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Smith v. Union County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

November 21, 2017

SABRINA SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION COUNTY JAIL and MICHELLE BERNADETTE [1] , Defendants.

          GUYTON JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's pro se complaint for violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 1], motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 2], and motion to appoint counsel [Doc. 3]. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3] will be GRANTED. However, Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel [Doc. 3] will be DENIED and her complaint [Doc. 1] will be DISMISSED sua sponte.

         I. FILING FEE

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), any prisoner who files a complaint in a district court must tender the full filing fee or file (1) an application to proceed in forma pauperis without prepayment of fees and (2) a certified copy of their inmate trust account for the previous six-month period. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). Plaintiff submitted a fully compliant application to proceed in forma pauperis on August 10, 2017 [Doc. 2], and it appears from the application that Plaintiff lacks sufficient financial resources to pay the $350.00 filing fee. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 2] is GRANTED and, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Clerk is DIRECTED to file this action without the prepayment of costs or fees or security therefor as of the date the Complaint was received.

         Because Plaintiff is currently confined at the Tennessee Prison for Women, she is herewith ASSESSED the civil filing fee of $350.00. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2), the custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where she now resides is directed to submit to the Clerk, U.S. District Court, 800 Market Street, Suite 130, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902, twenty percent (20%) of the Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to the 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 is DIRECTED to send a copy of this Memorandum to the Tennessee Prison for Women to ensure that the custodian of Plaintiff's trust account complies with that portion of the Prison Litigation Reform Act relating to payment of the filing fee. The Clerk is DIRECTED to forward a copy of this Memorandum to the Court's financial deputy.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, currently in custody at the Tennessee Prison for Women, filed this complaint on August 10, 2017, against Defendants Michelle Bernadette and the Union County Jail [Doc. 1 p. 1]. Plaintiff brings this complaint after alleged constitutional violations from her previous confinement at the Union County Jail. Plaintiff alleges that on March 16, 2017, Defendant Bernadette and other correctional officers at the Union County Jail filmed inmates having a “lynching party, ” where the inmates wrapped a fellow inmate up in a blanket, while wearing white sheets, and pretended to tie a noose around the blanket and hang the inmate [Id. at 5]. Then, Plaintiff claims that on April 29, 2017, Defendant Bernadette showed her the video while singing a “racial song” [Id.]. Although Plaintiff wrote grievances and requested to be moved, a Union County Jail official, Heather Ragon, told Plaintiff that if she “said anything else about the drama that was going on[, ] she would tell Jessie Ellis to take my behavior and program sentence credits” [Id.]. Plaintiff requests for the officers and administration at the Union County Jail “to be fully trained in the prevention and reporting of discrimination due to race, ” restitution for her pain and suffering, and “[t]o be awarded all sentence reduction credits including two-for-one credits” for her time served [Id.].

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Screening Standard

         Under the PLRA, district courts must screen prisoner complaints and sua sponte dismiss those that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief or are against a defendant who is immune. See Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014, 1015-16 (6th Cir. 1999) (“Congress directed the federal courts to review or ‘screen' certain complaints sua sponte and to dismiss those that failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted [or] . . . sought monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.”). 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). However, “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, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that they were deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Black v. Barberton Citizens Hospital, 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998); O'Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990, 995 (6th Cir. 1994); Russo v. City of Cincinnati, 953 F.2d 1036, 1042 (6th Cir. 1992); 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."). In other words, Plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show: (1) the deprivation of a right, privilege, or immunity secured to her by the United States Constitution or other federal law; and (2) that the individual responsible for such deprivation was acting under color of state law. Gregory v. Shelby Cty., 220 F.3d 433, 441 (6th Cir. 2000).

         B. ...


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