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Lucas v. Holland

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

March 22, 2017

DEREK LUCAS Plaintiff,
J.C. HOLLAND, ET AL., Defendants.



         On May 5, 2016, Plaintiff Derek Lucas (“Lucas”), who is currently incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky (“USP McCreary”), filed a pro se complaint pursuant to Bivens[1] and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) In an order issued May 12, 2016, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 5.) The Clerk shall record the defendants as USP McCreary Warden J.C. Holland; Phillip Thompson; Christopher Rogers, an Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”); ATF Agent Brent Beavers; Assistant U.S. Attorney David Pritchard; Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Kitchen; Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel T. French; U.S. Magistrate Judge Charmaine Claxton; U.S. Magistrate Judge Diane Vescovo; U.S. District Judge S. Thomas Anderson;[2] appointed trial counsel Steffen Schreiner; former U.S. Probation Officer Alice Conley; Court Reporter Mark Dodson; and Court Reporter Kristi Heasley.

         I. The Complaint

         On April 24, 2012, a federal grand jury in this district issued a superseding indictment against Lucas and four co-defendants. See United States v. Dowdy, et al., No. 11-20032-STA (W.D. Tenn.) (Crim. ECF No. 151). Lucas was charged only in Counts One and Two. Count One of the indictment charged Lucas with conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and Count Two charged him with possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Id. On July 13, 2012, Lucas was convicted by a jury on both counts. Id. (Crim. ECF No. 206). He was sentenced on October 31, 2012, to a term of life in prison, id. (Crim. ECF No. 251), and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, see United States v. Lucas, 542 F. App'x 510 (6th Cir. 2013). Lucas subsequently filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which was denied. See Lucas v. United States, No. 14-2324-STA-cgc (W.D. Tenn. July 1 2015). Lucas did not appeal that denial.

         Lucas's complaint in this case is largely an attempt to retry his criminal case, and it is difficult to decipher the actual allegations because many are incomprehensible. He alleges that his indictment for “conspiracy to distribute ten kilos in furtherance of trafficking crime” was invalid because the extra storage space where the crime was committed was not within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States and the offenses charged were not against the laws of the United States or within the jurisdiction of the Court. (ECF No. 1 at 3.)

         Lucas alleges that from February 1, 2011 through November 5, 2012, Defendants Thompson, Rogers, Beavers, Claxton, Vescovo, Anderson, Pritchard, French, Kitchen, Conley, Schreiner, Dodson and Heasley were part of a conspiracy “to oppress the enjoyment of plaintiff's right to enumeration [sic].” (Id. at 3.) Lucas also alleges that on February 8, 2011, he was deprived of bail because Defendant Thompson stated he feared for his life even though Thompson did not provide any evidence of a threat. (Id. at 4.) He further alleges that the conspiracy to oppress him originated with Defendant Thompson's idea to trade his confinement for Lucas's liberty and was set in motion by Defendant Rogers, who was Thompson's handler. (Id.) Lucas contends that a “sting operation” that led to the conspiracy to oppress Lucas's rights. (Id.)

         Lucas also alleges that the unfair criminal trial before Defendant Anderson from July 9, 2012 through July 15, 2012, violated his rights where Lucas was tried for offenses that were not against the laws of the United States or the jurisdiction of the District Court, and where the two jurors who “verbally showed consciousness of Constitutional Rights” were immediately stricken. (Id. at 5.) He alleges he was deprived of a fair jury trial, a speedy trial, and effective counsel and that he was deprived of the right to confrontation because the United States is not a legal person so there was no victim to confront. (Id.) He states “the nature of the crime was hidden from plaintiff, and was not within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, ” so the District Court had no jurisdiction. (Id.) Lucas alleges that his right to a jury trial was denied because a jury of his peers could not be produced and because the two jurors mentioned supra were removed. (Id. at 6.) In addition, he allegedly was deprived of the assistance of counsel due to a conflict of interest on the part of Defendant Schreiner, who failed to raise the issue of entrapment or argue that Lucas was a foreigner to the language. (Id.)

         The complaint continues in this vein, much of it repetitive and incoherent. Lucas's last allegation is that his body and DNA are sacred and, as such, mandatory tuberculosis tests by prison officials contaminate his body. (Id. at 9.) He allegedly is forced to endure work assignment for pennies a day, not even minimum wage, with the penalty for not complying being placement in solitary confinement with only one hour out of his cell per day due to his conviction. (Id.)

         Lucas seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction ordering Defendant Holland to grant Lucas a religion exemption from mandatory tuberculous skin test as well as compensatory and punitive damages from each named Defendant. (Id. at 3.)

         II. Analysis

         A. Screening and Standard

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court applies standards under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (alteration in original). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions . . . are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”).

         “A complaint can be frivolous either factually or legally. Any complaint that is legally frivolous would ipso facto fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Hill, 630 F.3d at 470 (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 328-29 (1989)).

Whether a complaint is factually frivolous under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) is a separate issue from whether it fails to state a claim for relief. Statutes allowing a complaint to be dismissed as frivolous give “judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827 (interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1915). Unlike a dismissal for failure to state a claim, where a judge must accept all factual allegations as true, Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50, a judge does not ...

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