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Neff v. Winfield Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 28, 2019

MICHAEL A. NEFF, Plaintiff,


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

         Plaintiff Michael A. Neff is hereby required to show good cause, in writing, to the Honorable Sam A. Crow, United States District Judge, why this action should not be dismissed due to the deficiencies in Plaintiff's Complaint that are discussed herein. Plaintiff is also given an opportunity to file a proper amended complaint to cure the deficiencies.

         I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

         Plaintiff brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is incarcerated at the El Dorado Correctional Facility-Central in El Dorado, Kansas (“EDCF”). The Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that Defendants have participated in or allowed “a campaign of harassment, spiteful actions, ill-will and malice, and contributed to placing Plaintiff in a number of dangerous situations, including, but not limited to, religious discrimination, libel, due process violations, among other civil rights actions.” (Doc. 1, at 3.) Plaintiff names as Defendants: Winfield Correctional Facility (“WCF”); EDCF; Kansas Department of Corrections (“KDOC”); Joe Norwood, Secretary of KDOC; Douglas Burris, Designee to Secretary, KDOC; Emmalee Conover, Warden at WCF; Paul Snyder, Warden at EDCF; (fnu) Snyder, Assistant Warden at WCF; (fnu) Donley, Assistant Warden, EDCF; (fnu) (lnu) (1), EAI Supervisor, KDOC; Tyler Clark, EAI Investigator, WCF; (fnu) Sissell, EAI Investigator, EDCF; P. Morrison, Classification Officer, WCF; M. Bos, Classification Officer, EDCF; Russell Cole, Unit Team Supervisor, WCF; (fnu) Randolph, Unit Team Supervisor, EDCF; (fnu) Wheeler, Correctional Supervisor, WCF; (fnu) Sanchez, Corrections Officer, EDCF; John Does, Corrections Officers, EDCF; (fnu) Fugua, Corrections Officer, WCF; (fnu) Vaden, Corrections Officer, WCF; (fnu) Gobel, Corrections Officer, WCF; and (fnu) Lafue, Corrections Officer, WCF. Plaintiff's request for relief includes: removal of Plaintiff's “STG” status; re-instate Plaintiff's minimum custody classification; re-instate all good time credit Plaintiff has lost due to multiple Disciplinary Reports filed by Defendants; and punitive damages totaling $1, 000, 000.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Vaden, Lafue, Gobel, Fuqua, and Wheeler violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights and RLUIPA by “constantly harassing and confiscating religious items belonging to Plaintiff.” (Doc. 1, at 8-11.) Plaintiff alleges that his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated: by Defendant Tyler Clark for unjustly activating security threat group (“STG”) status against Plaintiff; by Defendant Sissel for unjustly maintaining STG status against Plaintiff; by Defendants Sanchez and John Does for restraining and pepper-spraying Plaintiff while he was being stabbed by another inmate, thus rendering Plaintiff defenseless; by Defendant Bos for classifying Plaintiff as a maximum custody inmate, thereby putting him in a dangerous and hostile environment; by Defendant Morrison for maintaining Plaintiff as a maximum custody inmate, thereby putting him in a dangerous and hostile environment; by Defendant Conover for allowing Plaintiff's transfer from a minimum to a maximum custody facility, thereby putting him in a dangerous and hostile environment; by Defendant Paul Snyder for allowing and maintaining the classification and transfer of Plaintiff to a maximum custody facility, thereby placing and keeping him in a dangerous and hostile environment; and by Defendant Donley for maintaining Plaintiff's maximum custody level, thereby placing him in a dangerous and hostile environment.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants WCF, EDCF, KDOC, and the Secretary and Secretary Designee of KDOC, violated RLUIPA by “allowing named defendants to act in such a way as to constitute all of the aforementioned actions by the employee's underneath them thru KDOC.” (Doc. 1, at 13.)

         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 ‘entitle[ment] 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. ...

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