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Jones v. Shelby County

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

January 8, 2015

Joseph Ellis Jones, III, Plaintiff,
SHELBY COUNTY, ET AL., Defendants.


JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.

On October 24, 2014, Plaintiff Joseph Ellis Jones, III a/k/a Joseph Ellis Jones-Cage, III a/k/a Joseph Ellis Jone-Cage, III, booking number 13114127, a pretrial detainee at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Complex ("Jail") in Memphis, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, accompanied by a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) In an order issued on October 28, 2014, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Shelby County; the Office of the Shelby County District Attorney General; the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute ("MTMHI"); Dr. Robekeya Farooque; Michael Ebert; Dr. Kumda Vikunth; and Jacquline Armstrong, R.N.[1]

Plaintiff's complaint contains no factual allegations. Although he has filed the § 1983 complaint form, the sections for the Statement of Claim and Relief are blank. The complaint form also is not signed, as required by Rule 11(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Accompanying the complaint is a series of grievances and other documents. The first exhibit, which is taken from a document titled "BLUE HAWK SPEAKS: Dark History of Memphis, Tennessee, "[2] asserts that District Attorney General Amy Weirich has violated Tennessee law by allowing Mary Thomas, the Grand Jury Foreperson, to sign indictments and judge cases without being validly sworn in as a juror. (ECF No. 1-1 at PageID 4.) The next documents are memoranda and other documents about mail delivery. ( Id. at PageID 5-6, 8.) One memorandum addresses the assessment of the filing fee for another of Plaintiff's lawsuits. ( Id. at PageID 7.) Plaintiff has submitted a list of medications that he was not permitted to take with him to the MTMHI. ( Id. at PageID 9.) Another page, titled "52 Week Bible Reading Plan, " contains a note complaining that he did not promptly receive his Bible and the reading plan upon his return to the Jail from the MTMHI. ( Id. at PageID 11.) A page from the inmate handbook has the following statement was circled: "Cups will be washed once a week by the facility food service provider. (Health Department requirement)." Beside that statement is handwritten, "[n]ever ever happens!!" ( Id. at PageID 13.) Another page from the handbook, addressing rates for outgoing telephone calls, is annotated with the comment, "False[.] NO CALLS @ Anytime is this Price." ( Id. at PageID 14.)

The next group of documents is a series of grievances addressing opened legal mail (ECF No. 1-2 at PageID 15), the failure to return Plaintiff to his unit promptly after a court appearance so he could take his medication ( id. at PageID 16), the failure to allow Plaintiff to take his Bible and medication list to the MTMHI ( id. at PageID 17 & 18) and the failure to provide Plaintiff with a diabetic snack bag on August 22, 2014 ( id. at PageID 19). Plaintiff also submitted two documents, both titled "Missing Funds Dispute Form, " addressing his claims that legal mail addressed to him was received at the Jail while he was at the MTMHI ( id. at PageID 20) and that various other property items were missing when he returned from the MTMHI ( id. at PageID 21). The grievance officer responded to Plaintiff's complaint about opened legal mail by stating that, "Per Ms. Ross of the mailroom they do not open mail, legal mail goes to G.I.U any concerns or questions please address that department." ( Id. at PageID 22.) In response to his concerns about his legal mail, the Aramark Operations Manager sent Plaintiff a memorandum stating that any mail received while he was at the MTMHI had been returned to sender because he was not incarcerated at the Jail during that time. (ECF No. 1-3 at PageID 23.) In response to his concern about the length of time he waited to be returned to his unit after being in court, the grievance response stated as follows:

Per Lieutenant Davis he spoke with Officer Wall he stated he did not remember this incident, but he said that all escort inmates are called to be picked up by the escorting Officer. According to the grievance Officer Wall did escort you. He spoke with Lieutenant Kornegay about the length of time it takes to pick up administrative segregation inmates. He stated that his escorting Officers may be stuck with another inmate somewhere else, but if he is informed he can ensure the inmate is returned in a timely manner.

( Id. at PageID 30.) Another document appears to state that Plaintiff had requested an extra mattress more than a year ago because of his weight and back. He claims to have been "getting the run around about this." ( Id. at PageID 24.)

Plaintiff has submitted a copy of the Tennessee Constitution (ECF No. 1-4 at PageID 34-35) and a copy of some of the amendments to the United States Constitution (ECF No. 1-4 at PageID 36-41). A handwritten note beside the Eighth Amendment states: "Asian in Cross town charged with shooting 3 or 4 people $50, 000 bond[.] I was shot on my case[.] 100, 000 & 200, 000 Bond 1st time[.]" ( Id. at PageID 38.)

Finally, Plaintiff has submitted an unsigned note in which he states that Jail staff have held his unspecified property so he could not pursue his lawsuit. (ECF No. 1-5.) He also complains that Jail staff committed mail fraud by returning mail he had received during his stay at the MTMHI to the sender, which sent the false impression that he did not need "LOVE, HELP, AND TLC ANYMORE!" ( Id. ) Some legal mail had been opened outside of Plaintiff's presence. ( Id. ) Plaintiff's right to religious freedom allegedly was violated by the failure to allow him to bring his Bible and reading plan to the MTMHI. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was not permitted to bring his medication list to the MTMHI, and "[t]hey also failed to send, fax, email, or text [his] meds list." ( Id. ) Finally, "[t]his Grand Jury foreman Mary Thomas, the arrest officer as the prosecutor and the sole witness on indictments." ( Id. )

On December 3, 2014, Plaintiff filed a copy of the standard operating procedure for the Jail governing inmate mail service. (ECF No. 5.)

The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune ...

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