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Harlan v. Bolton

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

April 17, 2017

NATHAN BOLTON, et al., Defendants.



         Justin Rashad Harlan, a resident of Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma pauperis action against Nathan Bolton; Mt. Pleasant Police Department; City of Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee; Leigh Anne Pickup; Stephen Barr; Amit Choksi; Bradley Rodgers; and Maury Regional Medical Center, alleging violations of his civil rights. (Doc. No. 1). Harlan seeks damages as well as attorney fees. (Id. at p. 3).

         I. Required Screening of the Complaint

         The Plaintiff is proceeding as a pauper in this action; therefore, the Court must conduct an initial review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and dismiss it or any portion of it that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the Court applies the standards under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as construed by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). See Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that 'the dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under ' 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)”).

         “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). A[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.”).

         “Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F.App'x 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[A] court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Payne v. Sec'y of Treas., 73 F.App'x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, A[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her”); cf. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004) (“District judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants.”); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F.App'x 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[W]e decline to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants. Not only would that duty be overly burdensome, it would transform the courts from neutral arbiters of disputes into advocates for a particular party. While courts are properly charged with protecting the rights of all who come before it, that responsibility does not encompass advising litigants as to what legal theories they should pursue.”).

         II. Alleged Facts

         According to the complaint, on March 25, 2016, the Plaintiff was arrested for simple possession of marijuana after a traffic stop and transported first to the Mt. Pleasant Police Department and then to the Maury County Jail. Other than marijuana in his sock, which the Plaintiff disclosed, the Plaintiff denied having any further drugs in his possession. Officer Bolton accompanied the Plaintiff to the jail and, at the request of Officer Bolton, Corrections Officer Thomas performed a strip search of the Plaintiff Ato look for any further narcotics or contraband.” (Doc. No. 1 at p. 4). According to the police report, Thomas Aobserved a white substance wrapped in plastic in the area of just in Harlan's rectal area also witnessing Justin Harlan pushing the object into his anal cavity.” (Id.) The Plaintiff was placed in an observation cell and his bathroom usage was monitored for the duration of his time at the jail. (Id.)

         At 6:52 am on the following day, a warrant was issued to search the Plaintiff for illegal narcotics. The Plaintiff was taken to the Maury Regional Hospital, and a visual inspection followed by a digital (finger) inspection of the Plaintiffs anus was performed by Physician's Assistant Leigh Anne Pickup. (Id.) “'[R]ound balls' were felt by Leigh Anne Pickup, PA” and she ordered electronic imaging of the Plaintiffs abdomen. (Id.) No irregularities were seen via the electronic imaging. However, Bolton then gave consent for the Plaintiff to undergo an endoscopy. Dr. Bradley Rogers administered anesthesia to the Plaintiff, who then underwent an endoscopy by Dr. Amit Choski. (Id. at p. 5). The complaint alleges that no one obtained information from the Plaintiff, who cannot read and operates on a substantially lower level than a normal 26-year-old, regarding his current medications prior to the administration of anesthesia. (Id.)

         During the endoscopy, Dr. Choski found internal hemorrhoids and did not find any foreign objects. (Id.) After the procedure, the Plaintiff's A coloration was completely off as if he could not breathe.” (Id.) The Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital and returned to the Maury County Jail but, on the following day after his release from jail, he returned to the emergency room with a skin reaction from the anesthesia the day before. (Id.) The Plaintiff subsequently was charged for the hospital procedures, which he believes were unnecessary and unconstitutionally forced upon him. (Id.)

         III. Analysis

         A. Mt. Pleasant Police Department

         First, the complaint names the Mt. Pleasant Police Department as a defendant to this action. However, police departments and sheriff's departments are not proper parties to a § 1983 suit; they are not bodies politic and, as such, not Apersons” within the meaning of § 1983. See, e.g., Smith v. Tenn. Dep't of Corr., No. 3:09-cv-0485, 2009 WL 1505308, at *3 (M.D. Tenn. May. 27, 2009). Therefore, the Mt. Pleasant Police Department is not a suable entity under § 1983. See Mathes v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., No. 3:10BcvB0496, 2010 WL 3341889, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010) (A[F]ederal district courts in Tennessee have frequently and uniformly held that police departments ...

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