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Key v. Metro Police Department of Davidson County

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

November 4, 2014

CLINTON KEY, Plaintiff,
v.
METRO POLICE DEPARTMENT OF DAVIDSON COUNTY et al., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KEVIN H. SHARP, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Clinton Key is a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office in Nashville, Tennessee. He has filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following defendants: the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County ("Metro"), the Metro Police Department; Detective Christopher R. Cote and Officer Carlos M. Urrutia, both with the Metro Police Department; defense attorneys Mark Kovach and Jennifer Hall; the State of Tennessee; and the General Sessions Court for Davidson County. (ECF No. 1.) The complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). For the reasons explained herein, the false arrest claims under § 1983 and state law against defendant Christopher Cote will be permitted to proceed. However, the § 1983 claims against defendants the Metro Police Department, Officer Carlos Urrutia, Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, and attorneys Kovach and Hall will be dismissed with prejudice, and the remaining claims will be dismissed without prejudice.

I. Standard of Review

Under the PLRA, the Court is required to dismiss any in forma pauperis or prisoner action 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), 1915A. The Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), "governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under [the PLRA] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)." Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Thus, to survive scrutiny on initial review, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Nonetheless, in conducting the initial review, 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).

II. Factual Allegations

From the allegations in the complaint and the attachments thereto, it appears that the plaintiff was arrested pursuant to a warrant issued by the General Sessions Court for Metro on September 4, 2014, on a charge of aggravated assault (for displaying a gun during an altercation) that allegedly occurred on the same date. The arrest warrant states that the plaintiff admitted displaying the gun in order to scare off the "victim." (ECF No. 1, at 7.) The warrant was sworn out by Metro Police Officer Carlos Urrutia. Defense attorney Mark Kovach was apparently appointed to represent the plaintiff on that charge. The plaintiff alleges that he has not seen his attorney or been to court on these charges even though he has been in custody since September 4.

A second warrant for the plaintiff's arrest was issued by the General Sessions Court on September 10, 2014 for an aggravated assault that allegedly occurred on September 2, 2014. According to the arrest warrant, the plaintiff stabbed Orlander Tate; Tate stabbed the defendant in the back in self-defense; and "[a] video of the incident shows the defendant [Key] attacking the victim [Tate] first." (ECF No. 1, at 8.) Metro Police Detective Christopher Cote swore out the warrant, and defense attorney Jennifer Hall was appointed to represent the plaintiff on this charge. The plaintiff states that he has "seen [Hall] once or twice but [has] not been in court room yet." ( Id. )

Regarding the factual basis for the issuance of the second arrest warrant, the plaintiff alleges that he was involved in an altercation with Orlander Tate in which the plaintiff was stabbed in the back and across the neck while Tate was cut on the upper arm. Someone called 911 and both the plaintiff and Tate were taken to the hospital. The plaintiff got a tetanus shot but refused stitches. According to the plaintiff, Cote, the investigating officer, originally believed that the plaintiff was the victim rather than the perpetrator of the alleged assault. Cote gave the plaintiff his card and instructed him to call the next day to find out when he should appear in court. The plaintiff believed at that time that Tate was "headed to jail." He saw Tate the next morning, however, so he began calling Cote to find out why. He was never able to reach Cote by telephone. Instead, Cote appeared at the plaintiff's residence and began questioning him about an incident in which another man pulled a butcher knife on the plaintiff. The plaintiff's allegations are unclear, but it appears this event may have involved an entirely different altercation from that with Tate. In any event, the plaintiff explained in detail this altercation, which involved both parties' pulling knives, but no injuries. Two days later, according to the plaintiff, "Det. Cote and Officer Carlos M. Urrutia officers of the law fabricated and rearranged said incident which happen on the 2nd of Sept. Sept. 2 Report is not present." (ECF No. 1, at 10.)

The plaintiff states that Cote and Urrutia falsified documents in order to incarcerate the plaintiff. He asks: "If the incident happen on September 2, 2014 where is the paperwork for said date and how did the victim on that said date Clinton Key become the defendant on September 10th of 2014 at 9:35:56 8 days later while locked up on an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon." (ECF No. 1, at 11.) He generally alleges "false accusation" on the part of the "Metro Police Dept." (ECF No. 1, at 10.)

The plaintiff alleges that his appointed attorneys, Kovach and Hall, are incompetent and have violated his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel.

He seeks to sue the state of Tennessee, Metro General Sessions Court, and Metro for unspecified violations of his rights under the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

The plaintiff also alleges that he is being harassed by the "Sheriff Department" at the CJC and that he is not receiving proper medical care. He does not, however, name as defendants any of the individuals allegedly responsible for the harassment and denial of medical care. The plaintiff also references a § 1983 complaint he filed in this Court in 2004 or 2005. He states that his complaint had merit but he was unable to pursue it and is unaware of the outcome of the case because he was in jail.

The plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. He does not ...


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