Odom v. Bruce et al
Order: The Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Scott Jordan and Berton Bare pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), but allows the claims against Defendants Cody Edmonds and Tammy Bauer to continue (DN 11 ). Defendants are permitted to file a responsive pleading or other appropriate motion under the Courts scheduling order. cc: Plaintiff (pro se), Defendants, JPSC (JM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
GLENN D. ODOM
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:21-cv-22-BJB
JACOB BRUCE et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Glenn D. Odom, a prisoner, initiated this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Plaintiff’s
amended complaint (DN 11) is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). This initial screening occurs before the Defendants are
required to respond, and so the Court does not enjoy the benefit of adversarial briefing. For the
following reasons, the Court will dismiss some claims and allow the remaining Defendants to
respond with an appropriate filing or motion with respect to the remaining claims.
I. STATEMENT OF CLAIMS
Plaintiff’s original complaint in this action named ten employees of the Kentucky State
Penitentiary (KSP), where Plaintiff is housed (DN 1). Plaintiff then filed a motion to amend his
complaint (DN 6), stating that he wished to narrow the scope of this action to a First Amendment
claim against fewer Defendants than were named in the original complaint. The Court granted
Plaintiff’s motion to amend (DN 8), and Plaintiff has filed his amended complaint (DN 11).
In his amended complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants in their individual and official
capacities KSP Warden Scott Jordan and Berton Bare, the “Internal Affairs/Mailroom
Supervisor.” He also names KSP Mailroom Techs Cody Edmonds and Tammy Bauer, in their
individual capacities only.
Plaintiff alleges that when he arrived at KSP on December 18, 2020, he had a
subscription to the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper. His amended complaint states that he
changed his address from the Kentucky State Reformatory where he had previously been housed
and received one newspaper dated December 29, 2020. He states that he then received a “‘notice
of unauthorize[d] mail’” form stating that he could no longer receive his newspaper because the
newspaper had to be paid for from his prison account. He explains that his newspaper had been
paid for from a bank account “in the community.” He states that Corrections Policies and
Procedures (CPP) 16.2 does not provide that inmates cannot receive newspapers from family
members or their personal bank accounts, nor does it state that inmates must pay for newspapers
from their inmate account. He alleges that “[n]o other K.Y.D.O.C. prison enforces such a[n]
Plaintiff states that he appealed the “mailroom rejection,” but Defendant Jordan refused
to answer the appeal. Instead he sent it to Defendant Bare, who upheld the “imaginary rule.”
Plaintiff further alleges that the mailroom threw away all of his newspapers until
March 8, 2021. He further alleges that Defendants refuse to allow segregation inmates to
purchase law books, dictionaries, and the like. And that all other KDOC prisons allow
disciplinary segregation inmates to purchase or receive paperback books. He alleges that KSP
“used to allow such until several inmates begin to file federal lawsuits.” He asserts that prisoners
have a First Amendment right to read and that publishers have a First Amendment right to send
them reading materials. He also asserts that Defendants’ actions are not based on the
reasonableness standards set forth in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987).
As relief, Plaintiff asks for monetary damages, punitive damages, and an injunction.
Plaintiff attaches several exhibits, including a memorandum from Defendant Bare. The
memo explains that the denial of his appeal regarding his mail rejection was based on CPP 16.2,
which states that “[p]ublications received shall be prepaid by the inmate through institutional
procedures and mailed prepaid by the distributor.”
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 action 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
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and (2). When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon
which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to
the plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289
F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings,
Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint
must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
A. Claims against Defendants Jordan and Bare
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Jordan refused to answer Plaintiff’s appeal of the
mailroom’s refusal to give him his newspaper. Plaintiff states that Defendant Jordan sent the
appeal to Defendant Bare, who upheld the “imaginary rule.”
There is “no constitutionally protected due process interest in unfettered access to a
prison grievance procedure.” Walker v. Mich. Dep’t of Corr., 128 F. App’x 441, 445 (6th Cir.
2005). A plaintiff cannot maintain a claim against a prison official based solely on his denial of
the plaintiff’s grievance. “The ‘denial of administrative grievances or the failure to act’ by
prison officials does not subject supervisors to liability under § 1983.” Grinter v. Knight, 532
F.3d 567, 576 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999)).
“The mere denial of a prisoner’s grievance states no claim of constitutional dimension.” Alder v.
Corr. Med. Servs., 73 F. App’x 839, 841 (6th Cir. 2003). A plaintiff’s claim is against the
subjects of his grievances, not those who merely decided whether to grant or deny the
grievances. See Skinner v. Govorchin, 463 F.3d 518, 525 (6th Cir. 2006) (“Skinner’s complaint
regarding Wolfenbarger’s denial of Skinner’s grievance appeal, it is clear, fails to state a
claim.”); Martin v. Harvey, 14 F. App’x 307, 309 (6th Cir. 2001) (“The denial of the grievance is
not the same as the denial of a request to receive medical care.”); Lee v. Mich. Parole Bd., 104 F.
App’x 490, 493 (6th Cir. 2004) (“Section 1983 liability may not be imposed simply because a
defendant denied an administrative grievance or failed to act based upon information contained
in a grievance.”); Nwaebo v. Hawk–Sawyer, 83 F. App’x 85, 86 (6th Cir. 2003) (same); Simpson
v. Overton, 79 F. App’x 117, 120 (6th Cir. 2003) (“[T]he denial of an appeal cannot in itself
constitute sufficient personal involvement to state a claim for a constitutional violation.”).
Consequently, the Court will dismiss the procedural claims against Defendants Jordan
and Bare for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
B. Claims against Defendants Edmonds and Bauer
The Court will allow Plaintiff’s First Amendment claims against Defendants Edmonds
and Bauer to continue. Plaintiff alleges they limited his newspaper access to subscriptions paid
out of his inmate account, and disallowed segregation inmates from purchasing law books and
dictionaries. DN 11. The Supreme Court has held that imprisonment does not automatically
deprive prisoners of all First Amendment protections. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006)
(considering challenge to prison regulation limiting inmate access to newspapers and books).
But the Constitution permits greater restrictions of constitutional rights in a prison than it would
allow elsewhere. See Turner, 482 U.S. 84–85. Prison regulations are permissible so long as they
are “‘reasonably related’ to legitimate penological objectives.” Id. at 87. The answer to the
question whether the Defendants violated the First Amendment could well turn on the nature of
the penological interests the Defendants assert, and whether the challenged regulations
reasonably relate to those interests. See Beard, 548 U.S. at 529.
With only the Plaintiff’s complaint before the Court, and without the benefit of
adversarial briefing, the Court cannot say—at the § 1915A screening stage—whether that
standard is met. Therefore, Plaintiff’s claim may proceed past this juncture and Defendants may
file a responsive pleading or any other appropriate motion under the scheduling order this Court
IV. CONCLUSION AND ORDER
For the foregoing reasons, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants
Scott Jordan and Berton Bare pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, but allows the claims against Defendants Cody Edmonds and
Tammy Bauer to proceed.
The Court DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to terminate all Defendants except Cody
Edmonds and Tammy Bauer as parties to this action.
The Court will enter a separate Scheduling Order to govern the remaining claims against
Defendants Edmonds and Bauer.
October 8, 2021
Plaintiff, pro se
General Counsel, Justice & Public Safety Cabinet, Office of Legal Counsel
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