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Kanatzar v. Cole

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 1, 2017



          Sam A. Crow, U.S. District Senior Judge.

         The plaintiff Caleb Kanatzar, a pretrial detainee at the Shawnee County Department of Corrections (“SCDC”), in Topeka, Kansas, has submitted a 29-page complaint for relief alleging 10 claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and naming as defendants, Brian Cole, as director of SCDC; Timothy Phelps, an SCDC officer; Captain Rucker, an SCDC officer; and Mary Fletcher, a food services supervisor at SCDC. ECF# 1. The plaintiff's claims read like a summary of isolated administrative grievances against SCDC officials ranging from the lack of regular outdoor time and exercise equipment to dirty meal trays and the denial of properly prepared kosher meals. For this reason, the plaintiff's pleadings are largely deficient in alleging constitutional violations and require the court to screen not only the current claims but also the plaintiff's possible amended claims. The screening standards are set out below followed by a discussion of the relevant counts.

         Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss the entire complaint or any part of it, “if the complaint . . . is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citations omitted); Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1523 (10th Cir. 1992). In addressing a claim brought under § 1983, the analysis begins by identifying the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989). The validity of the claim then must be judged by reference to the specific constitutional standard which governs that right. Id.

         A court liberally construes a pro se complaint and applies “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In addition, the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true. Anderson v. Blake, 469 F.3d 910, 913 (10th Cir. 2006). On the other hand, “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, ” dismissal is appropriate. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).

         The court “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). The same standard used for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motions is used for § 1915 dismissals, and this includes the newer language and meaning taken from Twombly and its “plausibility” determination. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); see also Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 1148 (2010). As a result, courts “look to the specific allegations in the complaint to determine whether they plausibly support a legal claim for relief.” Kay, 500 F.3d at 1218 (citation omitted). Under this new standard, “a plaintiff must ‘nudge his claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Smith, 561 F.3d at 1098 (citation omitted). The Tenth Circuit has made clear, “that, to state a claim in federal court, a complaint must explain what each defendant did to [the pro se plaintiff]; when the defendant did it; how the defendant's action harmed [the plaintiff]; and what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated.” Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, at Arapahoe County Justice Center, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007).

         Motion to Amend

         The plaintiff has filed a five-page motion to amend complaint which alleges three additional claims for relief. ECF# 5. Though the plaintiff is entitled to amend his complaint once without leave of the court, the plaintiff's motion to amend is not a complete amended complaint. The plaintiff may not amend his complaint by simply submitting papers with additional claims and allegations as done here. To add claims or significant claims, the plaintiff must prepare and submit a complete amended complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 15. The amended complaint must be complete as it supersedes the original complaint. Therefore, it must include all parties, claims and factual allegations that the plaintiff intends to present, including those he wants to retain from the original complaint. The plaintiff may not simply refer to the original complaint. The plaintiff is hereby admonished that claims and allegations omitted from the amended complaint will be regarded as no longer before the court. To comply with the local court rule, the Amended Complaint must be submitted upon court-approved forms.

         The plaintiff will be given thirty days to file a complete amended complaint upon proper forms that contains all of his claims and factual allegations. This amended complaint also should address all of the pleading deficiencies addressed in this order omitting those claims which the plaintiff no longer wishes to pursue or which the court has otherwise dismissed in this order.

         Compensatory Damages Claim for Relief

         The plaintiff's complaints principally seek injunctive relief, but his original complaint included a claim for damages to compensate for “pain, sickness and mental anguish.” ECF# 1, p. 19. Federal law prohibits prisoners from bringing federal actions “for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). Section 1997e(e) . . . provides in pertinent part: “No 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.” Id. In Searles v. Van Bebber, 251 F.3d 869 (10th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 536 U.S. 904 (2002), the Tenth Circuit specifically held that the “Limitation on Recovery” set forth in § 1997e(e) applied to a First Amendment claim that prison officials denied the plaintiff a Kosher diet and to claims for actual or compensatory damages. Id. at 879, 881; see also Sisney v. Reisch, 674 F.3d 839, 843 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 568 U.S. 934 (2012). The plaintiff's complaint fails to allege any facts to support a cognizable claim for damages. There are no allegations to indicate the defendants' actions caused the plaintiff to sustain a physical injury. Thus, the plaintiff has no claim for damages absent the allegation of additional facts to support the same.

         Personal Participation of Defendants

         The law is clear in this circuit:

“Individual liability under § 1983 must be based on personal involvement in the alleged constitutional violation.” Foote v. Spiegel, 118 F.3d 1416, 1423 (10th Cir. 1997). Supervisory status alone does not create § 1983 liability. Duffield v. Jackson, 545 F.3d 1234, 1239 (10th Cir. 2008). Rather, there must be “an affirmative link ... between the constitutional deprivation and either the supervisor's personal participation, his exercise of control or direction, or his failure to supervise.” Green v. Branson, 108 F.3d 1296, 1302 (10th Cir.1997) (quotation and brackets omitted).

Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1069 (10th Cir. 2009). Thus, a general allegation that a grievance was denied, “by itself without any connection to the violation of constitutional rights alleged by plaintiff, does not establish personal participation under § 1983.” Id. (citations omitted). The allegation that the defendant failed to approve or denied a request may be sufficient. Id. at 1070. Absent such allegations of personal ...

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