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Moody v. Kelly

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

April 23, 2015

LANDEN KELLY, ET AL., Defendants.


JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.

On February 18, 2015, the Plaintiff, Zachery Zaccheus Moody, an inmate at the Obion County Correctional Facility in Union City, 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 & 3.)[1] In response to the Court's order (ECF No. 4), Plaintiff filed a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis and a copy of his inmate trust fund account statement on March 9, 2015 (ECF No. 5). On March 10, 2015, the Court issued an order granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessing the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 6.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Obion County Sheriff's Officer Landen Kelly and the 27th District Drug Task Force ("DTF").[2]

The complaint asserts several unrelated claims. Plaintiff alleges that, on December 19, 2014, Defendant Kelly, a bailiff in the Obion County Circuit Court, "physically assaulted [him] for no apparent reason" while escorting him from court to a transport vehicle that was waiting outside. (ECF No. 1 at 2.)[3] The "assault" consisted of "jerking [Plaintiff] around by his handcuffs and waist chains...." (Id. )

A handwritten grievance that is attached to the complaint details the events that allegedly occurred in court on December 19, 2014, some of which did not involve Defendant Kelly. (ECF No. 1-1.) When Plaintiff attempted to talk to his girlfriend during the proceedings, Kelly allegedly raised his voice and spoke to Plaintiff in a disrespectful manner, telling him that he and his girlfriend were not to speak in the courtroom. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff explained that he was attempting to settle the case or request a new attorney, and Kelly, who had not been present during some of the proceedings, replied that he had had his chance and removed him from the courtroom. (Id. at 1-2.) According to Plaintiff, Kelly "jerk[ed him] out of the chair... by [his] uniform and cuffs with brute force before pushing and jerking [him] down the hallway to the elevator by [his] cuff chains around [his] waist." (Id. at 2.) Once they were in the elevator, Kelly allegedly pushed Plaintiff into the wall, telling him that he would do as he was told. (Id. ) When they left the elevator, Kelly continued to tug Plaintiff around by his cuff chains. (Id. )

Plaintiff also complains that, in April 2014, the DTF violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Frank Moody by making an illegal search and seizure of his vehicle. (ECF No. 1 at 2; see also ECF No. 1-2 (same).)

A further attachment to the complaint, in the form of a letter "[t]o whom it may concern, " complains that, on January 30, 2015, Plaintiff was coerced to plead guilty to an unspecified offense that he did not commit because of a threat that his girlfriend would be arrested and there would be nobody to take care of their daughter. (ECF No. 1-3.)

Plaintiff asks that Defendant Kelly be "disbarred or stripped of his authority." (ECF No. 1 at 3.) He also asks that the DTF return the vehicle to Frank Moody, pay any outstanding costs, and "tell him the truth of why it was taken instead of leaving him to believe [Plaintiff] was disobedient." (Id. ) Plaintiff also asks to be "vindicated of all charges due to ineffective assistance of counsel, incorrect PSI and insufficient evidence." (Id. )

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 ...

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