United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
Court is in receipt of a pro se prisoner's complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 1] that the United States
District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
transferred to this Court after assessing Plaintiff with the
filing fee [Doc. 4]. For the reasons set forth below,
however, no process shall issue and this action will be
DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted under § 1983.
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”),
district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at
any time, sua sponte dismiss any claims that are
frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or
are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A); Benson v.
O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). 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). Courts liberally construe pro se pleadings
filed in civil rights cases and hold them to a less stringent
standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a federal
right by a person acting under color of state law. 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) (stating that “Section
1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it
creates a right of action for the vindication of
constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”).
Allegations of the Complaint
alleges that on or about October 31, 2017, Defendants entered
his cell, accused him of damaging property, and took pictures
of a blanket hanging on his bunk [Doc. 1 p. 5]. Plaintiff
asked Defendants why they were continually harassing him and
stated that he felt they were being racist, at which point
Defendant Davis shoved Plaintiff against the wall, placed his
fingers in Plaintiff's face, and told Plaintiff
“this is jail[, ] boy” [Id.]. Plaintiff
then stated that he knew his rights and ordered Defendants to
get out of his room, at which point Defendant Merritt grabbed
Plaintiff by the throat and told him that he did not tell
Defendants what to do and that they “better not have
any more problems” from him [Id. at 6].
Plaintiff then pushed Defendant Merritt's hand from his
throat and said he wanted a grievance form and for Defendants
“to get the [expletive] out of [his] room”
[Id.]. Defendants left, but Plaintiff did not
receive a grievance form [Id.].
Cruel and Unusual Punishment provision of the Eighth
Amendment protects prisoners from the infliction of
“unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.”
Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). When
prison officials are accused of using excessive force against
a convicted prisoner, “the core judicial inquiry . . .
[is] whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to
maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and
sadistically to cause harm.” Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). In evaluating an Eighth
Amendment claim, the court should consider “the reason
or motivation for the conduct, the type and excessiveness of
the force used, and the extent of the injury inflicted . .
.” Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 605 (6th
prisoner complains of a use of force under the Eighth
Amendment that “causes no discernible injury, ”
the prisoner “almost certainly fails to state a valid
excessive force claim.” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559
U.S. 34, 37 (2010) (internal quotations admitted).
Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit has held that where a prisoner
alleged that, after he got upset at a hearing, the defendants
snatched him out of his chair, shoved him out of a room,
grabbed him around the left jaw and throat, and bent back two
of his fingers, resulting in Plaintiff sustaining minor
lacerations and cuts, these allegations were insufficient to
sustain an Eighth Amendment claim. Lockett v.
Suardini, 526 F.3d 866, 869, 875-76 (6th Cir. 2008);
see also Williams v. Johnson, 55 F. App'x 736,
736- 37 (6th Cir. 2003) (holding that a plaintiff's
allegations that the defendant grabbed him by the arm, made a
racially offensive remark, and attempted to shove him into a
door failed to state a claim under § 1983); Leary v.
Livingston Cty., 528 F.3d 438, 443 (6th Cir. 2008)
(holding that officer's single use of force in hitting
prisoner in the back of the neck with the side of his hand
like a “karate chop” was de minimis
where it did not result in any injury).
the prisoner was a pretrial detainee at the time of the
alleged use of force, however, the court must determine
whether the plaintiff demonstrates “that the force
purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively
unreasonable.” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135
S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). The court must make this
determination based on the “perspective of a reasonable
officer on the scene, including what the officer knew at the
time, not with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”
Id. The court must also take into account “the
‘legitimate interests that stem from [the
government's] need to manage the facility in which the
individual is detained'” and defer to jail
officials' need to maintain order, discipline, and
Supreme Court also sets forth the following non-exclusive
list of considerations that “may bear on the
reasonableness or unreasonableness of the force used”
as to pretrial detainees:
the relationship between the need for the use of force and
the amount of force used; the extent of the plaintiff's
injury; any effort made by the officer to temper or to limit
the amount of force; the severity of the security problem at
issue; the threat reasonably perceived by the officer; and
whether the plaintiff was actively resisting.
Id. The court must apply the standard used in Fourth
Amendment cases, under which “‘[n]ot every push
or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace
of a judge's chambers, ' . . . violates the Fourth
Amendment.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386,
unclear whether Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or a
convicted inmate at the time of the alleged uses of force.
Regardless of which standard applies, however, it is apparent
that the uses of force Plaintiff alleges in the complaint
were objectively reasonable. Thus, Plaintiff's ...