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Johnson v. Metropolitan Sheriff Department

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 27, 2015

THADDEUS J. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

TODD J. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Thaddeus J. Johnson (#400948), an inmate at the Davidson County Criminal Justice Center in Nashville, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma pauperis civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the "Metropolitan Sheriff Department, " Sheriff Daron Hall, Patricia Young, Dr. Roberta Burns, and David Miller, alleging that the defendants denied him appropriate medical treatment. (Docket No. 1). He seeks damages in the amount of one million dollars ($1, 000, 000.00) and treatment for his leg pain. (Id. at p. 6).

The plaintiff's complaint is before the court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

I. PLRA Screening Standard

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the court must dismiss any portion of a civil complaint filed in forma pauperis that 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. Section 1915A similarly requires initial review of any "complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity, " id. § 1915A(a), and summary dismissal of the complaint on the same grounds as those articulated in § 1915(e)(2)(B). Id. § 1915A(b).

The Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (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). "[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, 561F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).

Although pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991), the courts' "duty to be less stringent' with pro se complaints does not require us to conjure up [unpleaded] allegations." McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation omitted).

II. Section 1983 Standard

The plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to § 1983. To state a claim under § 1983, the plaintiff must allege and show two elements: (1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) 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); 42 U.S.C. § 1983. III. Alleged Facts

According to the complaint, the plaintiff, who uses a wheelchair, arrived at the Criminal Justice Center on October 27, 2013. (Docket No. 1 at p. 3). The plaintiff has "metal and screws in both legs" and suffers from swelling, popping, and pain in his legs. (Id. at p. 4). The complaint alleges that the defendants have refused to provide the plaintiff with pain medication and physical therapy, both of which had been prescribed for the plaintiff by a private physician prior to the plaintiff's incarceration. The complaint further alleges that the plaintiff has "constantly filled out sick calls, and grievances, but I can't get no help. I've been scheduled to see Dr. Burns and NP David Miller over (6) six times and they always cancel the appointment." (Id. ) According to the complaint, an unidentified nurse at the Criminal Justice Center told the plaintiff that he needed an x-ray and an M.R.I., but the tests were too expensive for inmates. (Id. ) The plaintiff states that he can barely walk. (Id. )

IV. Analysis

First, the plaintiff names the "Metropolitan Sheriff Department, " which the court understands to be the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, as a defendant to this action. The Davidson County Sheriff's Office is an agency or unit of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and is not a suable entity itself. See Mathes v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., No. 3:10-cv-0496, 2010 WL 3341889, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010) ("[F]ederal district courts in Tennessee have frequently and uniformly held that police departments and sheriff's departments are not proper parties to a § 1983 suit.")(collecting cases)). Thus, the plaintiff's claims against the Davidson County Sheriff's Office must be dismissed.

With respect to the plaintiff's § 1983 claims for monetary damages against the individual defendants in their official capacities, those claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64, 71 (1989). Thus, those claims must be dismissed.

Next, the statute of limitations for a § 1983 action is the "state statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions under the law of the state in which the § 1983 claims arises." Eidson v. Tenn. Dep't of Children's Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 634 (6th Cir. 2007). The limitations period for § 1983 actions arising in Tennessee is the one-year limitations provisions found in ...


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