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Russell v. Juvenile Court of Kingsport, Tennessee

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

June 3, 2015



J. RONNIE GREER, District Judge.

This is a pro se civil rights fee-paid complaint for injunctive relief and damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, filed by a prisoner in the Sullivan County Detention Center[1], [Doc. 1]. However, for the reasons stated below, process shall not issue and this action will be DISMISSED.

In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Black v. Barberton Citizens Hospital, 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998); O'Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990, 995 (6th Cir. 1994); Russo v. City of Cincinnati, 953 F.2d 1036, 1042 (6th Cir. 1992). See also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) ("Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere.").

Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), district courts must screen prisoner complaints and sua sponte dismiss those which are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999).

Responding to a perceived deluge of frivolous lawsuits, and, in particular, frivolous prisoner suits, Congress directed the federal courts to review or "screen" certain complaints sua sponte and to dismiss those that failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, that sought monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief, or that were frivolous or malicious.

Id. at 1015-16 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A).

In screening this complaint, the Court bears in mind 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 pleading 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 that 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 "facial plausibility" standard does not require "detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

Conclusory allegations and unwarranted inferences from alleged facts need not be accepted as true. Newberry v. Silverman, No. 14-3882, 2015 WL 3422781, at *2 (6th Cir. May 29, 2015). The standard articulated in Twombly and Iqbal "governs dismissals for failure state a claim under [28 U.S.C. § 1915A] 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).

The complaint, according to plaintiff, alleges two claims: one for violations of his rights during proceedings in the Juvenile Court system in Kingsport, Tennessee, and one concerning his incarceration upon a mittimus issued by the Juvenile Court. The Court examines each claim in turn under the relevant standards.

1. Claim One

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

The factual allegations which follow are offered in support of the first claim. Documents from the Juvenile Court are confusing and contain misinformation. For example, the heading of "General Sessions" is stricken through on the mittimus and is replaced by the handwritten word "Juvenile." Also, the Child Custody Court and the Child Support Court have different rules on contempt and both state courts have manipulated the rules and exhibited bias in the courtroom towards plaintiff.

Furthermore, following plaintiff's incarceration on a contempt charge, the Child Support Court was supposed to refer him to the Child Custody Court to establish a parenting plan, but while the Child Support Court gives him a monthly court date to ascertain whether plaintiff has paid his child custody payments and while the Child Custody Court establishes a parenting plan, the Child Custody Court never follows through to see if the plan is working.

Plaintiff is required to drive to Blountville, Tennessee, for his court dates, whereas some individuals which whom he was incarcerated have court dates set in Kingsport. This imposes a hardship on plaintiff, who had his driving privileges suspended for child support arrearage. But when he complained to defendant Linda Onkotz, the Child Support Magistrate, her demeanor towards him was aggressive. It became more aggressive and also humiliating after ...

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