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Ronnie Quentin Brown, No. 415080 v. Westbrooks

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

May 5, 2017

RONNIE QUENTIN BROWN, No. 415080, Plaintiff
BRUCE WESTBROOKS, et al., Defendants.


          Aleta A Trauger United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ronnie Quentin Brown, an inmate of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee, has filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden Bruce Westbrooks, Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Tony Park, Assistant Commissioner of Operations Jason Woodall, f/n/u Fish, and Andrew Brown, alleging a violation of the plaintiff's federal civil rights. (Docket No. 1). The plaintiff seeks damages, injunctive relief, a change in his security classification, and the return of “good time” credits. (Id. at p. 4).

         The plaintiff's 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.

         I. PLRA Screening Standard

         Under 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).

         The 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)).

         Although 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).

         II. Section 1983 Standard

         The plaintiff brings his 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, the 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.

         III. Alleged Facts

         The complaint alleges that, in December of 2016, the plaintiff was placed in “the hole” or segregation for a period of twenty days without explanation. During this time, the plaintiff wrote many grievances to various individuals trying to find out why he had been placed in segregation. According to the complaint, officer f/n/u McClure told the plaintiff that his grievances were “inappropriate” and other defendants laughed at the plaintiff.

         On January 20, 2017, the complaint alleges that administrative hearing board members knocked on the door of the plaintiff's segregation cell. The plaintiff learned that he had been placed in segregation based on the word of a confidential informant who claimed that the plaintiff had possessed a steel rod or “ice pick” found in a utility closet. The plaintiff maintains that he has never possessed or seen the rod. His administrative hearing was held outside of his cell door. He asked to produce witnesses and other evidence, but was not permitted to do so. The plaintiff was then moved to “max” classification. He has written at least thirty-two letters to TDOC officials asking for help as the plaintiff believes his due process rights were violated by the sham administrative hearing. (Docket No. 1 at pp. 3-10).

         IV. Analysis

         A. Section 1983 official capacity claims for ...

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