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Parks v. Lebo

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

June 30, 2017

BRUCE PARKS, JR., Plaintiff,
JONATHAN LEBO, Warden, and SGT. COCARHAN, Defendants.



         On October 31, 2016, Plaintiff Bruce Parks, Jr. (“Parks”), an inmate at the Northeast Correctional Complex (“NECX”), in Mountain City, Tennessee, filed pro se a Complaint for the violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) After receiving an order from the Court (ECF No. 3), Parks filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis on November 16, 2016. (ECF No. 4.) 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 acts alleged in the Complaint occurred when Parks was an inmate at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary (“WTSP”) in Henning, Tennessee. Thus, venue is proper in this Court. The Clerk shall record the Defendants as WTSP Warden Jonathan Lebo and Sergeant First Name Unknown (“FNU”) Cocarhan.


         Parks alleges that on August 12, 2016, he was awakened by three staff members, Cpt. Middleton and Lt. Miller, who are not parties to this action, and Defendant Sgt. Cocarhan. The staff members told Parks to place handcuffs on and then moved him from his cell while his property was removed from his cell. (Compl. at 5, ECF No. 1.) When Parks inquired why this was happening, Cpt. Middleton told Parks that Officer Hudson had stated Parks had gotten semen on her. (Id.) Parks contends that this allegation was never reported, and there was no evidence of such conduct. (Id.) When Parks came back to his cell, still in handcuffs, he was told to put his knees on the bunk. (Id.) Park alleges that at this time Defendant Sgt. Cocarhan hit him a number of times, verbally and mentally abused him, and then put a tazer to Parks head, threatening Parks to give him one reason why he should not send Parks to the emergency room. (Id.) Parks further contends that Defendant Sgt. Cocarhan called Parks a sex offender and told Parks that he did not have any rights. (Id.) After the assault Parks was told not to move while the handcuffs were removed, and then the officers walked out. (Id.)

         Parks contends he was bleeding the next morning and was asked by Lt. Miller, who is not a party to this complaint, what happened. (Id.) After Parks told her about the assault, Lt. Miller got medical treatment for Parks, and Lt. Barloc took photographs of Parks's injuries. (Id.) Lt. Miller and other officers witnessed this process. (Id.) Parks was then taken to an emergency room outside of WTSP. (Id.) Upon his return to WTSP, Parks filed a grievance. (Id.) Parks alleges that because he is in lockdown and in the SMU program, he is not able to ensure that the grievance was filed. (Id.) Parks seeks compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $30, 000. (Id. at 6.)


         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 standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 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), are applied. 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 have to accept “fantastic or delusional” factual allegations as true in prisoner complaints that are reviewed for frivolousness. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827.

Id. at 471.

         “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 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants and prisoners 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, No. 09-2259, 2011 WL 285251, at *5 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'”) (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975)) (alteration in original); 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, “[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 ...

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