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Gardner v. Morriss

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

September 5, 2017

DAVID GARDNER, et al., No. 00094231, Plaintiff,
v.
DENT MORRISS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Aleta A. Trauger United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, an inmate of the Whiteville Correctional Facility in Whiteville, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dent Morriss, Mike Jones, Glenn Funk, John Wesley, Whitley Ray, Judge Gay, Phyllis Morriss, Goodlett Collier, John Gasaway, and Gregory Smith, alleging violations of the Plaintiff's federal civil rights. (Doc. No. 1).

         The 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. The Plaintiff also filed a “motion to amend and add defendants.” (Doc. No. 3).

         I. Motion to Amend

         Rule 15(a) (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that leave to amend should be freely given “when justice so requires.” In deciding whether to grant a motion to amend, courts should consider undue delay in filing, lack of notice to the opposing party, bad faith by the moving party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment. Brumbalough v. Camelot Care Ctrs., Inc., 427 F.3d 996, 1001 (6th Cir. 2005). “Amendment of a complaint is futile when the proposed amendment would not permit the complaint to survive a motion to dismiss.” Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 817 (6th Cir.2005) (citing Neighborhood Dev. Corp. v. Advisory Council on Historic Pres., 632 F.2d 21, 23 (6th Cir.1980)).

         Although there appears to be no undue prejudice to the opposing parties by permitting the Plaintiff to amend his complaint at this time, the “motion to amend and add defendants” (Doc. No. 3) does not explain why the Plaintiff wishes to add the two named individuals as Defendants. The Plaintiff fails to allege any specific personal involvement of either Jason White or John Germanis in the events described in the complaint. A plaintiff must identify the right or privilege that was violated and the role of the defendant in the alleged violation, Dunn v. Tennessee, 697 F.2d 121, 128 (6th Cir. 1982), and the Plaintiff here has failed to do so with regard to these two proposed Defendants. The Court therefore will deny the motion to amend as futile.

         II. 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).

         III. Section 1983 Standard

         Plaintiff brings his federal 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, a 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.

         IV. Alleged Facts

         The complaint alleges that Defendant Morriss “and other defendants . . . intentionally, maliciously, wrongfully, and illegally” had the Plaintiff incarcerated “out of revenge.” (Doc. No. 1 at 5). According to the complaint, the Plaintiff was prosecuted by Defendant Morriss who, the Plaintiff later found out, was engaged at the time to the victim of the Plaintiff's alleged crimes, Defendant Phyllis Morriss. The complaint alleges that Defendant Morriss conspired with his now wife, Defendant P. Morriss, “to maliciously prosecute and violate Mr. Gardner's constitutional rights to freedom and cause Mr. Gardner's incarceration and deprived him of his Federal guaranteed rights.” (Id. at 8). Further, ...


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