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Hatcher v. F/N/U Hatfield

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

November 15, 2017

F/N/U HATFIELD, Lieutenant, F/Y/U HUTCHINS, Deputy, F/N/U BAYS, Deputy, F/N/U BLAKLEY, Deputy, and F/N/U BALL, Deputy, Defendants, All in their Official Capacities.



         Plaintiff Shamsiddeen Hatcher, a former prisoner, brings this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against an officer and four deputy sheriffs with the Sullivan County, Tennessee Sheriff's Office [Doc. 1]. The complaint alleges that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated at the Sullivan County Detention Center (“SCDC”) on July 13, 2015 [Id.]. Plaintiff's accompanying application to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3] reflects that he is virtually destitute; thus, the application [Id.] is GRANTED. See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 612 (6th Cir. 1997) (explaining that, after an inmate is released from confinement, his ability to pay is determined like any non-prisoner), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).


         According to the allegations in the complaint, Plaintiff was assigned housing in an area in the SCDC that also accommodated prisoners on suicide watch [Doc. 1 at 2]. On July 13, 2015, Plaintiff was accused of damaging a sprinkler head and flooding the SCDC and he, thereafter, was removed from his cell [Id.]. Plaintiff returned to his cell a few hours later to find that it was uninhabitable due to excess water and fire retardant in the cell [Id.]. Plaintiff (by implication) asked for cleaning supplies, and the deputy assigned to the control booth left his post to engage in an extended argument with Plaintiff about his request for supplies. The control booth contains a monitor that records footage from video cameras located in the cells of inmates on suicide watch. Upon the officer's return to his post in the control booth, he discovered the lifeless body of a prisoner who had committed suicide.

         Later that night, after the investigators left (the complaint is silent as to whether the investigation involved the vandalism of the sprinkler, the death of the inmate, or some other matter), Defendant Deputy Hutchins sprayed Plaintiff in the face with a large can of pepper spray, as Defendant Deputy Bays recorded the incident on a video camera. Plaintiff was placed in a one-man cell, though he was no threat to anyone, and then, blinded, choking and gasping for air, he was removed from that cell.

         Shortly thereafter, Defendants Blakley and Ball returned to the area where Plaintiff was housed, stated that Defendant Lieutenant Hatfield had ordered the assault, and then assaulted Plaintiff again by slamming him around and roughing him up [Id. at 3]. At some point, Defendant Hatfield entered the area and screamed that it was Plaintiff's fault that the other inmate committed suicide. The officers engaged in the second assault on Plaintiff to try to provoke him into a reciprocal assault against them and to retaliate against him, presumably as revenge for his perceived role in the other inmate's suicide.

         The assaults on Plaintiff caused him to sustain lasting emotional distress, psychological harm (i.e., he suffers from nightmares about being assaulted by demons in police uniforms and a diagnosed case of post-traumatic stress disorder), and physical injury (he has incurred some loss of vision in both eyes). Defendants' above-described conduct violated the rights secured to Plaintiff by the First and Eighth Amendments and the Due Process Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment.

         For the alleged violations of his rights, Plaintiff asks for unspecified declaratory relief and damages in the sum of nine hundred, ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars ($999, 999.00) [Id. at 4].

         II. SCREENING

         The Court must screen complaints filed by free world citizens and former prisoners who are proceeding in forma pauperis. See McGore, 114 F.3d at 608 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)). Dismissal is required if complaints are frivolous or malicious, if they fail to state a claim for relief, or if they are seeking monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         In performing this task, the Court recognizes that pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases are to be construed charitably and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993); Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996). Even so, the complaint must be sufficient “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), which simply means the factual content pled by a plaintiff must permit a court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The standard articulated in Twombly and Iqbal “governs dismissals for failure state a claim under [§§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)] 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).

         In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. See 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.”).

         The Court examines the complaint under these guidelines.

         III. ...

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