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Hughes v. Tennessee Department of Correction

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 18, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs June 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 16-681-IV Russell T. Perkins, Chancellor

         The plaintiff, an inmate proceeding self-represented, filed a "Petition for Declaratory Judgment" ("Petition") on June 24, 2016, alleging that the Hardeman County Correctional Facility ("HCCF") staff had failed to follow numerous policies established by the Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC"). In conjunction with the Petition, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. The plaintiff subsequently filed a document entitled, "Complaint." On September 12, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, asserting, inter alia, that the plaintiff's action was statutorily barred. The trial court entered two orders on October 7, 2016, respectively denying the plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction and granting the defendants' motion to dismiss. The plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. Determining that the trial court did not err in dismissing the plaintiff's claims, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Martin E. Hughes, Whiteville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Eric A. Fuller, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellees, Tony Parker, Commissioner of the Department of Correction, and Donnelle Peterson.

          James I. Pentecost and Jonathan D. Buckner, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, Grady Perry, Bernard Deitz, Bryon Ponds, Charlotte Burns, Keinanna Jackson, Desiree Andrews, Sharon Reid, Joanne Henson, Tameka Walker, Judy Hall, and Lotoya Brown.

          Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins, J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., joined.



         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The appellant, Martin E. Hughes, a TDOC inmate, is currently housed at HCCF. Mr. Hughes initiated this action on June 24, 2016, by filing the Petition, alleging in pertinent part:

TDOC Compliance is not being followed here at this Facility and has resulted into the violations of my civil and constitutional rights. This facility's staff and warden continue to operate illegally and in arbitrary, malicious order.

         Mr. Hughes further stated, inter alia, that his constitutional rights were being violated at HCCF by the facility staff through:

[D]enying me the right to file requests, grievances, speak to my attorney's [sic], receive adequate medical, religious worship, sanitary food, and several other very serious issues that have resulted in my Due-Process rights regarding my ongoing trial.

         Concomitant with the filing of his Petition, Mr. Hughes filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. Mr. Hughes requested that the trial court prohibit the defendants from "retaliating against me any further and also to expose the severe constitutional violati[o]ns ongoing against me." Named as respondents in the Petition were TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield, [1] as well as various HCCF employees, including Donnelle Peterson, Desiree Andrews, Dr. Bernard Deitz, "Warden" Grady Perry, Bryon Ponds, Charlotte Burns, Latoya Brown, Joanne Henson, Sharon Reid, and Judy Hall (collectively, "Employee Respondents").

         On June 27, 2016, the trial court entered an order relative to Mr. Hughes's Petition. According to the order, Mr. Hughes failed to comply with the requirements set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 41-21-801, et seq., concerning lawsuits filed by inmates.[2] The trial court specifically noted that Mr. Hughes had failed to comply with the following requirements: (1) paying the filing fee in the amount of $284.50 or filing an "Affidavit of Indigency"; (2) filing an affidavit containing the information required by Tennessee Code Annotated § 41-21-805; (3) partially paying the litigation tax as required by Tennessee Code Annotated § 41-21-807, pending filing of an approved pauper's oath; and (4) filing a summons in duplicate for each defendant with a copy of the petition for each summons to be issued. The court granted Mr. Hughes thirty days to rectify these deficiencies in order to avoid dismissal of his action.

         On August 2, 2016, Mr. Hughes filed a document entitled, "Complaint, " wherein he further claimed violations of his constitutional and civil rights, with emphasis upon the alleged denial of his legal rights and medical care, as well as allegations of retaliation and improper conduct by HCCF staff. No additional defendants were named in the Complaint. Attached to the Complaint, Mr. Hughes filed various documents, including (1) a letter from the trial court returning his Petition due to his lack of standing to file pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 41-21-812, (2) copies of various Tennessee statutes, (3) copies of various grievances and disciplinary reports, (4) copies of sick call requests and answers, (5) copies of medical record requests, (6) trust fund account statements, and (7) an "Inmate Affidavit Pursuant to T.C.A. § 41-21-805 et seq."

         Mr. Hughes also filed a separate, additional "Inmate Affidavit Pursuant to T.C.A. § 41-21-805 et seq." Within this Affidavit, Mr. Hughes acknowledged having filed three civil actions in the United States District Court, Eastern District, at Greeneville, Tennessee: (1) Hughes v. City of Rogersville et al., No. 2:15-CV-302-JRG-MCLC (Nov. 16, 2015); (2) Hughes v. Hamblen County Sheriff's Dep't et al., No. 2:14-CV-335-JRG-DHI (May 23, 2016); and (3) Hughes v. Rogersville City Police Dep't et al., No. 2:14-cv-171 (Nov. 25, 2014).

         On September 12, 2016, Employee Respondents filed a motion to dismiss, delineating four separate grounds for dismissal: (1) operation of Tennessee Code Annotated § 41-21-807; (2) unclean hands; (3) lack of jurisdiction over the grievance-related claims and improper venue; and (4) failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Concomitant with their motion and accompanying memorandum, Employee Respondents filed copies of orders demonstrating that the ...

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