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Keltner v. Cook

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

June 7, 2017

WILLIAM KELTNER, Plaintiff,
v.
DOUG COOK, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THOMAS A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court is in receipt of a pro se prisoner's complaint for violation of civil rights filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 1] and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3]. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3] will be GRANTED, no process shall issue, and this action will be DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983.

         I. Filing Fee

         It appears from the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis that Plaintiff lacks sufficient financial resources to pay the filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3] will be GRANTED.

         Because Plaintiff is an inmate in the South Central Correctional Center, he will be ASSESSED the civil filing fee of $350.00. The custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides will be DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk, U.S. District Court, 800 Market Street, Suite 130, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902, as an initial partial payment, whichever is the greater of: (a) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's inmate trust account; or (b) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in his inmate trust account for the six-month period preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A)-(B). Thereafter, the custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides shall submit twenty percent (20%) of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to Plaintiff's trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income exceeds ten dollars ($10.00), until the full filing fee of three hundred fifty dollars ($350.00) as authorized under 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) has been paid to the Clerk. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         The Clerk will be DIRECTED to send a copy of this Memorandum Opinion and the accompanying Order to the Warden of the South Central Correctional Center, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction, and the Attorney General for the State of Tennessee to ensure that the custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account complies with that portion of the Prison Litigation Reform Act relating to payment of the filing fee. The Clerk will also be DIRECTED to forward a copy of this Memorandum and Order to the Court's financial deputy.

         II. Screening Standard

         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 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A. 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); see also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (“Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere.”).

         III. Allegations of the Complaint

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on February 11, 2016, all prisoners at Bledsoe County Correctional Complex were locked in their cells due to snow [Doc. 1 p. 1]. Plaintiff also alleges that on February 12, 2016, approximately sixty-four prisoners were notified that they would continue to be locked down until further notice due to having a bad attitude [Id.]. According to Plaintiff, this additional lockdown was pursuant to Defendant's order [Id.]. Plaintiff also states that, for several weeks, some prisoners included in this additional lockdown had filed grievances and request forms regarding having to take a class against their will [Id. at 1-2].

         During this five-day lockdown, Plaintiff was unable to take a shower, denied clean clothes, and forced to be around stopped up toilets [Id. at 2]. Plaintiff complains that these conditions resulted in Plaintiff having to smell himself and cellmate, as well as breathe in the fumes from urine and feces [Id.]. Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts claims based on violations of his First and Eighth Amendments rights [Id. at 1].

         IV. Legal Analysis

         First, considering Plaintiff's claim based on the First Amendment, the Court notes that “[r]etaliation by public officials against the exercise of First Amendment rights is itself a violation of the First Amendment.” Zilich v. Longo, 34 F.3d 359, 364 (6th Cir. 1994). A claim for retaliation requires a plaintiff to establish that: (1) he engaged in protected conduct; (2) an adverse action was taken against him which would deter a person ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in such ...


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