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Crippen v. Tennessee Department of Correction

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

January 5, 2018

EDDIE CRIPPEN, # 381315, Plaintiff,
v.
TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Eddie Crippen, an inmate of the West Tennessee State Peniteniary in Henning, Tennessee, filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Tennessee Department of Correction, Derrick Schofield, Warden David Sexton, Sgt. f/n/u Hill, Keith Wattters, and John Doe “Sgt. Coordinator, ” alleging violations of the Plaintiff's civil and constitutional rights. (Docket No. 1). The Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as release from custody. (Id. at 19-22).

         The Plaintiff's complaint as amended 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 complaint 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 Defendants violated the Plaintiff's right to due process when he was charged with and convicted of the disciplinary infractions of “participating in a gang activity” and “creating a disturbance” while incarcerated at the Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tennessee in 2014.

         A disciplinary board composed of Defendant chairperson Sgt. Hill and Defendant board member Keith Watters found the Plaintiff guilty of the infractions. The complaint alleges that, as a result of his conviction, the Plaintiff “was wrongfully isolated in a hostile environment . . . .” for 30 to 60 days.[1] (Docket No. 1 at 15, 20).

         On administrative appeal, the decision was affirmed by both Defendant Warden Charles and Defendant Tennessee Department of Corrections Commissioner Schofield.

         After the denial of his administrative appeals, the Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of Davidson County, 20th Judicial District, Part III, seeking review of his conviction of the disciplinary infractions. The Plaintiff filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari asserting that the Defendants failed to provide him the process outlined in their Uniform Disciplinary Procedures. The petition also alleged that the prison ...


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