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Fitten v. Chattanooga Police Dep't

January 15, 2008

RICHARD JOE FITTEN PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHATTANOOGA POLICE DEPT., OFFICER TINNEY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry S. Mattice, Jr. United States District Judge

Mattice/Carter

MEMORANDUM

Richard Joe Fitten ("Fitten") has filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Court File No. 6). Fitten brings suit against the Chattanooga Police Department and Officer Tinney. Fitten asserts he was falsely arrested on a charge of theft over $1,000.00 which was subsequently dismissed. Fitten requests "the Court to exempt [him] from all the charges that occurred [sic] injunction with the previous charge and to award [him] a sum of money that the court feel [sic] is adequate satisfaction." (Court File No. 6, p. 5). For the reasons discussed below, Fitten's complaint (Court File No. 6) will be DISMISSED.

I. Standard of Review

Pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993); Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982); Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996); Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991). However, pro se status does not exempt Fitten from the requirement that he comply with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law. Hulsey v. State of Texas, 929 F.2d 168, 171 (5th Cir. 1991); Birl v. Estelle, 660 F.2d 592, 593 (5th Cir. 1981). Pro se plaintiffs must comply with Rule 8 of the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE which provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . ." LRL Properties v. Portage Metro Housing Authority, 55 F.3d 1097, 1104 (6th Cir. 1995). Although the standard of review is liberal, it does require more than the bare assertion of legal conclusions. Lillard v. Shelby County Bd. Of Educ., 76 F.3d 716, 726 (6th Cir. 1996) (standard of review for dismissing a complaint pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6)-failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted); LRL Properties, 55 F.3d at 1103-04; Allard v. Weitzman (In re DeLorean Motor Co.), 991 F.2d 1236, 1240 (6th Cir. 1993); Hartfield v. East Grand Rapids Public Schools, 960 F. Supp. 1259, 1268 (W.D. Mich. 1997). The complaint must give the defendants fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Lillard, 76 F.3d at 726; Gazette v. City of Pontiac, 41 F.3d 1061, 1064 (6th Cir. 1994). "In practice, 'a . . . complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.'" Lillard, 76 F.3d at 726 (citations omitted).

The Court screens the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and § 1915(e). Furthermore, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) provides that the Court must dismiss a case at any time if the Court determines that it is frivolous or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

A. Screening Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)

When screening a prisoner complaint, a district court must examine both § 1915A and § 1915(e)(2). If the civil action seeks redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the district court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, which (a) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (b) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from monetary relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Should the complaint contain any allegations that do not fall within § 1915A, the district court must then examine the complaint under § 1915(e)(2). The requirements of §1915(e)(2) overlap the criteria of § 1915A. Section 1915A is restricted to prisoners who sue government entities, officers, or employees. In contrast, § 1915(e)(2) is restricted neither to actions brought by prisoners, nor to cases involving government defendants. Further, § 1915A is applicable at the initial stage of the litigation, while § 1915(e)(2) is applicable throughout the entire litigation process. A case that may not initially appear to meet §1915(e)(2) may be dismissed at a future date should it become apparent that the case satisfies this section. Thus, in prisoner cases, the district court must first examine a complaint under § 1915A and then review the complaint under § 1915(e)(2) before the case can proceed in due course. A district court is required to screen all civil cases brought by prisoners, regardless of whether the inmate paid the full filing fee, is a pauper, is pro se, or is represented by counsel as the statute does not differentiate between various civil actions brought by prisoners. The dismissal of a complaint under §1915(e)(2) or § 1915A does not negate a prisoner's obligation to pay the filing fee in accordance with § 1915(b)(1)- (2). See In re Tyler, 110 F.3d [528] 529-30 [(8th Cir. 1997)]. We make it explicit: a court's responsibility under the Prison Litigation Act is to first examine the financial status of a prisoner and make the assessment of fees. After the fees have been assessed, the merits of a complaint or appeal may be reviewed. Our mandate, however, does not prevent a district court from making the fee assessment and conducting the screening process in the same opinion or order.

McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 608 (6th Cir. 1997).

II. Facts

The Court has reviewed the record in the light most favorable to Fitten. Fitten claims he was arrested on August 25, 2006, and falsely imprisoned by Officer Tinney. Fitten contends he was arrested based solely on the statement of two white males who claimed he had given them a stolen bus from Georgia. Although Fitten was charged with theft over $1,000.00, the charge was eventually dismissed.

III. Analysis

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

To state a viable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) he was deprived of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person while acting under color of state law. Flagg Bros. Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-156 (1978); Brock v. McWherter, 94 F.3d 242, 244 (6th Cir. 1996). To maintain a cause of action for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must also allege the defendant caused the plaintiff an injury and show actual damages. See Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 255 (1978); Chatman v. Slagle, 107 F.3d 380, 384 (6th Cir. 1997); Zehner v. Trigg, 952 F.Supp. 1318, 1321 (S.D. Ind.), aff'd 133 F3d 459 (7th Cir. 1997). Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to set out in detail the facts underlying the claim, the plaintiff must provide sufficient allegations to give defendants fair notice of the claims against them. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotic Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993). To ...


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