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Villasana v. Pittman

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

December 5, 2017

JULIO VILLASANA, # 425299, Plaintiff,
v.
YOLANDA PITTMAN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR., CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Julio Villasana, an inmate of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Yolanda Pittman, the Assistant Warden of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, alleging violations of the Plaintiff's federal civil and constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 1). The Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief. (Id. at 33-36).

         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.

         I. 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).

         II. Section 1983 Standard

         The 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.

         III. Alleged Facts

         The complaint alleges that the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center allows inmates to keep personal televisions inside their assigned housing cells. The prison provides access to thirty-four television channels, including English-language entertainment, sports, and religious programming. In addition, every weekend the prison broadcasts three or more “free-world, first-run, theatrically released English-language movies that have been made available for distribution by a movie rental company over the prison's closed-circuit TV system for the entertainment of the English-speaking prisoners; however, the prison never broadcasts a Spanish-language movie for the entertainment of Spanish-speaking prisoners.” (Doc. No. 1 at 10). According to the Plaintiff, South Central Correctional Facility, CCA/Whiteville Correctional Facility, and CCA/Hardeman County Correctional Facility all provide access to some television stations broadcasting Spanish-language programs for the prisoners of Hispanic-descent housed within those facilities. (Id. at 14).

         While incarcerated at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, the Plaintiff, who is a Mexican citizen, requested prison officials to provide the Plaintiff and other inmates with access to Spanish-speaking television stations or programming as well as Spanish-language weekend movies. According to the complaint, Defendant Pittman told the Plaintiff that she would never add “any Mexican stuff” to the programming provided to inmates at the Trousdale facility. (Doc. No. 1 at 7). On another occasion, Defendant Pittman allegedly told the Plaintiff: “If you want Mexican T.V., you should go back to Mexico!” (Id. at 9). The Plaintiff filed numerous grievances regarding the matter, but Pittman never responded to the grievances.

         IV. Analysis

         The complaint alleges that Defendant has denied and continues to deny the Plaintiff equal treatment under the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Doc. No. 1 at 1). “The Equal Protection Clause prohibits states from ‘mak[ing] distinctions which either burden a fundamental right, target a suspect class, or intentionally treat one differently from others similarly situated without any rational basis for the difference.'” Coleman v. Governor of Mich., 413 Fed.Appx. 866, 877 (6th Cir. ...


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