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Vaughn v. Perry County

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

April 6, 2017

PERRY COUNTY, ET AL., Defendants.



         On September 25, 2015, the pro se prisoner Plaintiff, Cordell R. Vaughn ("Vaughn"), filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 1983 accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The Court subsequently granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4) On August 4, 2016, the Court issued an order that, inter alia, dismissed Vaughn's complaint and granted leave to amend. (ECF No. 7.) Vaughn filed an amended complaint on September 12, 2016. (ECF No. 8.) The Clerk shall record Tommy Hickerson, former Sheriff of Perry County, Tennessee; Sergeant Robert Dilingham; and Deputy Nick Weems as additional Defendants. Defendants Hickerson, Dilingham and Weems are sued in their individual and official capacities.

         I. Amended Complaint

         Vaughn's amended complaint largely repeats the allegations included in his original complaint; however, he clarifies the dates of the events in question. Vaughn alleges that on February 17, 2005, he was removed from his house at 237 Pine Street in Linden, Tennessee, and taken to the hospital by EMTs.[1] (ECF No. 8 ¶ 1, at 2.) On the same date and time, Defendant Dillingham responded to call regarding a disturbance at 237 Pine Street.[2] (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendant Dilingham was notified there were shots recently fired from Vaughn's home and later learned there was a female on the ground in the backyard.[3] (Id. ¶3.) Defendant Weems searched Vaughn's residence and looked for anyone that was a potential threat to them. (Id. ¶ 4.) At that time, Defendants Dillingham and Weems seized various items of private property from Vaughn's residence. (Id. ¶ 5.)

         Vaughn states the property seized by the Defendants was "allegedly" entered and placed into the police station evidence locker as part of an ongoing investigation against Vaughn; however, he contends that not all the property was placed into the evidence locker. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7, at 3.) Vaughn alleges that other inmates, supervised by police officers, used his lawnmowers to cut the jail's lawn and that his grill was used by officers to cook for the police and jail employees. (Id. ¶ 7.)

         The 2005 investigation against Vaughn resulted in charges being brought against him. (Id. ¶ 8.) However, on July 23, 2014, the charges for receiving stolen property were dismissed. (Id. ¶ 8; see also Ex. 3, ECF No. 8-4 at 2.) Thereafter, Vaughn contacted Defendant Hickerson by letter and asked for return of the seized property; he included an itemized list of the property. (Id.; see also Ex. 3, ECF No. 8-4 at 3-4.) Sheriff Hickerson responded by telling Vaughn that a large amount of the property seized from Vaughn's residence had been returned to its rightful owners. (Ex. 4, ECF No. 8-5 at 2.) Vaughn contacted Sheriff Hickerson a second time on May 14, 2015, informing him that Vaughn was the rightful owner of fourteen of the items that were reportedly returned to their rightful owners and that if Hickerson did not reply to the letter in a timely fashion Vaughn would take legal action. (Ex. 5, ECF No. 8-6 at 2.)

         However, Vaughn alleges that the police did not return his lawnmowers, grills, and other property. (ECF No. 8 at ¶¶ 12-13, at 3.) He seeks the return of his property or reimbursement for his property in the amount of $2, 149. (Id. at 4.)

         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 ...

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