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Cash v. Armstrong

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division

October 29, 2014



J. RONNIE GREER, District Judge.

Acting pro se, Sage Andrew Cash, a state inmate housed in the Hawkins County jail ("the jail") in Rogersville, Tennessee, has submitted this civil rights complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that he is being denied freedom of religion and medical treatment for "vision problems, " from which he is suffering at the jail, (Docs. 1, 4).

Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED, (Doc. 2), and he is ASSESSED the full filing fee of three hundred and fifty dollars ($350). The custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides shall submit, as an initial partial payment, whichever is the greater of: (a) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's inmate trust account; or (b) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in his inmate trust account for the six-month period preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A) and (B).

Thereafter, the custodian shall submit twenty percent (20%) of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to his trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income exceeds $10.00, until the full filing fee of $350.00 has been paid to the Clerk's Office. Id., McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 605 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). Payments should be sent to: Clerk, USDC; 220 W. Depot St., Suite 200; Greeneville, TN 37743.

To ensure compliance with the fee-collection procedure, the Clerk is DIRECTED to mail a copy of this memorandum and order to the custodian of inmate accounts at the institution where Plaintiff is now confined and to Derrick D. Schofield, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction. This order shall be placed in Plaintiff's prison file and follow him if he is transferred to another correctional institution.

I. Screening

The Court now must screen the pleadings to determine whether the case should be dismissed as frivolous, malicious or for failure to state a claim or because monetary damages are sought from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2) and § 1915A. In performing this task, the Court bears in mind the rule that pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases must be liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). All well-pleaded allegations in the complaint will be taken as true and the factual allegations will be considered to determine whether "they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009). The Court examines the complaint in light of those requirements.

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

Named in the complaint as Defendants are Autumn Armstrong and Donna Carter, both of whom are listed as Hawkins County Jail Administrators; Butch Gallion, who serves as a jail lieutenant; and Brittany Saunders, the Head Nurse at the jail. Plaintiff alleges two distinct claims for relief.

A. Claim One

According to the pleading, Plaintiff has been trying to convert to Islam and has been having conversations with Defendant Autumn Armstrong concerning his intended conversion. When Defendant Armstrong asked Plaintiff to specify the materials he needed for his religious conversion, he reported that he needed a Quran, a kuffie (a skull prayer cap), a prayer rug, a Ramadan schedule, a special diet, a container of ointment, and to be able to speak with someone who could help him understand parts of the Quran which he found confusing. Because the jail had no prior experience with Muslim prisoners, Defendant Armstrong said she would get back to Plaintiff regarding the situation.

On September 19, 2014, Defendants Armstrong and Carter, along with two correctional officers, removed Plaintiff from the pod and questioned him as to his reasons for converting to Islam. Plaintiff stood firm with regard to his intentions and cautioned them not to "disrespect [his] religious choices, " [Doc. 1, Compl. at 4). On September 22, 2014, the same Defendants again removed Plaintiff from the pod and Defendant Armstrong told him that the jail had ordered a Quran for him, but that the remainder of his requested materials was prohibited by the jail's security protocols.

However, Defendant Armstrong also stated that instead of a "kuffie, " the jail would supply him with four coffee filters and that instead of a prayer rug, he would be allowed to use a towel. Defendant Carter stated that the jail would obtain the Quran, but would not help Plaintiff locate an address for someone he could contact to assist him in building his knowledge of the faith. The items to be used as substitutes for the ...

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