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Cockshutt v. State

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

June 3, 2013

JOHN D. COCKSHUTT, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF OHIO, DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION & CORRECTION, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

CANN KING C, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff John D. Cockshutt, a state prisoner, filed this action on June 18, 2012, against Trooper Schmutz and twelve employees of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("ODRC"), the Madison Correctional Institution ("MaCI"), and the Lebanon Correctional Institution ("LoCI"), alleging that his security level was increased because of a false conduct charge, thereby denying him his rights to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. This matter is now before the Court, with the consent of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(c), for consideration of Defendant Sergeant Bo Schmutz's Motion to Dismiss (" Motion to Dismiss "), Doc. No. 31, Plaintiff's Response to Defendant Sargeant Bo Schutz's Motion to Dismiss (" Plaintiff's Response to Motion to Dismiss "), Doc. No. 38, and defendant Schmutz's reply, Doc. No. 41. Without first seeking leave to do so, plaintiff has also filed a sur-reply, Doc. No. 50.

Also before the Court is plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the Complaint, Motion to Take Leave to Amend Pleadings (" Plaintiff's Motion to Amend "), Doc. No. 40. Defendant Schmutz opposes Plaintiff's Motion to Amend on the basis that amendment would be futile. Memorandum in Opposition of Defendant Bo Schmutz to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend His Complaint (" Schmutz's Response "), Doc. No. 52. Some of the remaining individual defendants have filed a notice of intent not to oppose Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, see Doc. No. 51, and other defendants, Mr. Pierce and Ernie Moore, [1] have not filed a response. Plaintiff has filed a reply, Plaintiff's Surreply Brief, Doc. No. 57. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, Doc. No. 40, is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Defendant Schmutz's Motion to Dismiss, Doc. No. 31, is GRANTED.

I. Background

The proposed amended complaint[2] alleges that, while incarcerated at MaCI, plaintiff was investigated for his alleged involvement in a plot to smuggle a gun into MaCI so that he could kidnap a nurse, escape from MaCI, and then murder the nurse. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, p. 10. During this investigation, defendant Schmutz allegedly interrogated plaintiff without identifying himself as an Ohio State Trooper and without reading plaintiff his Miranda rights. Id. at pp. 9-11. The proposed amended complaint also alleges that defendant Schmutz, and nearly every other defendant, falsely informed plaintiff that Ronald May was the confidential informant who provided information about the alleged plot. Id. These actions, plaintiff alleges, resulted in a "false conduct report" that has been included in plaintiff's institutional record. Id. at pp. 10-11.

As a result of the alleged false conduct report and other allegedly false evidence, plaintiff was found guilty at a Rules Infraction Board ("RIB") hearing of attempting to escape and attempting to convey firearms into the institution. Id. at pp. 3-4, 8, 11-12. Plaintiff was also "placed in isolation for six months" and transferred to a higher security prison, which has caused plaintiff "to have a mental breakdown" and has caused "serious physical deterioration of" plaintiff's health. Id. at pp. 11-12.

The proposed amended complaint further alleges that plaintiff's chance of release on parole has been "jeopardized" because "the inclusion of the false conduct report in [plaintiff's] institutional record will likely cause his [p]arole to be denied." Id. at p. 11. According to the proposed amended complaint, had defendant Schmutz identified himself as an Ohio State Trooper during the investigation, plaintiff would have called defendant Schmutz as a witness at the RIB hearing and he would have likely not been found guilty.

II. Standard

Whether or not to grant leave to amend a pleading under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) falls within the district court's discretion. General Elec. Co. v. Sargent & Lundy, 916 F.2d 1119, 1130 (6th Cir. 1990). In exercising that discretion, the trial court may consider such factors as "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of a movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment [and] futility of the amendment." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

"A proposed amendment is futile if the amendment could not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss." Rose v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 420 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of Treasury, Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376, 382-83 (6th Cir. 1993)). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Roth Steel Prods. v. Sharon Steel Co., 705 F.2d 134, 155 (6th Cir. 1983). In determining whether dismissal on this basis is appropriate, a complaint must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true. See Bower v. Fed. Express Corp., 96 F.3d 200, 203 (6th Cir. 1996); Misch v. Cmty. Mut. Ins. Co., 896 F.Supp. 734, 738 (S.D. Ohio 1994). The United States Supreme Court has explained that "once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 546 (2007). However, a plaintiff's claim for relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]" Id. Accordingly, a complaint must be dismissed - and a motion for leave to amend a complaint must be denied - if the complaint or proposed amended complaint does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

III. Discussion

As noted supra, plaintiff's proposed amended complaint alleges that his security level was increased based on a false conduct charge, thereby denying him his rights to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiff also alleges that he did not receive Miranda warnings prior to being interrogated at MaCI in June 2010.

As an initial matter, plaintiff concedes that the proposed amended complaint asserts no new substantive allegations against defendant Schmutz. See Plaintiff's Reply, p. 1 ("First, it should be noted that the leave to amend being sought does not in any way affect this Defendant."). The Court notes, however, that the proposed amended complaint now asserts claims against defendant Schmutz in his official capacity. See Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, p. 9.

Official capacity suits "generally represent only 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. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). "[A]n official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity." Id. (citing Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985)). In the instant action, defendant Schmutz is an officer of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. This state agency is immune from suit in this Court by virtue of the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Beil v. Lake Erie Corr. Records Dept., 282 F.Appx. 363 (6th Cir. 2008). See also Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997) (Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity applies not only to the ...


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