Lee
v.
Davis

This case is not covered by Casetext's citator
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO WESTERN DIVISIONNov 12, 2018
Case No. 1:18-cv-726 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 12, 2018)

Case No. 1:18-cv-726

11-13-2018

WHITNEY LEE, Plaintiff, v. CYNTHIA DAVIS, et al., Defendants.


Barrett, J.


ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Plaintiff, a prisoner at the Warren Correctional Institution, has filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Cynthia Davis, Janet Smith, Warden Wanza Jackson, and Anita Eulenburg. By separate Order, plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This matter is before the Court for a sua sponte review of the complaint to determine whether the complaint, or any portion of it, should be dismissed because it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 § 804, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); § 805, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

Plaintiff has filed one separate complaint form for each named defendant and a supporting memorandum, with exhibits, detailing her factual allegations. (See Doc. 1). --------

In enacting the original in forma pauperis statute, Congress recognized that a "litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits." Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989)). To prevent such abusive litigation, Congress has authorized federal courts to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint if they are satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious. Id.; see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and 1915A(b)(1). A complaint may be dismissed as frivolous when the plaintiff cannot make any claim with a rational or arguable basis in fact or law. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328-29 (1989); see also Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1198 (6th Cir. 1990). An action has no arguable legal basis when the defendant is immune from suit or when plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. An action has no arguable factual basis when the allegations are delusional or rise to the level of the irrational or "wholly incredible." Denton, 504 U.S. at 32; Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1199. The Court need not accept as true factual allegations that are "fantastic or delusional" in reviewing a complaint for frivolousness. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 471 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328).

Congress also has authorized the sua sponte dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1). A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be "liberally construed" and "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). By the same token, however, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Hill, 630 F.3d at 470-71 ("dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim" under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)).

"A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, but need not "accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Although a complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations," it must provide "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A pleading that offers "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement." Id. at 557. The complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (citations omitted).

In the complaint, plaintiff—a transgender woman—alleges that upon arriving to WCI on August 9, 2018, she was assigned to unit 2A and informed she would be placed in a cell with another transgender individual. (Doc. 1 at PageID 50). However, plaintiff alleges that she was assigned to a cell with inmate Fountain, who she claims is not a transgender person. According to plaintiff, Fountain informed her that he was attracted to feminine and transgender individuals and Fountain stated that he was transgender in order to be assigned a transgender cellmate. (Id. at PageID 51). Plaintiff claims that on August 11, 2018, Fountain made several advances toward her. (Id. at PageID 52). Plaintiff claims that he informed defendants Unit Manager Smith and Prison Rape Elimination Act Manager Eulenburg about his concerns with Fountain, specifically informing Smith that she did not feel safe in the cell with Fountain. (Id. at PageID 51-52). However, plaintiff claims she was kept in the cell with Fountain until August 14, 2018. During this time, plaintiff alleges that Fountain sexually harassed her, assaulted her, and tried to force her to have sex. (Id. at PageID 52, 56).

Plaintiff claims that she was subsequently moved to an empty cell. Plaintiff further claims that she later filed several informal complaints regarding inmate Davis and that defendant Smith jeopardized her safety by informing other inmates about the complaints. (Id. at PageID 53-54).

Plaintiff alleges that she filed complaints and appeals regarding the factual allegations in the complaint, but that defendants Institutional Inspector Cynthia Hill and Warden Wanza Jackson failed to properly investigate her complaints. (Id. at PageID 55).

For relief, plaintiff seeks monetary damages. (See id. at PageID 11, 17, 23, 29).

At this stage in the proceedings, without the benefit of briefing by the parties to this action, the undersigned concludes that plaintiff may proceed with her Eighth Amendment failure to protect claims against defendants Smith and Eulenburg. However, plaintiff's remaining claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) & 1915A(b).

