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McCain v. Jenkins

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

August 1, 2019

MICHAEL D. MCCAIN, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
CHAROLETTE JENKINS, et al., Defendants.

          Michael H. Watson District Judge

         REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION[1] THAT: (1) DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (DOC. 95) BE GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART; (2) DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 110) BE GRANTED; (3) PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDMENT RETALIATION CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANTS FARRAR AND TROUTE REMAIN PENDING FOR TRIAL; (4) PLAINTIFF'S EIGHTH AMENDMENT CONDITIONS OF CONFINEMENT CLAIM AGAINST DEFENDANT FREE REMAIN PENDING FOR TRIAL; AND (5) THAT PLAINTIFF'S REMAINING CLAIMS BE DISMISSED

          MICHAEL J. NEWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil case in which pro se Plaintiff Michael D. McCain, Sr. (“McCain”), an inmate in the custody of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (“ODRC”), asserts, inter alia, civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See doc. 52. Such claims arise from the alleged conduct of officials and employees at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution (“CCI”) during McCain's detention there beginning in early 2014 and until his transfer to the Mansfield Correctional Institution (“MCC”) in April 2016. See doc. 52.

         I.

         Specifically, McCain's amended complaint consists of forty-one (41) handwritten pages, wherein he asserts a myriad of allegations against twenty-seven named Defendants in 150 lengthy, numbered paragraphs. See doc. 52. McCain's allegations stem from his admittedly frequent complaints and grievances against prison officials concerning a variety of issues, including corrections officers' use of allegedly foul language; supposedly unsanitary conditions of confinement (i.e., dust, mold, and pigeon droppings in the prison); interference with his access to the courts; officers' threats of violence; and officers' use of force against him. Id. Presently before the Court are two motions filed by Defendants: (1) a motion for judgment on the pleadings (doc. 95); and (2) a partial[2] motion for summary judgment (doc. 110). After lengthy delays and extensions having been granted, McCain has filed a memorandum in opposition to these motions. Doc. 143. Defendants filed a reply. Doc. 144. The undersigned has carefully considered the foregoing, and Defendants' motions are ripe for decision.

         A. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Standard

         The standard for reviewing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is the same standard employed for reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Sensations, Inc. v. City of Grand Rapids, 526 F.3d 291, 295 (6th Cir. 2008). A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) operates to test the sufficiency of the complaint and permits dismissal for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

         To show grounds for relief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) requires that the complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” While Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations' . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Pleadings offering mere “‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In determining a motion to dismiss, “courts ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Further, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id.

         In order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In addition to well-pleaded allegations in the complaint, the Court may also consider “matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint, ” as well as documents attached to a defendant's motion to dismiss that are important to the plaintiff's claims or if referred to in the complaint. Amini v. Oberlin College, 259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted); Composite Tech., L.L.C. v. Inoplast Composites S.A. de C.V., 925 F.Supp.2d 868, 873 (S.D. Ohio 2013).

         A claim is plausible where “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. Plausibility “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not ‘show[n]' -- ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (alteration in original) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         While pro se pleadings are “to be liberally construed” and are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), they must still satisfy basic pleading requirements. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989). Accordingly, the Court is “not required to conjure up allegations not pleaded or guess at the nature of an argument.” Brown v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 507 Fed.Appx. 543, 547 (6th Cir.

         2012). In other words, “while [a pro se] plaintiff is not required to recite chapter and verse of the statute upon which he relies, he must provide the court and the defendant with sufficient information about the basis for his claim to satisfy federal notice pleading requirements.” Hawkins v. Youngstown Mun. Court, No. 4:12CV1029, 2012 WL 4050167, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 13, 2012).

         B. Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment should be granted if the evidence submitted to the Court demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “Summary judgment is only appropriate ‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Keweenaw Bay Indian Comm. v. Rising, 477 F.3d 881, 886 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Weighing of the evidence or making credibility determinations are prohibited at summary judgment -- rather, all facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Id.

         Once “a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, an opposing party may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading[.]” Viergutz v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 375 Fed.Appx. 482, 485 (6th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Instead, the party opposing summary judgment has a shifting burden and “must -- by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule -- set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (citation omitted). Failure “to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c)” could result in the Court “consider[ing] the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

         Finally, “there is no duty imposed upon the trial court to ‘search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Trustees, 980 F.2d 399, 404 (6th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). Instead, “[i]t is the attorneys, not the judges, who have interviewed the witnesses and handled the physical exhibits; it is the attorneys, not the judges, who have been present at the depositions; and it is the attorneys, not the judges, who have a professional and financial stake in case outcome.” Id. at 406. In other words, “the free-ranging search for supporting facts is a task for which attorneys in the case are equipped and for which courts generally are not.” Id.

         II.

         As noted above, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain[, ]” inter alia, “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). In addition, allegations set forth in a pleading “must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). While Rule 8 requires some factual averments to support the claims asserted, courts have construed the requirements of Rule 8 to prohibit a pleading party from “cough[ing] up an unsightly hairball of factual and legal allegations, stepp[ing] to the side, and invit[ing] the defendants and the Court ...


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