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Augustin v. Bradley County

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

February 2, 2017

ABRAHAM A. AUGUSTIN and LORRANCE B. DAIS, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRADLEY COUNTY, TENNESSEE, BRADLEY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT[1], and JIMMY SMITH, Defendants.

          Christopher H. Steger Magistrate Judge

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TRAVIS R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court is in receipt of a pro se prisoner civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 4), two motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Docs. 1, 2), and two motions to appoint counsel (Docs. 3, 5). It appears from the motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis that Plaintiffs lack sufficient financial resources to pay the $350.00 filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, Plaintiffs' motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Docs. 1, 2) will be GRANTED. For the reasons set forth below, however, no process shall issue, and this action will be DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983.

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, sua sponte dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A); Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554 (2007) “governs dismissals for failure state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A] 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 an initial review under the PLRA, 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). Courts liberally construe pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Black v. Barberton Citizens Hosp., 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998); O'Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990, 995 (6th Cir. 1994); Russo v. City of Cincinnati, 953 F.2d 1036, 1042 (6th Cir. 1992); see also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (stating that “Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”).

         In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated their constitutional rights by determining that Plaintiffs had forfeited property and money that was seized in a criminal investigation without properly notifying Plaintiffs of the seizure and/or forfeiture as required by Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-33-203 and 204.[2]

         First, Plaintiff Dais has already brought a civil action arising out of the same underlying claim against Defendants Jimmy Smith and the Bradley County Sheriff's Office. Dais v. Smith et al., 1:11-CV-165 (E.D. Tenn. Dec. 5, 2011). That action was dismissed as frivolous and for failure to state a claim. Id. Thus, many, if not all, of Plaintiff's claims are barred by claim and/or issue preclusion.[3]

         Moreover, as to Plaintiff Augustin's claims and to the extent that Plaintiff Dais' claims are not barred by claim and/or issue preclusion, it is apparent from the complaint that all claims set forth in the complaint are time-barred. Congress did not provide a statute of limitations for claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Accordingly, district courts apply state statutes of limitations to those claims. Harris v. United States, 422 F.3d 322, 331 (6th Cir. 2005). In Tennessee, a one-year statute of limitations is applicable to § 1983 actions. Zundel v. Holder, 687 F.3d 271, 281 (6th Cir. 2012); Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104(a)(3).

         Federal law, however, determines “[t]he date on which the statute of limitations begins to run in a § 1983 action.” Eidson v. State of Tenn. Dept. of Children's Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 634- 35 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Kuhnle Bros., Inc. v. Cnty. of Geauga, 103 F.3d 516, 520 (6th Cir. 1997)). The Sixth Circuit has held that a cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run when an event occurs that “‘should have alerted the typical lay person to protect his or her rights.'” Id. at 635 (quoting Kuhnle Bros., Inc. v. Cnty. of Geauga, 103 F.3d 516, 520 (6th Cir. 1997)).

         It is apparent from the complaint that Plaintiffs had notice of the claims set forth therein much longer than a year before they signed their complaint on January 10, 2017.[4] Specifically, Plaintiff Augustin states in the complaint that he first pursued a case based on the claims set forth in his complaint in 2012 [Doc. 4 p. 6].[5] Moreover, as set forth above, on June 17, 2011, Plaintiff Dais filed a complaint in a civil action arising out of the same underlying claim regarding seizure of property and forfeiture document that was dismissed as frivolous and for failure to state a claim. Dais v. Smith et al., 1:11-CV-165 (E.D. Tenn. Dec. 5, 2011).

         Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, even liberally construing the complaint in favor of Plaintiffs, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983 as all claims therein are time-barred. This action will therefore be DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A).

         Because Plaintiffs are incarcerated in the United States Prison in Atlanta (“USP Atlanta”), each will be ASSESSED one-half of the civil filing fee of $350.00. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A) and (B), the custodian of Plaintiffs' inmate trust accounts at the institution where they now reside will be DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk, U.S. District Court, 900 Georgia Avenue, Room 309, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402, as an initial partial payment, whichever is greater of:

(a) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to each Plaintiff's inmate trust account; or
(b) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in each Plaintiff's inmate trust account for the six-month period ...

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