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Martini v. Cline

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 1, 2017

SAM CLINE, et al., Defendants.


          Sam A. Crow U.S. Senior District Judge

         Plaintiff Scott Michael Martini is hereby required to show good cause, in writing, to the Honorable Sam A. Crow, United States District Judge, why this case should not be dismissed due to the deficiencies in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint that are discussed herein.

         I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

         Plaintiff brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and assessed an initial partial filing fee. (Doc. 5.) Plaintiff filed a response (Doc. 6) indicating that he does not have the funds to pay the initial partial filing fee. The Court will treat the response as a request to waive the initial partial filing fee and will grant the request.

         On November 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint, for appointment of counsel and for injunctive relief (Doc. 3). Because Plaintiff is entitled to amend his complaint as a matter of course under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1), the Court grants the motion for leave to amend. The Clerk is directed to docket Plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint at Doc. 3-1.

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff names as defendants: Sam Cline, Warden at Lansing Correctional Facility (“LCF”); Ms. Parker, Unit Team C-1 at LCF; Ms. Holloman, Unit Team C-1 at LCF; and Mr. Taylor, Unit Team at Ellsworth Correctional Facility (“ECF”). Plaintiff sues the Defendants in their official and individual capacities, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of three million dollars, and injunctive relief in the form of placement in protective custody and immediate eye surgery.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have denied his requests to be placed in protective custody. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Parker and Holloman, Unit Team at C-1 Seg. Unit, refused to put Plaintiff in protective custody at LCF. Plaintiff was moved to G-Pod at ECF, and on February 28, 2017, he requested Defendant Taylor to immediately move him to protective custody. Defendant Taylor denied his request. Plaintiff was subsequently assaulted by two “attackers” on March 1, 2017, and was taken to the Ellsworth Hospital for a CAT scan. Plaintiff attaches a KDOC Administrative Segregation Report dated March 1, 2017. (Doc. 3-1, at 8.) The document shows that Plaintiff had a pre-segregation hearing and was then placed in administrative segregation on “Other Security Risk” status after being involved in an altercation in G-Pod. Plaintiff signed the report on March 2, 2017, writing “asking for protection” by his signature.

         Plaintiff also alleges that he is being denied proper medical care for the eye injury he suffered due to the attack. Plaintiff claims he is being denied eye surgery, and that there is no eye doctor at the Jackson County Jail where he is currently housed. Plaintiff also asserts that his access to the courts has been limited while at the Jackson County Jail because he does not have access to copies or a notary, and his legal papers are still stored at LCF.

         II. 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 a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)- (2).

         “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). 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).

         A pro se litigant's “conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The complaint's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 555, 570.

         The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained “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, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 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 Tenth Circuit has pointed out that the Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Erickson gave rise to a new standard of review for § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) dismissals. 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). 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). “Plausible” in this context does not mean “likely to be true, ” but rather refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, ” then the plaintiff has not “nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1974).


         1. Official Capacity Claims

         Plaintiff sues Defendants in their individual and official capacities. An official-capacity suit is another way of pleading an action against the governmental entity itself. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985). “When a suit alleges a claim against a state official in his official capacity, the real party in interest in the case is the state, and the state may raise the defense of sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.” Callahan v. Poppell, 471 F.3d 1155, 1158 (10th Cir. 2006) (quotation omitted). Sovereign immunity generally bars actions in federal court for damages against state officials acting in their official capacities. Harris v. Owens, 264 F.3d 1282, 1289 (10th Cir. 2001). It is well established that Congress did not abrogate the states' sovereign immunity when it enacted § 1983. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 338-45 (1979); Ruiz v. McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1181 (10th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities are subject to dismissal as barred by sovereign immunity.

         2. Individual Capacity Claims

         a. Defendant Cline

         Plaintiff has failed to allege any personal involvement by Defendant Cline. The claims against Warden Cline require proof that he personally committed a constitutional violation. Keith v. Koerner, 843 F.3d 833, 837-38 (10th Cir. 2016) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) (“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to . . . § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”)). It is not ...

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