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Covington v. Cadogan

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

July 9, 2019

BILLY J. COVINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANTHONY CADOGAN, et al., Defendants.

          Dlott, J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          STEPHANIE K. BOWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF), has filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.' 1983 against SOCF officials. This civil action is now before the Court on Defendant SOCF Unit Manager Jeremy Oppy's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 19) and the parties' responsive memoranda (Docs. 22, 25). Upon careful review, the undersigned finds that Defendant's motion is well-taken and should be granted.

         I. Background and Facts

         Plaintiff alleges that on April 26, 2018, Defendant Oppy violated his First Amendment and Equal Protection rights by denying him an opportunity to purchase a prayer rug. (Doc. 8). Plaintiff states that he filed a kite to Defendant Oppy asking if he could purchase a prayer rug. Id. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Oppy stated that he could only have one towel that was already issued to him. Id. Plaintiff states that he then filed an Informal Complaint to Anthony Cadogan and was again denied due to prison policy. Id.

         Plaintiff seeks an injunction to “grant[] all Muslim inmates the right to purchase Muslim prayer rugs” and notes that he is suing the Defendant in an individual capacity. (Doc. 8, PageID55). Plaintiff also claims that this incident has caused “extreme hardship” while practicing his religion and requests $20, 000 in punitive damages per defendant. Id.

         On July 25, 2018, Plaintiff filed the Complaint against Defendants Anthony Cadogen and Jeremy Oppy. (Doc 1). On October 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed an identical complaint with a jury demand, which was served to Defendant. (Doc. 8). Upon sua sponte review by the court, the claims against Defendant Cadogen were dismissed for failure to state a claim but allowed the claims against Defendant Oppy concerning Plaintiff's religious and equal protection rights to proceed. (Doc. 9, PageID59, 61).

         Defendant Oppy now moves for judgment on the pleadings. The motion is well-taken and should be granted

         II. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all well-pleaded material allegations in the complaint as true. Roth Steel Products v. Sharon Steel Corporation, 705 F.2d 134, 155 (6th Cir. 1983). However, the court need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. Lewis v. ACB Business Seru., Inc., 135 F.3d 389, 405 (6th Cir. 1988); Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987). It is not enough that the complaint contains “an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Igbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Conclusory statements which recite a cause of action are not sufficient. Id. The complaint must contain more than allegations the defendant may have possibly acted unlawfully. Even allegations that are consistent with a defendant's liability are insufficient. Id. Instead, the complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. See also Corie v. Alcoa Wheel & Forget Products, 577 F.3d 625 (6th Cir. 2009). If it is not plausible that the factual allegations will lead to the requested relief, the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         III. Analysis

         Defendant Oppy contends that Plaintiff's Complaint fails on a number of fronts. First, a pro se plaintiff cannot represent others in a class action lawsuit. Second, Plaintiff cannot seek an injunction when suing a defendant in an individual capacity. Third, Plaintiff has not met the requirements of the PLRA. Lastly, Plaintiff is barred by qualified immunity. Defendant's assertions will be addressed in turn.

         A. Class Action/Injunctive Relief

         As noted above, Plaintiff's complaint seeks "grant [] all Muslim inmates the right to purchase Muslim prayer rug." (Doc. 8, at PageID 55). Defendant argues however, that a pro se plaintiff cannot represent a larger class of Muslims ...


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