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Johnigan v. Broadfoot

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 18, 2016

KRISHNA JOHNIGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
KEITH BROADFOOT, SCOTT BUSBOOM, MICHELE CAPPS, SHAUN SHERMAN, BRIAN GAGE, SCOTT FRAKES, and NEBRASKA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, filed his Complaint on April 21, 2016. (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff was given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 8.) Therefore, at this time, the court will conduct an initial review of Plaintiff’s claims to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

         Liberally construed, Plaintiff alleges that (1) he was denied participation in rehabilitative programs because Defendants refused to transfer him to the Nebraska State Penitentiary due to his race and (2) the conditions of confinement at Tecumseh State Prison violated his Eighth Amendment rights. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiff also seeks class certification and requests that the court “convene a three judge panel to alleviate overcrowding, by releasing prisoners until a safe operating level can be maintained.” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 10.)

         II. STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

         The court is required to review prisoner and in forma pauperis complaints seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“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.”).

         “The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.’” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Liberally construed, Plaintiff alleges federal constitutional claims. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also must show that the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. 1993).

         III. DISCUSSION

         1. Injunctive Relief

         At the time Plaintiff filed his Complaint, he was residing at Tecumseh State Prison. Since that time, Plaintiff has been transferred to the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims seeking injunctive relief are moot. See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985) (“[A] prisoner’s claim for injunctive relief to improve prison conditions is moot if he or she is no longer subject to those conditions”). Still, Plaintiff retains standing to bring his claims for monetary damages. Id.

         2. Joinder

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 states that multiple defendants may be joined in the same action only if “any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A). In addition, there must be a “question of law or fact common to all defendants” in the action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(B). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21, the proper remedy for improper joinder of parties is for the court to ...


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