Rollins v. Brooks et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Senior Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr. on 11/13/2023: IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's official-capacity claims are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§1915A(b)(1), (2)for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and for seeking damages from Defendants who are immune from such relief. cc: Plaintiff, pro se; Defendants; Justice & Public Safety Cabinet, Office of Legal Counsel (EAS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
JAMES B. ROLLINS
CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:23-CV-P111-JHM
ZACHARY BROOKS et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff James B. Rollins initiated this pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prisoner civil-rights action.
This matter is before the Court for initial screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons
stated below, the Court will dismiss some of Plaintiff’s claims and allow others to proceed.
Plaintiff was formerly incarcerated as a convicted prisoner at Green River Correctional
Complex (GRCC), a state prison. He names two GRCC officers as Defendants and sues them in
both their official and individual capacities – Zachary Brooks and Travis Pountious.
Plaintiff alleges that these officers used excessive force against him during an incident that
occurred at GRCC on January 3, 2023. As relief for the alleged violations of his rights, Plaintiff
When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer,
or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion
of it, if the court determines that the complaint 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).
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)). “But the district court need not accept a ‘bare
assertion of legal conclusions.’” Tackett, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v.
Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). “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).
Although this Court recognizes that pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent
standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972);
Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991), “[o]ur duty to be ‘less stringent’ with pro se
complaints does not require us to conjure up unpled allegations.” McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16,
19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation omitted). And this Court is not required to create a claim for Plaintiff.
Clark v. Nat’l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To command otherwise
would require the Court “to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and]
would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an
advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party.” Beaudett
v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
“Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides remedies for deprivations
of rights established elsewhere.” Flint ex rel. Flint v. Ky. Dep’t of Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 351
(6th Cir. 2001). Two elements are required to state a claim under § 1983. Gomez v. Toledo, 446
U.S. 635 (1980). “[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). “Absent either element,
a section 1983 claim will not lie.” Christy v. Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 1991).
A. Official-Capacity Claims
The Court first addresses Plaintiff’s official-capacity claims against Defendants. When
state officials are sued in their official capacities for monetary damages, they are not “persons”
subject to suit within the meaning of § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71
(1989) (concluding that a state, its agencies, and its officials sued in their official capacities for
monetary damages are not considered persons for the purpose of a § 1983 claim). Second, state
officials sued in their official capacities for damages are also absolutely immune from § 1983
liability under the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985)
(“Th[e] Eleventh Amendment bar remains in effect when State officials are sued for damages in
their official capacity.”). For these reasons, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s official-capacity
claims 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.
B. Individual-Capacity Claims
Upon consideration of the allegations set forth in the complaint, the Court will allow Eighth
Amendment excessive-force claims to proceed against Defendants in their individual capacities.
In allowing these claims to proceed, the Court passes no judgment upon their merit or upon the
ultimate outcome of this action.
For the reasons set forth herein, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s official-capacity claims
are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted and for seeking damages from Defendants who are immune from such relief.
The Court will enter a separate Service and Scheduling Order to govern the claims it has
permitted to proceed.
November 13, 2023
Plaintiff, pro se
Justice & Public Safety Cabinet, Office of Legal Counsel
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