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Roberts v. Daviess County Detention Center

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

October 16, 2019




         On initial review of the in forma pauperis civil-rights complaint filed by pro se Plaintiff Dennis Shawn Roberts, the Court found that Plaintiff failed to state a claim against the named Defendants, i.e., the Daviess County Detention Center (DCDC), DCDC Jailer Art Maglinger, Deputy Moore, and "all staff who handles legal mail." However, the Court provided Plaintiff with thirty days to amend his complaint to name persons in their individual capacities who claimed violated his First Amendment right related to his legal mail. When Plaintiff did not do so, the Court dismissed this action. See DNs 15 & 16. However, Plaintiff filed a motion to reopen, and the Court reopened this action. See DN 19.

         Now before the Court is Plaintiffs amended complaint (DN 18), which the Court will review 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 following reasons, the Court finds that certain claims will be allowed to proceed.


         In his original complaint, Plaintiff, then a prisoner at DCDC, alleged that his legal mail has been opened without his consent and outside his presence on several occasions in violation of his civil rights. In particular, he stated in pertinent part:

A legal doc from U.S. Eastern Dist Court of London, Ky. And again a doc from Wayne Co. circuit court clerk on 11-23-18 again an United States Dist Court of Louisville also on 12-12-18. I received a letterhead from probation and parole. All these legal doc where opened without my consent or even myself being present. In fact violating my civil right.

         As relief, Plaintiff requested monetary, punitive, and injunctive relief.

         In the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Daviess County should be held responsible "because of not holding the jail to consent to decree of the rules and rights of the inmates they house, lack of knowledge by staff maybe by in proper training of their officials in the way of violating inmate rights by opening legal mail[.]" He also alleges that he had to ask "family members to send my legal mail via priority mail, as that matter my family had to pay postage just so I could have a tracking number to better understand and stop my legal mail being opened and further understand if I was in fact getting my etc."

         Plaintiff refers to requests he made at the DCDC "kiosk" and invites the Court to obtain those. He asks that the Court lessen his burden by allowing him "to name the defendants and what right I know they have violated, then give the kiosk ID# to reference the defendant being named in civil action[.]" As Defendants, Plaintiff names Daviess County, Deputy David Bowman, Jailer Art Maglinger, Deputy Jack Jones, and Deputy Joseph Moore. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Maglinger handed him "open legal documents"; that Defendant Bowman "brought legal mail to me already opened"; and that Defendants Jones and Moore "impeded or frustrated access to courts and due-process claus[e]." His amended complaint also mentions retaliation.

         II. ANALYSIS

         When a 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 of the 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).

         A. Claim for injunctive relief

         Plaintiff is no longer housed at DCDC. He is now housed at Fulton County Detention Center. Thus, his request for injunctive relief is moot. See Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1996) ("[T]o the extent Kensu seeks declaratory and injunctive relief his claims are now moot as he is no longer confined to the institution that searched his mail."); see also Parks v. Reans, 510 Fed.Appx. 414, 415 (6th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) ("A prisoner's request for injunctive and declaratory relief is moot upon his transfer to a different facility.").

         B. First Amendment claim ...

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