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Davis v. Wayne County Justice Ctr.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia.

January 23, 2015

ALEX DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
WAYNE COUNTY JUSTICE CENTER, Defendant

Alex Davis, Plaintiff, Pro se, Waynesboro, TN.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM J. HAYNES, JR., Senior United States District Judge.

Plaintiff, Alex Davis, an inmate at the Wayne County Justice Center in Waynesboro, Tennessee, filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendant, the Justice Center alleging a violation of his federal rights.

According to Plaintiff's complaint, on November 5, 2014, Plaintiff received legal mail from his attorney that was already opened outside his presence. Plaintiff does not identify who opened his mail, but his jail grievance attached to his complaint reflects Plaintiff's statement that two correctional officers " witnessed it." The grievance documents also reflect that jail authority's responded that policy requires mail identified as legal mail to be opened by the inmate in the presence of staff, and apologized for any mistake. The jail authorities reassured Plaintiff that they would take action to try to prevent future mistakes.

The complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to the PLRA, 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Under the PLRA, the Court must conduct an initial review of any civil complaint filed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), or brought by a prisoner-plaintiff against government entities or officials, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, or challenging the conditions of confinement, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). For this review, the Court must evaluate whether the complaint, or any portion thereof fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, is frivolous, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), " governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes 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). Moreover, " a district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true." Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted)). A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and " held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (citation omitted). Pro se status, however, does not exempt a plaintiff from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law. See Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989) (" Neither [the Supreme] Court nor other courts . . . have been willing to abrogate basic pleading essentials in pro se suits.").

To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States and that " the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law." Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590 (6th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Plaintiff names the Wayne County Justice Center as the sole Defendant to this action. A " person" subject to suit under § 1983. See Watson v. Gill, 40 F.App'x 88, 89 (6th Cir. 2002) (county jail is a department of the county and not a legal entity susceptible to suit); Travis v. Clinton Cnty. Jail, No. 1:10-cv-1276, 2011 WL 447000, at *2 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 4, 2011) (" The jail is a building, not an entity capable of being sued in its own right."). Plaintiff's claim against the Justice Center must be DISMISSED.

Further, Plaintiff has not alleged facts that the cited violation was under the authority of an unconstitutional policy or custom adopted by the county. Plaintiff alleges that the opening of his legal mail outside his presence was contrary to applicable policy. Accordingly, Plaintiff does not state a claim against Wayne County even if the county were a named defendant in lieu of the jail. See Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994) (" The County may be held liable for [Plaintiff's] injuries only if those injuries were the result of an unconstitutional policy or custom of the County."). Plaintiff's suit, therefore, fails to state a claim under § 1983.

For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

An appropriate Order is filed herewith.

ORDER

Plaintiff, Alex Davis, filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendant, Wayne County Justice Center, (Docket Entry No. 1). Plaintiff also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (Docket Entry No. 2). Because it appears from the application that Plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee in advance, Plaintiff's application to proceed as a pauper (ECF No. 2) is GRANTED.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(b) and 1914(a), Plaintiff is nonetheless assessed the $350.00 civil filing fee. The Administrator of the Wayne County Justice Center is DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk of Court, as an initial payment, the greater of: (a) 20% of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's credit at the jail; or (b) 20% of the average monthly balance to Plaintiff's credit for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Thereafter, the custodian shall submit 20% of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to Plaintiff for the preceding month), but only when Plaintiff's monthly income exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). Payments shall continue until the $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full to the Clerk of Court. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(3).

The Clerk of Court MUST send a copy of this order to the Administrator of the Wayne County Justice Center to ensure compliance with that portion of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 pertaining to the payment of the filing fee. If Plaintiff is transferred from his present place of confinement, the Administrator must ensure that a copy of this order follows Plaintiff to his new place of confinement, for continued compliance herewith. All payments made pursuant to this order must be submitted to the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, 801 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203.

In accordance with the Memorandum filed herewith, this action is DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. Any appeal of this Order would not be in good faith as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3).

This is the Final Order in this action.

It is so ORDERED.


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