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Arthur v. Smith

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

November 20, 2014

ROBIN DALE ARTHUR, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMES NEWS and RAIN SMITH, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

LEON JORDAN, District Judge.

The Court is in receipt of a pro se prisoner's civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an application to proceed in forma pauperis. It appears from the application that the plaintiff lacks sufficient financial resources to pay the $350.00 filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the plaintiff is allowed to proceed in this action without the prepayment of costs or fees or security therefor. However, for the reasons stated below, process shall not issue and this action is DISMISSED.

In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Black v. Barberton Citizens Hospital, 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998); O'Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990, 995 (6th Cir. 1994); Russo v. City of Cincinnati, 953 F.2d 1036, 1042 (6th Cir. 1992). See also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) ("Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere.").

Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), district courts must screen prisoner complaints and sua sponte dismiss those that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999).

Responding to a perceived deluge of frivolous lawsuits, and, in particular, frivolous prisoner suits, Congress directed the federal courts to review or "screen" certain complaints sua sponte and to dismiss those that failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, that sought monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief, or that were frivolous or malicious.

Id. at 1015-16 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A).

Plaintiff is an inmate in the Sullivan County Jail. The defendants are the Kingsport Times News, a local newspaper, and Rain Smith. Plaintiff alleges the newspaper printed a false statement concerning his arrest, and thus slandered his name and defamed his character. Rain Smith is presumably a reporter for the newspaper.

Neither the Times News nor its reporter was acting under color of law in reporting on plaintiff's alleged crimes. In addition, an allegation of defamation, without more, does not state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Harm or injury to reputation does not result in a deprivation of any "liberty" or "property" protected by the Due Process Clause. Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 712 (1976). See also Mertik v. Blalock, 983 F.2d 1353, 1362 (6th Cir. 1993) ("[i]njury to reputation, standing alone, is not a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment"); accord, Ellingburg v. Lucas, 518 F.2d 1196, 1197 (8th Cir. 1975); Azar v. Conley, 456 F.2d 1382, 1388-89 (6th Cir. 1972); Heller v. Roberts, 386 F.2d 832 (2nd Cir. 1967).

Although this Court is mindful that a pro se complaint is to be liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), it is quite clear that the plaintiff has not alleged the deprivation of any constitutionally protected right, privilege or immunity, and, therefore, the Court finds his claims to be frivolous under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562 (2007) ("a complaint... must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory") (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis and omission in original). Therefore, this action is DISMISSED sua sponte, as frivolous and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under § 1983. The Court CERTIFIES that any appeal from this action would not be taken in good faith and would be totally frivolous. See Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Because the plaintiff is an inmate in the Sullivan County Jail, he is herewith ASSESSED the civil filing fee of $350.00. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A) and (B), the custodian of the plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides is directed to submit to the Clerk, U.S. District Court, 220 West Depot Street, Suite 200, Greeneville, Tennessee 37743, as an initial partial payment, whichever is greater of:

(a) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to the plaintiff's inmate trust account; or

(b) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in the plaintiff's inmate trust account for the six-month period preceding the filing of the complaint.

Thereafter, the custodian shall submit twenty percent (20%) of the plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to the plaintiff's trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income exceeds ten dollars ($10.00), until the full filing fee of three hundred fifty dollars ($350.00) as authorized under 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) has been paid to the Clerk. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

The Clerk is DIRECTED to send a copy of this Memorandum and Order to the Sheriff of Sullivan County, Tennessee, and the county attorney for Sullivan County, Tennessee, to ensure that the custodian of the plaintiff's inmate trust account complies with that portion of the Prison Litigation Reform Act relating to payment of the filing fee. The Clerk is further DIRECTED to forward a copy of this Memorandum and Order to the Court's financial deputy.


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