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Reid v. Purkey

February 26, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leon Jordan United States District Judge


The Reverend Nigel M. Reid, Sr., a former prisoner and unsuccessful candidate for an at-large seat on the Morristown, Tennessee City Council, brings this pro se civil rights complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twenty-three defendants. Among the defendants are a state court judge, an acting state-court judge, several governmental officials or employees, the Citizen Tribune (a Morristown newspaper), and two newspaper employees. Pending before the Court are multiple motions-all but one filed by the defendants. For purposes of discussion those motions have been divided into categories.

I. Dispositive Motions

Each defendant has filed a motion to dismiss and/or a motion for summary judgment.*fn2 (Docs. 9, 12, 14, 18, 52, 56, and 58). The plaintiff opposes those motions. (Docs. 21, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, and 55*fn3 ).

A. Standards of Review

A motion for summary judgment may be granted "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(C). In considering such a motion, the court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Though the burden of establishing there is no genuine issue of material fact lies upon the moving party, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986), the nonmoving party cannot rest upon mere allegations or denials in its pleadings, but must come forward with "specific facts" to show there is a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586-87. Summary judgment is appropriate if a court concludes that a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict in favor of a plaintiff based on the evidence presented. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).

A motion to dismiss will be granted where "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The complaint must be construed in the most favorable light to the plaintiff and its allegations taken as true. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U. S. 232 (1974). If matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim must be treated as a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b).

B. Discussion

The dispositive motions will be addressed separately and in the order in which they were filed.

1. Motion to Dismiss [Defendants James Crumley, Roger Overholt, Gary Kilgore, Morristown Police Department, Christian Newman, and Eddie Dilbeck] (Doc. 9).

The plaintiff has alleged, in his complaint, that defendant officers James Crumley, Roger Overholt, and Gary Kilgore knew that defendant officers Eddie Dilbeck and Christian Newman had filed false charges on him. Context for these claims is provided in the pleadings. (Doc. 18, Attachments).

On March 29, 2005, the plaintiff was convicted in the General Sessions Court of Hamblen County, Tennessee of stalking and, subsequently, he was ordered to stay 1/3 mile from the victim, as well as the victim's place of business, the Red Top Cab Company. (Id., Affidavit of Complaint). Shortly afterwards, the plaintiff was released from his 35-day pretrial confinement.

On March 31, 2005, the victim called 911 to report that he had spotted the plaintiff outside his business. The officers who responded to the 911 call found the plaintiff behind the Red Top Cab Company, within 45 feet of the victim. They arrested him for stalking and for violation of a restraining order. Later, pursuant to his guilty plea, the plaintiff was convicted of those offenses in the Hamblen County General Sessions Court, receiving two consecutive 6-month sentences of confinement in the county jail. (Id., Judgment/Order).

The defendants argue, in their motion, that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim against them because his contentions are "an incoherent collection of names, words, and dates."*fn4 (Doc. 9).

In response to the defendant's motion, the plaintiff suggests that it is he who is the true victim because the victim threatened his life and used a racial epithet against him in 2004. Furthermore, he believes himself to be the true victim because he too called 911 to report those threats, but the police did not respond to his calls or arrest the victim, whereas, the police not only responded to the victim's 911 call in 2005, but also arrested him [the plaintiff]. (Doc. 21). In addition, the plaintiff faults defendant Newman for taking photographs, later presented at trial, which depicted the plaintiff waving at the officers from across the street (from the cab company?), with a wooden sword at his side. The plaintiff further charges that defendants James Crumley, Greg Kilgore, Roger Overholt, and the Morristown Police Department knew about this problem, as well as other unidentified problems, because he has been reporting those problems for years to the City Counsel.

The defendants are somewhat correct in arguing that the plaintiff's claims against them, as those claims are pled in the complaint, are "an incoherent collection of names, words, and dates." More important, they are correct in suggesting that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim against them.

It is well-recognized law that, in an action for damages, if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his state court conviction or sentence, his § 1983 complaint must be dismissed, unless he can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486 (1994). In other words, "no cause of action exists unless a conviction has been legally eliminated." Schilling v. White, 58 F.3d 1081, 1086 (6th Cir. 1995).

If the plaintiff were to prevail against the defendants on his allegations that they filed false charges against him; his contentions that they arrested him merely for carrying a "wooden stick;" or his challenge to a photograph taken by one defendant and introduced at his trial, this would necessarily imply that his conviction was invalid. The plaintiff does not allege, and it does not appear, that his conviction has been ruled invalid. In short, because he has suffered no cognizable injury at this time, his § 1983 claim for damages cannot stand.

Moreover, any allegations as to defendants' actions or failures to act in 2004 would be barred by the one-year statute of limitations which applies to § 1983 civil rights actions filed in Tennessee. This is so because the one-year limitations period for claims arising in 2004 would have ended, at the latest, on December 31, 2005 and because this case was filed on February 21, 2006, well after the lapse of the statutory time period.

Because matters outside the pleadings have been considered, the Court has treated the motion to dismiss as a summary judgment motion, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b), and now finds that no material facts are genuinely in dispute and that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment.

2. Motion to Dismiss [Defendants C. Berkeley Bell and Victor Von] (Doc. 12).

The plaintiff has alleged that, on May 22, 2005, defendant C. Berkeley Bell, the District Attorney, with the help of his assistant, defendant Victor Von, tried very hard either ...

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