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Taylor v. Davidson County Sheriff's Office

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

January 4, 2017

SETH TAYLOR, No. 331874,
v.
DAVIDSON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Kevin H. Sharp Chief United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Seth Taylor, a pre-trial detainee currently in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office in Nashville, Tennessee, has filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, Dwayne Butler, James Lemaster, Jacob Steen, Jacob Voyles, and Jonathan Rodgers, alleging violations of the plaintiff's federal civil rights. (Docket No. 1). The plaintiff seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory damages and damages for his pain and suffering. (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.

         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 brings his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, abridges “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws . . . .” 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

         The complaint alleges that, on July 21, 2016, while in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, the plaintiff fell off his bunk bed and suffered an injury to his back. (Docket No. 1 at p. 5). According to the complaint, “[i]f medical staff hadn't been negligent of my needs, injury could have been avoided.” (Id.)

         The complaint further alleges that, on August 25, 2016, the plaintiff was “physically attacked” by Dwayne Butler, James Lemaster, Jacob Steen, Jacob Voyles, and Jonathan Rodgers. Specifically, the complaint alleges that these defendants maced, restrained, and choked the plaintiff until he was unconscious. According to the complaint, the defendants' use of excessive force was “without reasonable cause.” (Id.) The complaint alleges that the plaintiff sustained injuries to his back, hand, and wrist as a result of the defendants' use of excessive force. (Id.)

         IV. Analysis

         First, the complaint names the Davidson County Sheriff's Office as a defendant to this action. However, the Davidson County Sheriff's Office is not a suable entity under § 1983. 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 ...


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