United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
July 29, 2015
CHRISTOPHER S. FORRESTER, Plaintiff,
LT. EARL TAYLOR, Defendant.
ORDER TO ISSUE AND SERVE PROCESS ON DEFENDANT TAYLOR
JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.
On December 8, 2014, Plaintiff Christopher S. Forrester ("Forrester"), an inmate at the Whiteville Correctional Facility in Whiteville Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis . (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) In an order issued December 9, 2014, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendant as Lieutenant (Lt.) Earl Taylor.
I. THE COMPLAINT
In the complaint, Forrester alleges that on November 5, 2014, Lt. Taylor repeatedly slammed the metal slider of the tray slot or "pie flap" onto Forrester's arm. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 4.) In the grievance attached to his complaint, he elaborates that Lt. Taylor had directed Sergeant (Sgt.) Amos, who is not a party in this action, to cuff Forrester and Forrester's cellmate. (ECF No. 1-1 at PageID 9.) They were taken to the shower while their cell was searched. ( Id .) When Forrester was returned to his cell, he noticed that a few things were missing that he was6> permitted to have, and he stuck his arm through the pie flap and asked to speak to Captain Harris, the shift supervisor, who is not a party to this action. ( Id .) Lt. Taylor then allegedly told Forrester to move his arm. ( Id .) When Forrester refused, Lt. Taylor allegedly slammed the metal slider of the pie flap against Forrester's arm six or seven times, cutting "a big hunk of meat" out of his arm ( id. ) and causing it to drip blood (ECF No. 1 at PageID 4). Forrester alleges Lt. Taylor called him names and walked away. (ECF No. 1-1 at PageID 9.) Sgt. Amos called medical to see to Forrester's arm. ( Id .)
Forrester requests $3, 500, 000 in monetary damages and immediate release from prison. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 5.)
A. Screening and Standard
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 court applies the standards under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 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). 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) (alteration in5> original). "[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. Any complaint that is legally frivolous would ipso facto fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Hill, 630 F.3d at 470 (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 328-29 (1989)).
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." Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827 (interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1915). Unlike a dismissal for failure to state a claim, where a judge must accept all factual allegations as true, Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50, a judge does not have to accept "fantastic or delusional" factual allegations as true in prisoner complaints that are reviewed for frivolousness. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827.
Id. at 471.
" Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ' and should therefore be liberally construed." Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants and prisoners are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, No. 09-2259, 2011 WL 285251, at *5 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with "unique pleading requirements" and stating "a court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'") (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 5> 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975)) (alteration in original); Payne v. Sec'y of Treas., 73 F.Appx. 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, "[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her"); cf. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004) ("District judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants."); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F.Appx. 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2011) ("[W]e decline to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants. Not only would that duty be overly burdensome, it would transform the courts from neutral arbiters of disputes into advocates for a particular party. While courts are properly charged with protecting the rights of all who come before it, that responsibility does not encompass advising litigants as to what legal theories they should pursue.").
B. § 1983 Claim
Forrester filed his complaint on the court-supplied form for actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the "Constitution and laws" of the United States (2) committed by a defendant acting under color of state law. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970).
Forrester's claim against Lt. Taylor arises under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. See generally Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991). An Eighth Amendment claim consists of both objective and subjective components. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992); Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298; Williams v. Curtin, 633 F.3d at 383; Mingus v. Butler, 591 F.3d 474, 479-80 (6th Cir. 2010). The objective component requires that the deprivation be "sufficiently serious." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8; Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298.
To satisfy the objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim, a prisoner must show that he "is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, " Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; see also Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 812 (6th Cir. 2005), or that he has been deprived of the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, " Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298 (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)); see also Hadix v. Johnson, 367 F.3d 513, 525 (6th Cir. 2004).
To establish the subjective component of an Eighth Amendment violation, a prisoner must demonstrate that the official acted with the requisite intent, that is, that he had a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; see also Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297, 302-03. With regard to claims of excessive force by prison officials, "[t]he test for whether the use of force violates the Eighth Amendment requires a court to determine if the defendant's conduct caused the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Griffin v. Hardrick, 604 F.3d 949, 953 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). That question "ultimately turns on whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6-7.5>
For purposes of screening, the allegations that Lt. Taylor deliberately slammed the metal slider on Forrester's arm six or seven times, causing him injury, sufficiently state an Eighth Amendment claim for excessive force.
Process will be issued for Defendant Taylor on Forrester's Eighth Amendment claim for the use of excessive force. It is ORDERED that the Clerk shall issue process for Defendant Taylor and deliver that process to the U.S. Marshal for service. Service shall be made on Defendant Taylor pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e) and Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure 4.04(1) and (10), either by mail or personally if mail service is not effective. All costs of service shall by advanced by the United States.
It is further ORDERED that Forrester shall serve a copy of every subsequent document he files in this cause on the attorneys for Defendant Taylor or on Defendant Taylor if he is unrepresented. Forrester shall make a certificate of service on every document filed. Forrester shall familiarize himself with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this Court's Local Rules.
Jelks shall promptly notify the Clerk of any change of address or extended absence. Failure to comply with these requirements, or any other order of the Court may result in the dismissal of this case without further notice.
IT IS SO ORDERED.