
will be denied as moot.
it is hereby O ...