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Kelly v. Wright

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division

June 9, 2014

DERRICK RAY KELLY, Plaintiff;
v.
TRAVIS WRIGHT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

L. SCOTT COOGLER, District Judge.

Derrick Ray Kelly ("Kelly") filed a civil rights action in this Court, seeking money damages along with declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"). All Defendants have filed an answer responding to the claims for money damages, but a dispute remains as to the demands for declaratory and injunctive relief. Defendant Rick Harris ("Harris") has moved to dismiss those demands. (Doc. 7.) Kelly has opposed the motion but has also moved for leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 14.) For the reasons discussed below, Harris's motion to dismiss is due to be granted, and Kelly's motion for leave to amend is due to be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Kelly was incarcerated at the Winston County Jail (the "Jail") from February 2012 until March 2013, while he was awaiting trial. Defendants Travis Wright ("Wright") and James Whitman ("Whitman") were employed as corrections officers at the Jail while Kelly was held there, and Defendant Harris was the sheriff of Winston County, Alabama.

During his incarceration, Kelly claims that Wright harmed him on multiple occasions. First, on one occasion Wright purportedly sprayed him with a powerful "pepper"-type spray known as "freeze" while he was working in Block A work release at the Jail. According to Kelly, Wright had no justification for spraying him, and he did so only for his own amusement. Additionally, Wright and the other Defendants allegedly exacerbated the effects of the spray by keeping him in a small, poorly ventilated area and denying him access to medical care. Instead of following the manufacturer's instructions for using the spray, Wright left Kelly in a confined area, denied him access to an appropriate decontamination process, and ignored his requests for medical assistance. In addition to the spraying incident, Kelly complains that Wright intentionally struck him in the kidney on two occasions without any justification or provocation. Kelly indicates that other inmates had experienced similar issues with Wright, but Whitman and Harris failed to take appropriate action even though they were aware that Wright had a history of this type of behavior.

Based on the facts pleaded in the complaint, it appears that Kelly's incarceration at the Jail ended in 2013. Although the complaint is unclear as to why Kelly left the Jail, he has not pleaded that he had any contact with the Jail outside the period of incarceration from February 2012 to March 2013. Thus, it appears from the complaint that Kelly was either transferred or released from the Jail in March 2013 and has had no contact with the Jail since.

On April 15, 2014, Kelly filed his complaint in this Court. He alleges § 1983 claims based on violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights for the spraying and striking incidents. Kelly's claims against the Defendants for money damages based on these violations are not at issue. However, Kelly demands injunctive and declaratory relief against Harris in his official capacity, seeking to have this Court declare a number of policies at the Jail unconstitutional.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Standing is an Article III doctrine limiting the jurisdiction of the federal courts to actual "cases" and "controversies." Socialist Workers Party v. Leahy, 145 F.3d 1240, 1244 (11th Cir. 1998). In order to establish standing, a plaintiff "must demonstrate injury in fact, causation, and redressability." I.L. v. Alabama, 739 F.3d 1273, 1278 (11th Cir. 2014). As Kelly is the party invoking this Court's jurisdiction, he has the burden of establishing standing. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 2136 (1992).

"[E]ach element of standing must be supported with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.'" Church v. City of Huntsville, 30 F.3d 1332, 1336 (11th Cir. 1994) (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561, 112 S.Ct. at 2136). When raised at the motion to dismiss stage, "general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may be sufficient to show standing." America's Health Ins. Plans v. Hudgens, 742 F.3d 1319, 1327 (11th Cir. 2014). However, a defendant may raise a facial attack upon a plaintiff's standing, and the Court must consider whether the allegations in the complaint, taken as true, support an inference of standing. See Carmichael v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 572 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11th Cir. 2009).

III. DISCUSSION

At this stage in the litigation, Harris has raised a facial challenge to Kelly's standing to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief only. Unlike money damages, both declaratory and injunctive relief are forms of prospective relief. See McGee v. Solicitor Gen. of Richmond Cnty., Ga., 727 F.3d 1322, 1325 (11th Cir. 2013) (explaining that "[d]eclaratory relief is by its nature prospective"); see also Church, 30 F.3d at 1337 (noting that "injunctions regulate future conduct"). "For a plaintiff seeking prospective relief to have standing, he must show a sufficient likelihood that he will be affected by the allegedly unlawful conduct in the future.'" Koziara v. City of Casselberry, 392 F.3d 1302, 1305 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Johnson v. Bd. of Regents, 263 F.3d 1234, 1265 (11th Cir. 2001).

Turning to the complaint, Kelly pleaded that "[f ]rom February 2012, until March 2013, [he] was in custody in the Winston County Jail in Double Springs, Alabama." (Doc. 1 at ¶ 5.) Kelly's additional pleaded facts are consistent with this time frame, as he re-pleaded that timeline for one of his § 1983 claims, and he alleged that both injuries occurred at some point after April 15, 2012. From the plain language of his pleading it is clear that Kelly's incarceration at the Jail ended in March 2013, when he was either transferred or, more likely, released from the Jail. Importantly, Kelly has not ...


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