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Choate v. Arms

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

November 16, 2016

DERRICK JUSTIN CHOATE #414947, Plaintiff
PHIL ARMS, Defendant

          Sharp, Chief Judge


          JOE B. BROWN, United States Magistrate Judge


         For the reasons stated below the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Plaintiff's motion for a restraining order (Docket Entry 17) be denied and that any appeal from the denial of this motion not be certified as taken in good faith.


         The Plaintiff has filed a complaint against Lt. Phil Arms (Docket Entry 1) in his individual capacity in which he alleges that Arms, while an officer in the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, assaulted him and used excessive force while the Plaintiff was in handcuffs and complying with verbal commands. He alleges that he was choked and his head was slammed into a brick wall by the Defendant on June 24, 2016. He alleges that the Defendant strangled him for about 15 to 20 seconds causing him to almost lose consciousness and then slammed his head into a concrete wall causing a large knot the size of an egg on his forehead. He alleges that all this occurred while his hands were cuffed behind his back and that even though he made insulting comments to the Defendant, he did not do anything to justify such a use of force.

         The Plaintiff was allowed to proceed in forma pauperis and the case was referred to me for case management and a report and recommendation on any dispositive motion (Docket Entry 8).

         In his motion the Plaintiff alleges that since the incident he complained of the Defendant has made several threats against his life and that he is in fear for his life and safety. Because of this he requests an order requiring him to be moved to another facility. He states that he has been singled out and threatened with lock down and loss of privileges for no reason and that they are enforcing rules against him that do not even exist. He believes that things are being done by the Defendant and other correction officers to make his living conditions harder.

         In their response (Docket Entry 23) the Defendant points out that the Plaintiff is currently awaiting sentencing and until he is sentenced he is not eligible to be transferred to a facility operated by the Tennessee Department of Corrections absent exceptional circumstances. They specifically denied that he has been singled out and threatened or that he has been on lock down with the loss of privileges. They state that Mr. Nashville, the Administrator for the Putnam County Jail, has conferred with the Plaintiff and that the Plaintiff has agreed not to create a problem. Provided the Plaintiff does not create a problem they state that no disciplinary action will be taken against him. They further state that as of the date of the response he has not created any problems and no disciplinary action has been taken against him. In support of this response they attach the affidavit of Mr. Nash, which supports the statement in their response (Docket Entry 23-1). Also attached as Docket Entry 23-2 is an affidavit from the Defendant that states he has not been in contact with the Plaintiff since August 3, 2016, and that he denies making any threats to harm the Plaintiff in any way.


         The Defendant has filed an answer.[1] The Defendant has also filed a response to the motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) (Docket Entry 23) and the matter is ready for disposition.

         In determining whether to issue a TRO or preliminary injunction the Court must balance the following factors: (1) whether the movant has a strong likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant would suffer irreparable injury without the injunction; (3) whether the issuance of the injunction would cause substantial harm to others; or (4) whether the public interest would be served by the issuance of the injunction. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, Inc. v. Gentile products, 134 F.3d 749, 753 (6th Cir. 1998).

         The Supreme Court has long ago held that courts should defer to the informed discretion of prison administrators because of the realities of running a correctional institute are complex and difficult and that courts are ill-equipped to deal with these problems and the management of these facilities is confined to the executive and legislative branches, not to the judicial branch. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 531 (1979).

         In this case, the Plaintiff has not presented any concrete evidence that the Defendant has taken any action against him since the alleged incident. The Plaintiff's subjective fear of future retaliations is simply ...

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