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Kanatzar v. Cole

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 9, 2018

CALEB KANATZAR, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN COLE, TIMOTHY PHELPS, CAPTAIN RUCKER, and MARY FLETCHER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          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, filed a 29-page complaint alleging 10 claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He named 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. This complaint read like a summary of isolated administrative grievances against SCDC officials, and it was largely deficient in alleging constitutional violations. The court applied the required screening standards, dismissing some of the claims and requiring the plaintiff to file an amended complaint upon court-approved forms. This amended complaint was to cure all pleading deficiencies noted by the court, and it was to incorporate all the plaintiff's claims remaining from the original complaint and any claims that the plaintiff intended to pursue by his motion to amend. In receipt of Mr. Kanatzar's amended complaint, the court applies the screening standards set out below.

         Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         A court must screen prisoners' complaints which seek relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The screening court must dismiss the entire complaint or any part of it, if it “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 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).

         Amended Complaint

         Mr. Kanatzar's amended complaint narrows his claims to three counts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the same four defendants, Brian Cole, SCDC Director, Timothy Phelps, SCDC Major, Captain Rucker, SCDC officer, and Mary Fletcher, food services supervisor at SCDC. He seeks only injunctive relief. For his first count, Mr. Kanatzar alleges he requested a Kosher diet and was placed on SCDC's certified religious diet plan one week later. However, he has been “made aware that” SCDC “does not maintain a separate Kosher kitchen” and so he concludes that his meals are not being prepared according to his religion's tenets that require using containers and utensils that have never held non-Kosher food. ECF# 7. As far as actions taken by the individual defendants, Mr. Kanatzar alleges he submitted requests that his meals be prepared in a manner “keeping Kosher” to Major Phelps, and his request was not acknowledged or answered so he filed another request and grievance. ECF# 7, p. 7. He further alleges submitting similar requests to the defendants Cole and Fletcher and receiving no answer or acknowledgment Id. There are no allegations against the defendant Rucker in this count. The plaintiff asserts the defendants violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendment to pursue his sincerely-held religious beliefs.

         For his second count, Mr. Kanatzar alleges he has been denied adequate exercise opportunities while in segregation. Released from segregation in July 18, 2017, Mr. Kanatzar alleges he returned to segregation on November 13, 2017, and then requested from Captain Rucker that exercise equipment be placed in the segregation recreation cages. When his request was not answered or acknowledged, he filed with Director Cole a grievance which also was not answered or acknowledged. He asserts this denial of exercise equipment violates his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

         For his third count, Mr. Kanatzar alleges he is denied “hot or warm water for shaving and washing” in the segregation unit. ECF# 7, p. 8. As for showers, he alleges that “[s]egregation inmates are only allowed showers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and provided access to only very poor quality soap.” Id. He alleges sending requests to Captain Rucker and Director Cole for hot water in the segregation cells and then filing a grievance when his requests were not answered. He asserts the denial of hot water for shaving and washing violates his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

         Personal Participation of Defendants

         Mr. Kanatzar has alleged a sufficient basis for personal participation on behalf of Director Cole for all three counts, on behalf of Major Phelps for count one, on behalf of Supervisor Fletcher for count one, and on behalf of Captain Rucker for counts two and three. The defendants are respectively dismissed from the other counts for failure to allege their personal involvement.

         Count One-Failure to Maintain a ...


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