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Dunikowski v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

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

June 28, 2019

ROBERT J. DUNIKOWSKI, Plaintiff
v.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND CORRECTION, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SOLOMON OLIVER, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Robert Dunikowski (“Dunikowski”) is confined at the Marion Correctional Institution, but the events at issue here took place at the Grafton Correctional Institution. Plaintiff brings this prisoner civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants: (1) Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (“ODRC”); (2) Grafton Correctional Institution (“GCI”); (3) ODRC Warden LaShann Eppinger; (4) GCI Assistant Warden Adam Kastler; (5) GCI Unit Manager Administrator Dessie Cheers; (6) GCI Recreation Administrator Eric Gardenhire; (7) GCI Deputy Warden of Operations Jennifer Gillece; (8) GCI Deputy Warden of Special Services Ron Armbruster; and (9) Inspector, Lorain Correctional Tina Grudzien (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff sues Defendants only in their official capacities, alleging that they violated his rights under the United States Constitution with respect to equal protection, due process, and cruel and unusual punishment. (Compl., ECF No. 1).

         For the reasons that follow, this case is dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The allegations in the complaint relate to a program at GCI that Plaintiff states he “built” called Life Change for Lifers Charity Workshop (“Workshop”). The complaint and attachments thereto total more than 200 pages, and can be summarized as follows.

         Plaintiff alleges that in 2014, with the permission of then GCI Warden Kelly and “DWO” Norm Hills, he used his personal funds and had their permission to “have personal items sent back into the institution” in connection with the Workshop (Compl. at 8). Dunikowski claims that he also had permission to order bulk craft supplies and that two women - Ms. Adler and Ms. Greer - assisted him with respect to bringing supplies into GCI for the Workshop. According to the complaint, this arrangement operated for three years “without incident.” (Id.). Then, the GCI staff “blamed the group” for drug overdoses inside the prison at Thanksgiving claiming that drugs were brought into the prison in turkey dinners. (Id. at 10).

         The same theme pervades the lengthy complaint - everything Plaintiff did in connection with the Workshop and other charitable activities at GCI was with the permission of GCI staff, even though there were written policies against use of personal money and property in connection with the Workshop and GCI. (See id. at 8.). Plaintiff claims that notwithstanding policy prohibitions, the “inept staff” at GCI erred by permitting him to fund and operate the Workshop, then punished him “after the fact.” Indeed, Plaintiff claims that it was GCI's staff that violated State and institutional policies by allowing him to use personal funds and personal property for the Workshop and other events at GCI, and allowing his visitors to bring food and other items into the institution. (See id. at 12 (“the only ones to violate any policies, laws, etc. were the staff at Grafton Correctional”)).

         When Plaintiff's activities with respect to the Workshop and other charitable events came under scrutiny, he was placed in segregation and transferred to another institution, and outside individuals assisting him were removed from his visitors list. Plaintiff complains that his money and personal property, and that of the individuals assisting him with the Workshop by bringing supplies into GCI, were not returned. Plaintiff alleges the these actions were taken in retaliation and and to harass him because “he was to[o] big for his britches” (see id. at 12, 14). Plaintiff seeks reimbursement for the personal money and property he expended in connection with the Workshop and other charitable activities at GCI. (See id. at 8-9.).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), the lenient treatment generally accorded pro se pleadings “has limits” and pro se plaintiffs are “not automatically entitled to take every case to trial.” Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996). Pursuant to Apple v. Glenn, 183 F.3d 477, 479 (6th Cir. 1999), a district court may sua sponte dismiss a fee-paid complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction at any time when the allegations of the complaint are “totally implausible, attenuated, unsubstantial, frivolous, devoid of merit, or no longer open to discussion.” Sua sponte dismissal of a fee-paid complaint is appropriate without affording the plaintiff an opportunity to amend where the plaintiff's claims lack the “legal plausibility necessary to invoke federal subject matter jurisdiction.” Id. at 480. Although Plaintiff has paid the filing fee in this pro se case, it is nevertheless subject to sua sponte dismissal pursuant to the criteria of Apple v. Glenn.

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiff's claims are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To allege a civil rights claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must establish that: (1) a person acting under color of state law (2) deprived him of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980) (citation omitted).

         1. Plaintiff's claim against Defendants and the State ...


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