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Ridley v. Brownback

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 14, 2018

SAM BROWNBACK, Govenor, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Anthony Earl Ridley brings this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Although Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Lansing Correctional Facility at the time of filing, the acts giving rise to his Complaint occurred while he was in custody at El Dorado Correctional Facility in El Dorado, Kansas. The Court granted his motion to proceed in forma pauperis. On April 3, 2018, the Court entered a Notice and Order to Show Cause (Doc. 6) (“NOSC”), directing Plaintiff to either show good cause why his claims should not be dismissed for the reasons set forth in the NOSC or to file a proper amended complaint to cure the deficiencies. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 8). For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff is ordered to show cause why his Amended Complaint should not be dismissed.

         I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

         Plaintiff alleges that he was denied a special diet and religious text in accordance with his Hindu religion, and that he was excluded from chaplain services. Plaintiff names as Defendants: Governor Sam Brownback; Governor's Constituent Services Office; Joe Norwood, Secretary of Corrections; Warden James Heimgartner; Cindy Vanpay, Intake Investigator; UTM Agnew; Kansas Department of Corrections; State of Kansas; Volunteer Chaplain Putnam; and Volunteer Chaplain Gaskill. Plaintiff seeks “$10, 000, 000 for monetary damages for violation of the Due Process Clause and First, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Federal Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice Act, 42 U.S.C. 1985(2), (3), prospective injunctive relief and $3, 000, 000 for violation of Kan. Const. B. of R. (7), $7, 000, 000 for monetary damages for violations of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA) and $30, 000, 000 for punitive damages for constitutional injury.” (Doc. 8, at 40-41.)

         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).

         III. Discussion

         1. Exhaustion

         The Court found in the NOSC that Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to dismissal because it appears that he has not exhausted his administrative remedies. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he sent a letter to Governor Brownback and that he sent a grievance letter to the State Pardon Attorney. (Doc. 8, at 16.) Plaintiff alleges that Governor Brownback “commanded the Governor's Constituent Services Office to forward my correspondence I sent to him to the Secretary of Corrections' Office for response.” Id. at 17. Plaintiff also alleges that Brownback “took no action.” Id. Plaintiff also alleges that he sent two “grievances to Warden James Heimgartner and he would not take action to correct institutional civil rights violations.” Id. at 8. Plaintiff also claims he “appealed #2 grievances to Joe Norwood and he would not take action to correct institutional civil rights violations.” Id. at 15.

         Plaintiff alleges that he exhausted administrative remedies by pursuing special procedures under K.A.R. 44-15-201. This provision allows an inmate to bring “the most difficult and complex problems” to the attention of a higher authority without going through the normal three-step grievance procedure outlined in K.A.R. 44-15-102. An inmate who invokes the special procedures provision may direct his grievance to the warden of the facility, the secretary of corrections, or the state pardon attorney. An official who receives an inappropriate complaint under this provision, however, may return it to the inmate and require him to use the normal ...

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