United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
LEONARD SINGER, No. 224775, Plaintiff,
AARON PRICE, et al., Defendants.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an inmate of the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center in
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma
pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
fourteen named Defendants as well as John and Jane Does,
alleging violations of his federal civil rights. (Doc. No.
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.
PLRA Screening Standard
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).
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)).
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).
Section 1983 Standard
brings his federal 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, a 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.
pro se complaint consists of 163 handwritten pages
and 44 pages of attachments. The Court will recount only the
general allegations pertinent to the Court's required
complaint alleges that, on October 27, 2015, Defendant
Murfreesboro Police Department Officers Price, Gibbs, and
Gorham conducted an unlawful traffic stop of Plaintiff during
which Price used excessive force against Plaintiff,
“strangulating [sic] Singer by applying a
carotid-artery or bare arm hold against Singers [sic] throat
impeding normal breathing and circulation of air and blood
flow.” (Doc. No. 1 at pp. 40-41). According to the
complaint, Price believed that Plaintiff had swallowed a
marijuana joint as Price approached Plaintiff's car
during the traffic stop. When Plaintiff told Price that he
could not breath, Price allegedly told Plaintiff to
“spit it out” and maintained pressure to
Plaintiff's throat. (Id.) Price continued the
application of force until Plaintiff became unconscious and
hit his head on the door frame and floor board of his
vehicle, sustaining injuries for which he was taken the
hospital by Price. (Id. at p. 42). When Plaintiff
regained consciousness, he spit out medical gauze and plastic
from an earlier dental procedure. (Id.) According to
the complaint, on the way to the hospital and at the
hospital, Officer Gibbs threatened the Plaintiff in an
attempt to coerce a confession from him, such as telling the
Plaintiff that his stomach would be pumped if he did not
confess. (Id. at pp. 44-46).
the complaint alleges that Plaintiff was not provided with
effective representation by his public defender Ray White
during his preliminary hearing. The complaint further alleges
that various state procedures and safeguards were not
followed during his preliminary hearing, including that
Plaintiff's indictment was improperly altered or
falsified by a number of Defendants. The complaint also
alleges that Plaintiff was not provided with effective
representation by his second public defender, Billie
Zimmerman, during Plaintiff's suppression hearing.
the complaint alleges that Circuit Court Judge David M.
Braggs and General Sessions Judge Rhonda Campbell acted
outside of their jurisdiction and abused their discretion
throughout the Plaintiff's state proceedings to date. The
complaint alleges that Defendants Aneta Flaggs, both judges,
the state prosecutors, the public defenders, and other
Murfreesboro police officers were engaged in a civil
conspiracy to wrongly incarcerate the Plaintiff. The
complaint finally alleges that the Rutherford County Adult
Detention Center library is constitutionally inadequate,
depriving the Plaintiff of access to the courts.
False arrest and false imprisonment claims
arrest claims can be brought pursuant to federal or state
law. Voyticky v. Village of Timberlake, Ohio, 412
F.3d 669, 677 (6th Cir. 2005). “A false
arrest claim under federal law requires a plaintiff to prove
that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to arrest
the plaintiff.” Id. When a plaintiff is
arrested pursuant to a warrant, the plaintiff must show
“that in order to procure the warrant, [the officer]
knowingly and deliberately, or with reckless disregard for
the truth, made false statements or omissions that created a
falsehood and such statements or omissions were material, or
necessary, to the finding of probable cause.” Sykes
v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 305 (6th Cir. 2010)
of false arrest and false imprisonment under federal law are
typically analyzed in identical fashion. See Wallace v.
Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388, 127 S.Ct. 1091, 166 L.Ed.2d 973
(2016)(“False arrest and false imprisonment overlap;
the former is a species of the latter.”); Gumble v.
Waterford Township, 171 Fed. App'x 502, 507
(6th Cir. 2006)(false arrest and false
imprisonment claims are functionally the same and the court
applies the same analysis to both claims). A facially valid
warrant is not always sufficient to merit dismissal of a
false arrest/false imprisonment claim brought pursuant to
§ 1983 when evidence exists that a defendant
intentionally misled or intentionally omitted information at
a probable cause hearing for an arrest or search warrant if
the misleading or omitted information is critical to the
finding of probable cause. See Mays v. City of
Deyton, 134 F.3d 809, 816 (6th Cir. 1998); United
States v. Atkin, 107 F.3d 1213, 1217 (6th Cir. 1997).
the complaint alleges that, at or near the time of the
Plaintiff's traffic stop, Plaintiff spoke with officers
Price, Gibbs, and Gorham and explained his version of the
events, and the officers thereafter knowingly arrested
Plaintiff without probable cause. Further, Plaintiff alleges
these officers subsequently provided false information in
court regarding the incident. The Court therefore finds, for
purposes of the initial review, that Plaintiff has stated
colorable claims under § 1983 against Defendants Price,
Gibbs, and Gorham in their individual capacities. The Court
cautions that these are preliminary findings only. The
Plaintiff's allegations may also state federal due
process claims with regard to these Defendants, but the Court
will leave these potential claims for the Magistrate Judge to
sort out after the Defendants respond to the complaint.