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Beasley v. Westbrooks

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

December 20, 2016




         Plaintiff Demance Beasley is a state prisoner incarcerated at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution (“RMSI”) in Nashville, Tennessee. Before the court is Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 2). In addition, Plaintiff has filed a complaint for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Warden Bruce Westbrooks; Sgt. Bryan Tyner; Cpl. B. McClure; Sgt. Deneice Bah and Cpl. Robin Fish, which 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. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), a prisoner bringing a civil action may be permitted to file suit without prepaying the filing fee of $350 required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Because the plaintiff properly submitted an in forma pauperis affidavit, and because it appears from his submissions that the plaintiff lacks sufficient financial resources from which to pay the full filing fee in advance, the application (ECF No. 2) will be granted.

         Nevertheless, under § 1915(b), Plaintiff remains responsible for paying the full filing fee. The obligation to pay the fee accrues at the time the case is filed, but the PLRA provides prisoner-plaintiffs' the opportunity to make a “down payment” of a partial filing fee and to pay the remainder in installments. Accordingly, Plaintiff will be assessed the full $350 filing fee, to be paid as directed in the order accompanying this memorandum opinion.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under the PLRA, the court must conduct an initial review of any civil complaint brought by a prisoner if it is filed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), seeks relief from government entities or officials, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, or challenges the prisoner's conditions of confinement, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Upon conducting this review, the court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion thereof, 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. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). 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).

         In reviewing the complaint to determine whether it states a plausible claim, “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, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). “Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court is not required to create a claim for the plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F.App'x 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[A] court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Payne v. Sec'y of Treas., 73 F.App'x 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”). To demand otherwise would require the “courts to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Finally, the Court need not sift through exhibits attached to Plaintiff's complaint in order to determine what, if any, basis exists for Plaintiff's claims against Defendants. See Jackson v. Lawrence Corr. Ctr. Heatlh Care, No. 15-cv-00082-JPG, 2015 WL 603853, at *2 (S.D. Ill. Feb. 12, 2015).

         II. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that on July 13, 2016, Defendant Westbrooks approached his cell during cell inspection and commented on some debris on Plaintiff's sink and writing on Plaintiff's cell door. Plaintiff explained that the writing on the door was there before Plaintiff moved into the cell, but that he never asked for cleaning supplies to remove the writing because Defendant Bah and her officers “catch attitudes when asked for cleaning supplies.” (Complaint, ECF No. 1 at Page ID#6.) Defendant Westbrooks told Defendant Bah to give Plaintiff some paint so he could re-paint the door. (Id.) Defendant Westbrook left the area of Plaintiff's cell. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that, to spite him, Defendant Bah told Defendant Westbrooks that Plaintiff was a gang member and that he had written on the door. (Id.) Plaintiff is aware of this conversation between Defendants Westbrook and Bah because another inmate heard the conversation and told Plaintiff about it. (Id.)

         Defendants Westbrooks and Bah came back to Plaintiff's cell to take pictures of the writing on Plaintiff's door. (Id.) Two days later Plaintiff was written up, presumably for the writing on his door. (Id. at Page ID# 8.)[1] Plaintiff alleges that although there were five letters on the door, Defendant Bah took pictures of only two of the letters. (Id.) The pictures were sent to the Security Threat Group (STG) Coordinator, Defendant Fish, who determined that the two letters were gang related. (Id.) Plaintiff was written up for possession of gang-related material.

         On July 15, 2016, Defendant Westbrooks approached Plaintiff's cell while conducting cell inspections and noticed that the writing was still on Plaintiff's door. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Westbrooks “became irate saying how much disdain he had for ‘Black Gang Members' and proceeded to take out his ink pen and write on the door ‘O.G. Sucks Big Dicks'.” (Id. (emphasis in original)) Plaintiff told Defendant Westbrooks that his behavior was very unprofessional. (Id.) Defendant Westbrooks “became even more irate and told [Plaintiff that he] was going to clean it.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he told Defendant Westbrooks that he would not clean off what Defendant Westbrooks had written because what Defendant Westbrooks did “was disrespectful, racist and unethical.” (Id.) Defendant Westbrooks then told a member of the “cert team, ” who had witnessed Defendant Westbrooks' behavior, to take Plaintiff to segregation. (Id.)

         On July 18, 2016, Unit 4 Counselor Don Ferguson and Classification Coordinator Tom Rushing, neither of whom is a Defendant, “held a special re-class to re-class me to maximum custody.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Ferguson and Rushing falsified documents to make his custody-level points higher than they really were and when Plaintiff pointed out the errors in their calculations, Ferguson and Rushing plotted with Defendant Tyner, the disciplinary chairperson, so that Plaintiff would be found guilty on a ...

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