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Easley v. Benton County

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

January 15, 2015

ANDRE BERNARD EASLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BENTON COUNTY, ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER TO MODIFY THE DOCKET, DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND

JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.

On October 7, 2014, Plaintiff, Andre Bernard Easley, Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") prisoner number 132083, who is currently incarcerated at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 addressing his previous confinement at the Benton County Jail ("Jail") in Camden, Tennessee, and a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.)[1] The Court issued an order on October 8, 2014, granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessing the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Benton County and Michael Hill, the Jail Administrator.[2]

The complaint alleges that Plaintiff is unwilling to eat turkey bologna sandwiches because the bologna contains red dye. Jail staff previously provided Plaintiff and other inmates with peanut butter sandwiches as a substitute. After Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Hill complaining about three of his officers, his peanut butter sandwiches were discontinued. Consequently, he has "been doing without." (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.)

Plaintiff also contends that he is being denied proper medical attention. He went to the Jail nurse for a physical. Plaintiff advised the nurse that bumps and sores had been appearing on his body, and he asked to be tested for herpes or genital herpes. The nurse allegedly said that they did not draw blood or run tests. (ECF No. 1-1 at PageID 4.)[3] He was advised to speak to an outside nurse who sometimes visits the Jail. ( Id. ) Plaintiff still has not had his blood drawn, although it is unclear whether the outside nurse was unwilling to order the test or whether Jail policy required inmates to pay for that test. ( See id. )

Jail staff allegedly have shown favoritism to certain inmates. Trustee jobs are supposed to be assigned to inmates who are on a list. Some inmates have been at the Jail for a year or more and have not been chosen to be a trustee, but other inmates have obtained trustee jobs after being at the Jail for less than a week. At the time he commenced this action, Plaintiff had been at the Jail for two months. He asked to be added to the list for a trustee job. ( Id. at PageID 5.) The complaint does not state whether Plaintiff was added to the list and whether he was given a trustee position. The complaint does not specify the relief that is sought. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 3.)

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 from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). "Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'" Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). "[P]leadings that... are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 ("Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also grounds' on which the claim rests.").

"A complaint can be frivolous either factually or legally." Hill, 630 F.3d at 470 (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989)). "Any complaint that is legally frivolous would ipso facto fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Id. (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328-29).

Whether a complaint is factually frivolous under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) is a separate issue from whether it fails to state a claim for relief. Statutes allowing a complaint to be dismissed as frivolous give judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Unlike a dismissal for failure to state a claim, where a judge must accept all factual allegations as true, a judge does not have to accept "fantastic or delusional" factual allegations as true in prisoner complaints that are reviewed for frivolousness.

Id. at 471 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

" Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ' and should therefore be liberally construed." Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F.App'x 608, 612, 613 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with "unique pleading requirements" and stating "a court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'" (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975))); Payne v. Sec'y of Treas., 73 F.App'x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, "[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her"); cf. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004) ("District judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants."); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F.App'x 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2011) ("[W]e decline to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants. Not ...


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