First, the complaint should be dismissed as to all defendants in their official capacities to the extent that plaintiff seeks money damages. Absent an express waiver, a state is immune from damage suits under the Eleventh Amendment. P.R. Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, 506 U.S. 139 (1993); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). The State of Ohio has not constitutionally nor statutorily waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity in the federal courts. See Johns v. Supreme Court of Ohio, 753 F.2d 524 (6th Cir. 1985); State of Ohio v. Madeline Marie Nursing Homes, 694 F.2d 449 (6th Cir. 1982). The Eleventh Amendment bar extends to actions where the state is not a named party, but where the action is essentially one for the recovery of money from the state. Edelman, 415 U.S. at 663; Ford Motor Company v. Dept. of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945). A suit against defendants in their official capacities would, in reality, be a way of pleading the action against the entity of which defendants are agents. Monell, 436 U.S. at 690. Thus, actions against state officials in their official capacities are included in this bar. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232 (1974). See also Colvin v. Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 289 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Cady v. Arenac Co., 574 F.3d 334, 344 (6th Cir. 2009) ("[A]n official-capacity suit against a state official is deemed to be a suit against the state and is thus barred by the Eleventh Amendment, absent a waiver." (citation and ellipsis omitted)). Therefore, all of the named defendants are immune from suit in their official capacities to the extent that plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

The complaint should also be dismissed against defendants Hill and Jackson. As noted above, plaintiff seeks to hold these defendants liable for their failure to investigate her complaints and/or grievances. However, "[t]here is no statutory or common law right, much less a constitutional right, to an investigation." Mitchell v. McNeil, 487 F.3d 374, 378 (6th Cir. 2007); see also Daniels v. Lisath, No. 2:10-cv-968, 2011 WL 2710786, at *2 (S.D. Ohio July 13, 2011). Furthermore, to the extent that plaintiff claims that the grievance procedure failed to produce the correct outcome, this cannot give rise to a § 1983 claim because "[p]rison inmates do not have a constitutionally protected right to a grievance procedure." Miller v. Haines, No. 97-3416, 1998 WL 476247, at *1 (6th Cir. Aug. 03, 1998) (citations omitted). Prison officials whose only roles "involve their denial of administrative grievances and their failure to remedy the alleged [unconstitutional] behavior" cannot be liable under § 1983. Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999). Nor does a prison official's alleged failure to adequately investigate claims of misconduct rise to the level of "encouragement" that would make the official liable for such misconduct. Knop v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996, 1014 (6th Cir. 1992); Bellamy v. Bradley, 729 F.2d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1984).

Accordingly, in sum, the complaint should be dismissed with the exception of plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against defendants Smith and Eulenburg.

IT IS THEREFORE RECOMMENDED THAT:

The complaint be DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)(1), with the exception of plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against defendants Smith and Eulenburg.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED THAT:

1. The United States Marshal shall serve a copy of the complaint, summons, the Order granting plaintiff in forma pauperis status, and this Order and Report and Recommendation upon defendants Smith and Eulenburg as directed by plaintiff, with costs of service to be advanced by the United States.

2. Plaintiff shall serve upon defendants or, if appearance has been entered by counsel, upon defendants' attorney, a copy of every further pleading or other document submitted for consideration by the Court. Plaintiff shall include with the original paper to be filed with the Clerk of Court a certificate stating the date a true and correct copy of any document was mailed to defendants or defendants' counsel. Any paper received by a district judge or magistrate judge which has not been filed with the Clerk or which fails to include a certificate of service will be disregarded by the Court.

3. Plaintiff shall inform the Court promptly of any changes in her address which may occur during the pendency of this lawsuit.

s/ Stephanie K . Bowman


Stephanie K. Bowman


United States Magistrate Judge

NOTICE

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), WITHIN 14 DAYS after being served with a copy of the recommended disposition, a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations. This period may be extended further by the Court on timely motion for an extension. Such objections shall specify the portions of the Report objected to and shall be accompanied by a memorandum of law in support of the objections. If the Report and Recommendation is based in whole or in part upon matters occurring on the record at an oral hearing, the objecting party shall promptly arrange for the transcription of the record, or such portions of it as all parties may agree upon, or the Magistrate Judge deems sufficient, unless the assigned District Judge otherwise directs. A party may respond to another party's objections WITHIN 14 DAYS after being served with a copy thereof. Failure to make objections in accordance with this procedure may forfeit rights on appeal. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985) ; United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir. 1981).