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Waterman v. Cherokee County Jail

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 26, 2019

BRIAN WATERMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CHEROKEE COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CARLOS MURGUIA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Brian Waterman, a prisoner in the Sedgwick County Jail, brings this civil rights action pro se against a number of defendants associated with the Cherokee County Jail. Some defendants have been dismissed from the case, but the following defendants remain: Sheriff David Groves, Michelle Tippie, Thomas DeGroot, Amanda Phillips, and Judah Ellis. The case is before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 45).

         Three claims from plaintiffs original complaint remain:

• Count I - Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim, alleging that plaintiff was placed in segregation on March 17, 2018 and held for fifteen days without a legitimate government purpose;
• Count III - First Amendment retaliation claim against defendant Tippie based on two events:
• August 24, 2017 cessation of special diet in retaliation for filing a grievance against defendant Tippie for opening outgoing mail, and
• August 31, 2017 placement in segregation for stating that he was going to file a grievance and contact a government oversight agency about defendant Wagner (who has been dismissed from the case); and
• Count VI - First Amendment claim regarding plaintiff s right to observe his religion beginning on May 4, 2017.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss all of plaintiff s remaining claims. As grounds for dismissal, defendants make the following arguments: (1) all official capacity claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment; (2) plaintiff fails to state a claim against Sheriff Groves in his individual capacity; (3) plaintiff fails to state a claim against Thomas DeGroot in his individual capacity; (4) plaintiff fails to state a claim in Count I because plaintiff was placed in segregation at his own request for his own safety; (5) plaintiff fails to state a claim against defendant Tippie in Count III because he fails to allege facts showing how defendant Tippie was involved in allegedly retaliatory decisions or that defendant Tippie was aware of the threats made to defendant Wagner; (6) plaintiff fails to state a claim in Count VI because he does not allege that he holds any sincerely held religious beliefs, what those beliefs are, how attending certain religious services would be an expression of those beliefs, how religious services have been unreasonably denied, and who actually denied plaintiff access to services; and (7) in any event, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity for any of the actions complained of by plaintiff. For the following reasons, the court grants defendants' motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. Standards of Review

         Defendants move to dismiss claims both for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Under the Eleventh Amendment, “an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.” Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). A party asserting Eleventh Amendment Immunity may move to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) because “Eleventh Amendment Immunity concerns the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court.” Ruiz v. McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1180 (10th Cir. 2002).

         The court will grant a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss only when the factual allegations fail to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the factual allegations need not be detailed, the claims must set forth entitlement to relief “through more than labels, conclusions and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., 534 F.Supp.2d 1214, 1216 (D. Kan. 2008). The allegations must contain facts sufficient to state a claim that is plausible, rather than merely conceivable. Id. “All well-pleaded facts, as distinguished from conclusory allegations, must be taken as true.” Swanson v. Bixler, 750 F.2d 810, 813 (10th Cir. 1984); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The court construes any reasonable inferences from these facts in favor of the plaintiff. Tal v. Hogan, 453 F.3d 1244, 1252 (10th Cir. 2006).

         When, as here, a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court construes his pleadings liberally and holds the pleadings to a less stringent standard than lawyer-drafted pleadings. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); McBride v. Deer, 240 F.3d 1287, 1290 (10th Cir. 2001). Liberal construction does not, however, “relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). The court need not accept as true those allegations that state only legal conclusions. See Id. at 1110.

         II. ...


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