Fields v. Strode et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Judge Greg N. Stivers on 1/5/2018; IT IS ORDERED that the following claims shall proceed past initial review: (1) the Fourteenth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need and the negligen ce/medical malpractice claims against Defendant Strode, in his individual and official capacities, and against Defendant Southern Health related to Plaintiff's undiagnosed/untreated skin condition and the policy/custom of not screening/diagno sing/treating pretrial detainees for infectious/contagious diseases; and (2) the Fourteenth Amendment claims of dirty/wet conditions of confinement at WCRJ against Defendant Strode in his individual and official capacities. A separate Order Direct ing Service and Scheduling Order will be entered to govern the continuing claims. All other federal claims are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and/or pursuant to 1915A(b) (2) for seeking damages from Defendants immune from such relief. The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the attorney-malpractice claim, and that claim is DISMISSED without prejudice. As all claims against the following Defend ants have been dismissed, the Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to terminate them as parties to this action: WCRJ, Commonwealth of Kentucky, "The 8th Municipal Judicial Corporation," Judge Wilson, Beck, and Kaufman. cc: Plaintiff, pro se; Defendants; Warren County Attorney (CDR)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
AT BOWLING GREEN
THOMAS L. FIELDS
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:17CV-P129-GNS
JACKIE T. STRODE et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Thomas L. Fields, a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Warren County
Regional Jail (“WCRJ”), filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is
before the Court on initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the
reasons that follow, a portion of the claims will continue, and the others will be dismissed.
As Defendants, Plaintiff names (1) WCRJ Jailer Jackie T. Strode; (2) the WCRJ;
(3) Southern Health Care Provider/Southern Health Care, Inc. (“Southern Health”);
(4) Commonwealth of Kentucky; (5) “The 8th Municipal Judicial Corporation”; (6) the
Honorable Steve Wilson, Warren Circuit Court Judge; (7) Kori L. Beck, “Commonwealth
Attorney”; and (8) Brad Kaufman, “Hired Attorney.” Plaintiff sues Defendants in their
individual and official capacities. He alleges violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth,
Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and also alleges
“medical malpractice and attorney malpractice.” As relief, Plaintiff seeks damages and an
injunction ordering “structural statute language change.”
In the complaint form, Plaintiff alleges as follows:
[Plaintiff was denied] medical screening at the booking and intake process to
screen for pre existing contagions from HIV/AIDES tuberculosis, Hepatitis A,
B, and C, Shingles, and other air born infections dieases while in general
population placement on the day of March 1, 2017 A.D through the 30th day of
March 2017 A.D when Petitioner complained about unexplained itchy and
sores, scabbs breaking out on his body and was then and continues to be
denied adequte medical diagnosis and medical treatment for the Shingles virus
by deliberate indifference and wanton negligence by policy, custom, usuage
and practices for discrimination against prisoners housed in the [WCRJ] . . .
and no jail greivnace system remedy for this jail facilities . . . .
In an attached handwritten complaint, Plaintiff alleges:
denial of adequate medical services and continued followed-up treatments for
infectious diseases and topical skin rashs and outbreaks characterized as
symtoms of the Shingles virus, while he was held in Pre-trial detention in
general population at the [WCRJ], a facility that routinely does not screen,
diagnose adequately or treat it’s housed pre-trial detainees for infectious and
Plaintiff also asks the following question:
Does the Commonwealth of Kentucky State Government’s Judicial
Prosecution Process and intertwined relationship with petitioner’s hired
attorneys in his criminal action no# 17-CR-00048-002, give rise to a conflict of
interest in denial of medical treatment violating his Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and
14th Amendment rights to counsel, due process, effective assistance of counsel
and cruel and unusual punishment[?]
Elsewhere in the handwritten complaint, Plaintiff states:
[He] maintains his merits demonstrate 5th and 6th Amendment rights violations
to the right to counsel, assistance of counsel and due process where all
compromised by his medical emergency incident while being held in detention
and custody of the State, and the State’s overbearing and overzealous
inclination to exploit his civil rights and disregard the health of an accused it
animusly so wishes to punish him with the greater, punitive sentence allowed
for the crimes accused.
To the complaint, Plaintiff attaches the docket sheet of Warren Circuit Court criminal
action no. 17-CR-00048-002, to which his complaint cites. The docket sheet indicates that
Defendant Judge Wilson is presiding over that criminal case.
Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers,
and/or employees, this Court must review the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under
§ 1915A, the Court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the
complaint, if the Court determines that it is frivolous or 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 § 1915A(b)(1), (2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir.
1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).
A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The trial court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as
frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual
contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a
claim, “a 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
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[A]
district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take
all well-pleaded factual allegations as true.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d
478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009)
(citations omitted)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do.’ Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked
assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555, 557).
Defendants Jailer Strode and Southern Health
Neither the form complaint nor the attached handwritten complaint is a model of clarity.
