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Cook v. Erdos

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

June 20, 2018

JOHNNIE D. COOK, Plaintiff,
WARDEN RON ERDOS, et al., Defendants.

          DLOTT, J.


          Stephanie K. Bowman United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, Ohio, brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Warden Ron Erdos and David McCroskey. (See Doc. 1, Complaint at PageID 14). By separate Order, plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This matter is before the Court for a sua sponte review of the complaint to determine whether the complaint, or any portion of it, should be dismissed because it is frivolous, 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 Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 § 804, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); § 805, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         In enacting the original in forma pauperis statute, Congress recognized that a “litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989)). To prevent such abusive litigation, Congress has authorized federal courts to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint if they are satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious. Id.; see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and 1915A(b)(1). A complaint may be dismissed as frivolous when the plaintiff cannot make any claim with a rational or arguable basis in fact or law. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328-29; see also Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1198 (6th Cir.1990). An action has no arguable legal basis when the defendant is immune from suit or when plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. An action has no arguable factual basis when the allegations are delusional or rise to the level of the irrational or “wholly incredible.” Denton, 504 U.S. at 32; Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1199. The Court need not accept as true factual allegations that are “fantastic or delusional” in reviewing a complaint for frivolousness. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 471 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328).

         Congress also has authorized the sua sponte dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1). A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be “liberally construed” and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). By the same token, however, the 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Hill, 630 F.3d at 470-71 (“dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim” under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)).

         “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 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, but need not “accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Although a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A pleading that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Id. at 557. The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (citations omitted).

         Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, brings this § 1983 action against SOCF prison officials Warden Erdos and C/O McCroskey. (Doc. 1-1, Complaint at PageID 14). In the complaint, plaintiff brings two claims for violations of his Eighth Amendment rights.

         In his first claim, plaintiff alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated by Warden Erdos for implementing an exercise restriction at SOCF. (Id. at PageID 15). Plaintiff states that Warden Erdos permits “prison officials to place prisoners on exercise restriction for periods of time such as 30, 60, 90, and 180 days.” (Id.). Plaintiff alleges the exercise restriction deprives him “of the right to exercise outside of [his] cell which is a human basic need.” Id

         In his second claim for relief, plaintiff alleges his Eighth Amendment rights were violated on April 23, 2018 by C/O McCroskey for placing him on a “exercise restriction for a period of ninety (90) days.” (Id.). Plaintiff states the exercise restriction was imposed after “[C/O] McCroskey found [him] guilty of violating institutional rules.” (Id.).

         As relief, plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages. (Id. at PageID 16).

         Plaintiff's complaint is subject to dismissal at the screening stage for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted by this Court.

         As an initial matter, the complaint should be dismissed as to defendants in their official capacities to the extent that plaintiff seeks monetary damages. (See Doc. 1, Complaint at PageID 16). Absent an express waiver, a state is immune from damage suits under the Eleventh Amendment. P.R. Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, 506 U.S. 139 (1993); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). The State of Ohio has not constitutionally nor statutorily waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity in the federal courts. See Johns v. Supreme Court of Ohio, 753 F.2d 524 (6th Cir. 1985); State of Ohio v. Madeline Marie Nursing Homes, 694 F.2d 449 (6th Cir. 1982). The Eleventh Amendment bar extends to actions where the state is not a named party, but where the action is essentially one for the recovery of money from the state. Edelman, 415 U.S. at 663; Ford Motor Company v. Dept. of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945). A suit against defendants in their official capacities would, in reality, be a way of pleading the action against the entity of which defendants are agents. Monell, 436 U.S. at 690. Thus, actions against state officials in their official capacities are included in this bar. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232 (1974). See also Colvin v. Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 289 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Cady v. Arenac Co., 574 F.3d 334, 344 (6th Cir. 2009) (“[A]n official-capacity suit against a state official is deemed to be a suit against the state and is thus barred by the Eleventh Amendment, absent a waiver.” (citation and ellipsis omitted)). Therefore, all of the named defendants are immune from suit in their official capacities to the extent that plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

         In any event, in order to state a viable § 1983 claim, plaintiff must allege facts showing that he was deprived of “a right secured by the United States Constitution or a federal statute by a person who was acting under color of state law.” Spadafore v. Gardner, 330 F.3d 849, 852 (6th Cir. 2003). In this case, although plaintiff claims that his rights under the Eighth Amendment were violated by virtue of the 90-day exercise restriction, his factual allegations do not give rise to a viable claim of federal constitutional dimension.

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison conditions that deprive inmates of “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, ” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981), but “does not bar every unpleasant experience a prisoner might endure while incarcerated.” Brown v. Kelly, No. 4:12cv1356, 2012 WL 5877424, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Nov. 20, 2012) (citing Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954 (6th Cir. 1987)). Although a “total or near-total deprivation of exercise or recreational opportunity, without penological justification, violates Eighth Amendment guarantees, ” Patterson v. Mintzes, 717 F.2d 284, 289 (6th Cir. 1983) (emphasis added), the “[o]ccasional deprivation of recreation for a limited time is insufficient to suggest the type of extreme deprivations necessary for an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim.” Brown, supra, 2012 WL 5877424, at *3 (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). The Sixth Circuit has “never set a minimum amount of time a prisoner must have access to outdoor recreation.” See Argue v. Hofmeyer, 80 Fed.Appx. 427, 430 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Rodgers v. Jabe, 43 F.3d 1082, 1086-87 (6th Cir. 1995)). Moreover, numerous courts, including this Court, have held in analogous cases that recreation restrictions imposed for a limited time as part of a disciplinary sanction do not violate the Eighth Amendment. See, e.g., Cammon v. Bell, No. 1:08cv479, 2008 WL 3980469, at *1-2 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 21, 2008) (Dlott, J.) (and cases cited therein) (dismissing at screening stage the SOCF inmate's complaint challenging an 84-day recreation restriction, wherein the inmate allegedly “was in segregation during the entire period of his recreation ...

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