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Martin v. Staubus

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

January 26, 2015



THOMAS W. PHILLIPS, Senior District Judge.

Jarrod Martin, a prisoner confined in the Sullivan County Detention (SCDC), brings this pro se civil rights complaint for injunctive and monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Wayne Anderson, the Sullivan County Sheriff, and Barry P. Staubus, the District Attorney General (Doc. 2). Plaintiff's application to proceed without prepayment of fees, (Doc. 1), is GRANTED. Nonetheless, because the Plaintiff is a prisoner, he is ASSESSED the filing fee of $350.00. McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).[2]

The custodian of the Plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides shall submit twenty percent (20%) of the Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to his trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income exceeds $10.00, until the full filing fee of $350.00 has been paid to the Clerk's Office. McGore, 114 F.3d at 607. Payments should be sent to: Clerk, USDC; 220 W. Depot St., Suite 200; Greeneville, TN 37743.

To ensure compliance with the fee-collection procedure, the Clerk is DIRECTED to mail a copy of this memorandum and order to the custodian of inmate accounts at the institution where the Plaintiff is now confined. The Clerk is also DIRECTED to furnish a copy of this order to the Court's financial deputy. This order shall be placed in the Plaintiff's prison file and follow him if he is transferred to another correctional institution.

I. Screening the Complaint

The Court must now review the complaint to determine whether it states a claim entitling the Plaintiff to relief or is frivolous or malicious or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A. If so, this suit must be dismissed. In performing this task, the Court bears in mind the rule that pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases must be liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Still, the complaint must be sufficient "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), which simply means the factual content pled by a plaintiff must permit a court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Court examines the complaint in light of those requirements.

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

In his pleading, the Plaintiff makes the allegations which follow. On July 7, 2013, jail officials collected biological specimens for DNA analysis, without a warrant and using excessive force, after he refused to consent to the sample. Two days later, i.e., on July 9, 2013, Sullivan County officials picked him up in Duffield, Virginia, and, without affording him a habeas corpus hearing and without him waiving extradition, transported him to Sullivan County, Tennessee, where he (by implication) was confined in the SCDC.

On July 25, 2013, another inmate attacked the Plaintiff causing him facial fractures (as shown on a CT scan) and injuries to the area around his left eye, which required stitches. The Plaintiff was scheduled to see a specialist in three days, but jail officials refused to take him. Though the Plaintiff's psychiatrists in Virginia prescribed medication, "the doctor here [] any and all medical treatment" (Doc. 2 at 4). (A verb appears to missing from that phrase.)

In September, 2013, the Plaintiff's attorney sent Plaintiff legal materials, but jail officials opened the correspondence outside of the Plaintiff's presence, seized a § 1983 form complaint, and put other materials in the Plaintiff's property. They then made both Plaintiff and his counsel sign forms releasing the items to the Plaintiff's attorney. Furthermore, the Plaintiff has also been denied phone calls from his attorney.

In December of 2013, the state trial court presiding over the Plaintiff's state criminal proceedings refused to allow the Plaintiff to file pro se motions, after the Plaintiff's attorney withdrew from representing the Plaintiff. On February 27, 2014, the Plaintiff was denied a bond reduction and, on April 11, 2014, he was denied a fast and speedy trial.

On March 3, 2014, another inmate spat on the Plaintiff, and he filed charges against the assailant. However, the charges were dismissed because jail officials did not follow proper protocol in filing the charges. The Plaintiff asked if he could refile the charges properly, but jail officials refused that request.

The SCDC denies the Plaintiff hygiene items, including a tooth brush, tooth paste, shaving supplies and soap. The SCDC also harasses the Plaintiff daily. The Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary report for hanging up a towel after taking a shower, though inmates are allowed to hang up towels to dry. However, the Plaintiff received the loss of a month of good time as a punishment.

For the alleged constitutional violations outlined above, the plaintiff would "like the trial court judge rescued from [the Plaintiff's] case" and to be awarded money damages from jail authorities and from his attorney, Mr. Jordan (Doc. 2 at 6). The Plaintiff would also like a change of venue with respect to his state criminal prosecution, because such prejudice exists against him in Sullivan County as to deny him a fair and impartial trial ( Id. at 5-6).

III. Discussion

1. Respondeat Superior

There are no allegations of fact against Defendant Sheriff Wayne Anderson. It may be that the Plaintiff is suing this Defendant because he is ultimately responsible for housing inmates at the SCDC and for properly managing or supervising the operations at that facility. However, § 1983 liability must be based on more than respondeat superior, or a defendant's right to control employees. Taylor v. Michigan Dep't of Corrections, 69 F.3d 76, 80-81 (6th Cir. 1995).

While respondeat superior does not provide a valid basis of liability, Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976), the Plaintiff can still hold this Defendant liable so long as he can demonstrate that Defendant Sheriff implicitly authorized, approved, or knowingly acquiesced in the alleged wrongdoing of any of his subordinates. Leach v. Shelby County Sheriff, 891 F.2d 1241, 1244 (6th Cir. 1989). But the Sheriff cannot be held liable for a mere failure to act. Greene v. Barber, 310 F.3d 889, 899 (6th Cir. 2002) ("Supervisory liability under § 1983 does not attach when it is premised on a mere failure to act; it must be based on active unconstitutional behavior.'") (quoting Bass v. Robinson, 167 F.3d 1041, 1048 (6th Cir. 1999)).

As the Plaintiff does not allege that this Defendant authorized any unconstitutional conduct on the part of any of his subordinates, there is nothing from which to conclude he condoned any such wrongful behavior. See e.g., Estate of Rosenberg v. Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 37 (8th Cir.1995) ("The general responsibility of a warden for supervising the operation of a prison is not sufficient to establish personal liability."). Plaintiff's claims against this Defendant, which ...

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