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Hill v. Quezerque

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

September 5, 2014

STEVEN HILL, Plaintiff,
YOSHI QUEZERQUE, et al. Defendants.


TODD J. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

The plaintiff, an inmate in the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility (MDCDF) in Nashville, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages, along with declaratory and injunctive relief, against MDCDF corrections counselor Yoshi Quezerque, MDCDF unit manager Yesenia Bermudez, MDCDF case manager Kizzy Hawkins, MDCDF internal affairs investigator Michael Davis, and Corrections Corporation of America. (Docket No. 1).

The plaintiff's complaint is before the court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

A. Initial Review of the Complaint

Under the PLRA, the court is required to dismiss sua sponte any in forma pauperis or prisoner complaint brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; see also 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The court must read the plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept the plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible.

Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992).

The plaintiff's complaint is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that "the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law." Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590 (6th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The complaint alleges that the plaintiff was transferred to the MDCDF in April 2014. According to the complaint, upon his arrival at the facility, the plaintiff wrote a letter to defendant Hawkins asking if the plaintiff could be placed in a special needs unit "due to his sexual orientation and a pending civil suit [involving] sexual assault, harassment, and battery in federal court. The plaintiff Hill was aware that the defendant on the pending lawsuit had family members that was [sic] housed at the same facility (CCA)." (Docket No. 1 at p. 5). The plaintiff was granted a classification hearing and, during that hearing, the plaintiff's letter to Hawkins was read aloud. Present at the hearing were defendants Quezerque, Bermudez, and Davis.

After the hearing, the plaintiff was placed in "Fox Trot, " a special needs unit for which defendant Quezerque was the correctional counselor and defendant Bermudez was the unit manager. After the plaintiff's placement in Fox Trot, "several inmates" told the plaintiff that defendant Quezerque "had shared the confidential information that plaintiff Hill had shared in classification with the facility staff with another inmate in the housing unit." ( Id . at p. 6).

Because the plaintiff believed that this disclosure placed the his life in danger, he filed an informal resolution against defendant Quezerque. The plaintiff alleges that his grievances concerning the matter have been received but not resolved by defendants Hawkins, Bermudez, and Davis.

The warden has since moved the plaintiff to a different unit. The plaintiff believes that he is in danger of "severe bodily injury" because of defendant Quezerque's disclosure of the plaintiff's sexual orientation and the possibility that he could be housed with family members of the defendant in the plaintiff's federal case. ( Id. at p. 11).

1. Failure to protect claims

In Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994), the Supreme Court held that "prison officials have a duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners" under the Eighth Amendment. Thus, a prisoner can show a violation of the Eighth Amendment if he proves both an objective and subjective component of a "failure to protect" claim. First, under the objective component of the claim, the plaintiff must show that he was "incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm" id., 511 U.S. at 834. Second, under the subjective component, the court examines the defendant's state of mind to determine whether he acted with "deliberate indifference" equivalent to an intent to punish inmate health or safety. Id .; see also Molton v. City of Cleveland, 839 F.2d 240, 243 (6th Cir.1988). To establish the subjective component, a plaintiff must show that the defendants had knowledge of and disregarded an excessive risk to his safety. Id. at 837.

Here, however, the plaintiff does not allege that any defendant knew of a specific threat to the plaintiff and disregarded that threat. To the contrary, when the plaintiff sought protected status, he was placed in a special needs unit. After learning of the plaintiff's claim that Quezerque had disclosed the plaintiff's confidential information, the warden moved the plaintiff to a different unit where Quezerque was no longer the counselor. It must be noted, too, that the plaintiff does not know the names of the individuals he fears will harm him, and he is not even sure those individuals are located at the same facility. Thus, the court ...

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