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Cannon v. Sheldon

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 29, 2017

DEREK CANNON, et al., Plaintiffs,
WARDEN ED SHELDON, et al., Defendants.


          Benita Y. Pearson, United States District Judge.

         On November 17, 2016, Pro Se Plaintiff Derek Cannon, an Ohio prisoner incarcerated in the Ohio State Penitentiary (“OSP”), filed this in forma pauperis civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on behalf of himself and his wife, Karmell D. Cannon, against OSP Warden Ed Sheldon; Investigator Wylie; Rules Infraction Board (“RIB”) Chairman Lt. Bright; Gary Mohr, the Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (“ODRC”); and a “Confidential Informant.” For the reasons stated below, the action is dismissed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for aggravated murder in connection with a prison riot that took place in April 1993 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. Cannon v. Johnson, 23 Fed.Appx. 218 (2001); State v. Cannon, No. C-950710, 1997 WL 78596 (Ohio App. 1st Dist. Feb. 26, 1997). He alleges that for over eight years, he and his family have been subjected to “discrimination, threats, assault, and . . . slander” in retaliation for his involvement in the riot, violating his and his family's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Complaint (ECF No. 1) at PageID #: 3. Plaintiff's alleged basis for his claims is that “ODRC has maliciously manufactured conduct reports in an attempt to muddy up [his] prison file to make it appear that [he is] unruly and a problem they need to rid themselves of.” ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 4. Specifically, he alleges that “every time before [he is] to appear” before a prison committee to determine whether he is entitled to a decrease in his security level classification, he is written up and found guilty of a conduct violation precluding a lower classification. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 4.

         The first incident of which Plaintiff complains occurred in May 2013, while he was incarcerated in the Toledo Correctional Institution (“ToCI”). He alleges ToCI staff had another inmate spit in his face prior to his security hearing, and he was subsequently issued a seven-page conduct report charging him with ordering another inmate to retaliate against the inmate who spit on him. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 4-5. Plaintiff was found guilty of the charge despite denying that he gave an order for an attack. He alleges the Warden told him he believed him, but that it was over his (the Warden's) head and that “[s]omeone in Columbus doesn't like you.” ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 5. As a result of the violation, Plaintiff was sanctioned with “14 days D/C, recommended L/C, increase security status from 4A to 4B, and transfer back to OSP.” ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 6.

         The next incident Plaintiff alleges occurred before his May 2015 security review at OSP. He alleges that less than two months before his review, he was issued a “ticket” because he spells the word “back” b-a-c instead of b-a-c-k, which constitutes gang writing in violation of prison Rule 17. At his hearing on this charge, RIB Chairman Lt. Bright allegedly told Plaintiff: “I apologize, this is B/S, but my hands are tied, I have to find you guilty.” ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 7.

         Next, Plaintiff alleges that in March 2015, he wrote a letter to “the Warden and Director, ” in which he “withdrew” his consent to be retained at OSP and requested an immediate transfer to another prison in Ohio. Warden Sheldon, Institutional Inspector Thomas, and Investigator Wylie, however, all told him he would never be transferred. The Warden allegedly told Plaintiff: “Columbus doesn't want you anywhere, but Level 5, out-of-state or dead, and they are going to keep you here until then.” ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 8.

         Finally, Plaintiff complains about conduct charges “for violations of Rules 40, 45 conveyances” brought against him shortly before his June 2016 security classification review at OSP. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 9. He was found guilty of these charges based on information provided by a confidential informant that Plaintiff “was the number one supplier of drugs within OSP, ” which was verified by a statement of Investigator Wylie that he had listened to phone conversations in which Plaintiff, his wife, and son discussed “large sums of money” being wired. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 9. Plaintiff denied involvement with drugs and asserts he tried to explain his “money transactions” at his RIB hearing His explanation was that inmates gamble and bet at OSP “all day every day, ” “so it was a normal occurrence for the loser to wire money to pay a debt, ” and he asserts he wanted to call inmates as witnesses to “verify” this explanation. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 10. RIB Chairman Lt. Bright, however, told Plaintiff such witnesses would not make a difference. He received multiple sanctions as a result of the these conduct charges, including being denied all visitation with his family and having his security classification increased from level 4A to 4B. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 10. Plaintiff also alleges he and his family have been damaged “in every way imaginable” by rumors that his wife and son are drug couriers. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 10-11.

         As relief in the case, Plaintiff seeks damages, on his and his wife's behalf, and injunctive relief “prohibiting harassment” of him. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 11.

         II. Standard of Review

         Although federal courts are obligated to construe pro se complaints liberally, see Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011), principles requiring generous construction of pro se pleadings are not without limits and pro se plaintiffs are not automatically entitled to take every case to trial. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Federal district courts are expressly required, under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, to screen all in forma pauperis actions and all prisoner actions which seek redress from governmental defendants and to dismiss before service any such action that the court determines is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). In order to avoid a dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id.(holding that the dismissal standard articulated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A). “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.

         III. Discussion

         Upon review, the Court finds the Complaint (ECF No. 1) must be dismissed in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A.

         As an initial matter, Cannon is the only proper plaintiff in this case as he is the only party who has signed the Complaint (ECF No. 1). While 28 U.S.C. §1654 allows a non-attorney to “plead and conduct [his] own cases personally” in federal court, a non-attorney proceeding pro se has no authority to represent anyone other than himself. See, e.g., Cochran v. Nelson, No. 93-3521, 1194 WL 28648 (6th Cir. Feb. 1, 1994) (affirming dismissal of civil rights claims brought by a pro se plaintiff on ...

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