Nonetheless, in liberally construing the pleadings in a light most favorable to the pro se Plaintiff,
the Court will allow the Fourteenth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to a serious
medical need and the negligence/medical malpractice claims to continue against Defendant
Strode, in his individual and official capacities, and against Defendant Southern Health related to
his undiagnosed/untreated skin condition and the policy/custom of not screening/diagnosing/
treating pretrial detainees for infectious/contagious diseases. The Court also will allow
Plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment claims of dirty/wet conditions of confinement at WCRJ to
continue against Defendant Strode in his individual and official capacities.
The Court clarifies that the Fourteenth Amendment applies because Plaintiff is a pretrial
detainee, not a convicted prisoner to which the Eighth Amendment applies. Watkins v. City of
Battle Creek, 273 F.3d 682, 685 (6th Cir. 2001). Consequently, the Eighth Amendment claims
will be dismissed. However, “[t]he Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extends
the protection of the Eighth Amendment to pretrial detainees such as Plaintiff.” Harrell v.
Grainger Cty., Tenn., 391 F. App’x 519, 522 (6th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff’s claims, therefore, will
proceed under the Fourteenth Amendment but be analyzed like Eighth Amendment claims. See
Bass v. Strode, No. 1:12CV-P182-R, 2012 WL 5834123, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Nov. 16, 2012).
Plaintiff fails to show how the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Thirteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments apply
to his claims of denied medical treatment and conditions of confinement, and therefore, any such
claims under those Amendments fail and will be dismissed.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kaufman is the “Hired Attorney” representing him in a
state criminal action. However, “[a] lawyer representing a client is not, by virtue of being an
officer of the court, a state actor under color of state law within the meaning of § 1983.”
Otworth v. Vanderploeg, 61 F. App’x 163, 165 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454
U.S. 312, 318 (1981)). While an exception exists if an attorney has engaged in a conspiracy with
state officials to deprive another of federal rights, see Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 920
(1984), Plaintiff has not set forth facts sufficient to state a conspiracy claim. See Gutierrez v.
Lynch, 826 F.2d 1534, 1538 (6th Cir. 1987); Hooks v. Hooks, 771 F.2d 935 (6th Cir. 1985).
Plaintiff, therefore, fails to state a § 1983 claim against Defendant Kaufman, and the claims
against him will be dismissed.
The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim of
“attorney malpractice” because it has dismissed the federal claims against attorney Defendant
Kaufman, because Plaintiff’s state-court criminal action is still pending, and because the
continuing claims are unrelated to attorney malpractice. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), (c); see also
United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966) (“It has consistently been
recognized that pendent jurisdiction is a doctrine of discretion, not of plaintiff’s right. Its
justification lies in considerations of judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants; if
these are not present a federal court should hesitate to exercise jurisdiction over state claims,
even though bound to apply state law to them[.]”).
Defendant Commonwealth of Kentucky
The Court will dismiss the claims against the state on two bases. First, a state is not a
“person” subject to suit under § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71
(1989); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). Second, the Eleventh
Amendment1 bars the claims. A state may not be sued in federal court, regardless of the relief
sought, unless the state has waived its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment or
Congress has overridden it. Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506
U.S. 139, 146 (1993); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 124 (1984);
Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978). The Commonwealth of Kentucky has not waived
its immunity, see Adams v. Morris, 90 F. App’x 856, 857 (6th Cir. 2004), and in enacting § 1983,
Congress did not intend to override the traditional sovereign immunity of the states. Whittington
v. Milby, 928 F.2d 188, 193-94 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341
Defendant “The 8th Municipal Judicial Corporation”
Although not entirely clear, under liberal construction, it appears that Plaintiff is
attempting to sue Kentucky’s Eighth Judicial Circuit, which serves Warren County. “A state
court is not a ‘person’ for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and hence is not subject to lawsuit under
that statute.” Mumford v. Basinski, 105 F.3d 264, 267 (6th Cir. 1997). Accordingly, Plaintiff
fails to state a claim against the “The 8th Municipal Judicial Corporation,” and that Defendant
will be dismissed.
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: “The Judicial power of the United
States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one
of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”
Although the Eleventh Amendment does not address the situation where a state’s own citizen initiates suit
against it, case law has interpreted the amendment to foreclose that possibility. Barton v. Summers, 293
F.3d 944, 948 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890)).
Defendants Judge Wilson and Prosecutor Beck
“Official-capacity suits . . . ‘generally represent  another way of pleading an action
against an entity of which an officer is an agent.’” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66
(1985) (quoting Monell v. New York City Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)).
Because Defendants Wilson and Beck are employees of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the
claims brought against them in their official capacities are deemed to be claims against the
Commonwealth of Kentucky. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. at 166. State officials sued in
their official capacities for money damages are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983. Will
v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. at 71. Thus, because Plaintiff seeks damages from state
officers or employees in their official capacities, he fails to allege cognizable claims under
§ 1983. Additionally, the Eleventh Amendment acts as a bar to claims for monetary damages
against Defendants in their official capacities. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. at 169; see also
Boone v. Kentucky, 72 F. App’x 306, 307 (6th Cir. 2003) (“[Plaintiff’s] request for monetary
relief against the prosecutors in their official capacities is deemed to be a suit against the state
and also barred by the Eleventh Amendment.”); Bennett v. Thorburn, No. 86-1307, 1988 WL
27524, at *1 (6th Cir. Mar. 31, 1988) (concluding that an official-capacity suit against a judge
who presided over state court litigation was barred by the Eleventh Amendment).
As to the individual-capacity claims, because Defendant Judge Wilson presides over
Plaintiff’s state-court criminal proceedings, the judge is entitled to absolute judicial immunity for
the damages claims. See Bush v. Rauch, 38 F.3d 842, 847 (6th Cir. 1994) (“It is well established
that judges are entitled to absolute judicial immunity from suits for money damages for all
actions taken in the judge’s judicial capacity, unless these actions are taken in the complete
absence of any jurisdiction.”) (citing Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9 (1991) (per curiam)). Further,
because Plaintiff does not allege any facts suggesting that a declaratory decree was violated or
that declaratory relief was unavailable, his claim for injunctive relief against the judge is also
barred. See Azubuko v. Royal, 443 F.3d 302, 303-04 (3d Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (holding that
claim for injunctive relief against state judge in his judicial capacity barred because plaintiff had
not alleged violation of declaratory decree or that declaratory relief was unavailable); Kircher v.
City of Ypsilanti, 458 F. Supp. 2d 439, 448 (E.D. Mich. 2006) (where plaintiff had not alleged
that judicial defendants violated a declaratory decree or that declaratory relief was unavailable,
claim for injunctive relief barred).
As to prosecutor Defendant Beck, Plaintiff lists her as a Defendant but fails to mention
her elsewhere in the complaint. To state a claim for relief under § 1983, the plaintiff must allege
how each defendant was personally involved in the acts about which the plaintiff complains.
Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 375 (1976). Because the complaint contains no allegations of fact
that specifically address Defendant Beck, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against her. Further, to
the extent that Defendant Beck is the prosecutor in Plaintiff’s state-court criminal action, she is
entitled to “absolute immunity from civil liability related to their performance of ‘prosecutorial’
functions.’” Koubriti v. Convertino, 593 F.3d 459, 467 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Burns v. Reed,
500 U.S. 478, 486 (1991)); Cady v. Arenac Cty., 574 F.3d 334, 341(6th Cir. 2009) (“As the line
of absolute-immunity cases make clear, . . . a prosecutor’s allegedly improper motive alone is not
enough to defeat absolute immunity, so long as the general nature of his actions falls within the
scope of his duties as an advocate for the state.”).
For the foregoing reasons, the claims against Defendants Wilson and Beck will be
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and for seeking monetary
relief from Defendants who are immune from such relief.
Lack of Grievance System
Plaintiff claims that there is “no jail greivnace remedy for this jail.” Any complaint
regarding the jail’s grievance procedure, however, fails to state a constitutional claim. See
LaFlame v. Montgomery Cty. Sheriff’s Dep’t, No. 00-5646, 2001 WL 111636, at *2 (6th Cir.
Jan. 31, 2001) (holding that inmate “cannot premise a § 1983 claim on allegations that the jail’s
grievance procedure was inadequate because there is no inherent constitutional right to an
effective prison grievance procedure”) (citing Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir.
1996)); Spencer v. Moore, 638 F. Supp. 315, 316 (E.D. Mo. 1986) (holding that if the prison
provides a grievance process, violations of its procedures do not rise to the level of a federal
constitutional right). Plaintiff’s claim will be dismissed.
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS ORDERED that the following claims shall proceed past initial review: (1) the
Fourteenth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need and the
negligence/medical malpractice claims against Defendant Strode, in his individual and official
capacities, and against Defendant Southern Health related to Plaintiff’s undiagnosed/untreated
skin condition and the policy/custom of not screening/diagnosing/treating pretrial detainees for
infectious/contagious diseases; and (2) the Fourteenth Amendment claims of dirty/wet conditions
of confinement at WCRJ against Defendant Strode in his individual and official capacities. In
allowing the claims to continue, the Court passes no judgment on the merit and ultimate outcome
of the case. A separate Order Directing Service and Scheduling Order will be entered to govern
the continuing claims.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other federal claims are DISMISSED pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and/or
pursuant to § 1915A(b)(2) for seeking damages from Defendants immune from such relief. The
Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the attorney-malpractice claim, and that
claim is DISMISSED without prejudice.
As all claims against the following Defendants have been dismissed, the Clerk of Court is
DIRECTED to terminate them as parties to this action: WCRJ, Commonwealth of
Kentucky, “The 8th Municipal Judicial Corporation,” Judge Wilson, Beck, and Kaufman.
January 5, 2018
Greg N. Stivers, Judge
United States District Court
Plaintiff, pro se
Warren County Attorney
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