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Hughes v. Parker

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

January 11, 2018

CORDARO HUGHES, No. 416857 Plaintiff,
TONY PARKER, et al. Defendants.

          Crenshaw Magistrate Judge



         Now pending before the court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 33) and supporting memorandum of law (Docket No. 34) to which the Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition (Docket No. 36). For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned recommends that the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.


         Plaintiff, Cordaro Hughes, is an inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction who brought this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Following the Court's initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Plaintiff was allowed to proceed on his claim under § 1983 against Jeffery Butler for race based discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause.

         The Defendant, Mr. Butler, is the Assistant Warden at the Turney Center Industrial Complex (“TCIX”), the institution where Mr. Hughes was housed during all times relevant to this action. The complaint alleges that while at TCIX, Plaintiff was placed in segregation for allegedly participating in gang activities, possessing a deadly weapon, and assaulting another inmate. After being found guilty in a disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff lost good time sentence credits. Docket No. 1, p. 5. Mr. Hughes contends that he was denied a fair hearing by the TCIX administration and disciplinary board. He further alleges that he was racially profiled and the victim of discrimination as African American. Id. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Assistant Warden Jeff Butler told the Plaintiff: “you're a nigger, [and] we can't let you win here, we play a dirty game down here.” Id.

         The Court allowed this claim to survive initial review on these allegations holding: “At this point in the proceedings, the Plaintiff has stated an arguable claim against Defendant Butler in his individual capacity for race based discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause.” Docket No. 8, p. 7. (citations omitted)

         The Defendant has now filed a Motion to Dismiss alleging that the Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable § 1983 claim pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) and Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997) and failed to allege sufficient personal involvement of the Defendant. Docket No. 33. Specifically, the Defendant asserts that under established Supreme Court precedent, a finding in Plaintiff's favor would necessarily apply the invalidity of the deprivation of his good time credits thereby indirectly effecting the length or fact of his confinement, a claim that is not cognizable under § 1983. Docket No. 34, pp. 2-3. The Defendant further contends the Plaintiff “has failed to allege any specific or general facts as to how Defendant caused, influenced, or was involved in an allegedly unfair disciplinary hearing.” Id. at p. 4. Defendant asserts that because Plaintiff has not alleged or established any personal involvement by the Defendant in the proceedings about which the Plaintiff complains, he has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Id.

         The Plaintiff responds in opposition asserting that the “administrative policies and procedures, disciplinary hearing summary report show that the Defendant was designated by the deputy warden to investigate this matter which means he is personally involved in everything.” Docket No. 36, p. 1. He further contends that the Defendant does not address his assertion that “when I brought this matter to his attention after gettin (sic) found guilty, Defendant never denied the fact that he racially profiled me, the Defendant also never denied the fact that I was never advised of my rights and served a write up properly.” Id. He asserts that he brought this issue to the Defendant's attention so that the Defendant could conduct a proper investigation and reasserts his allegation about the statement that the Defendant made to him that the irregularities and the procedures used in his hearing were motivated by race. Id. Plaintiff again reiterates the alleged deficiencies in his hearing as well. Id. at p. 2.


         When ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, the court must “construe the complaint liberally in the plaintiff's favor and accept as true all factual allegations and permissible inferences therein.” Gazette v. City of Pontiac, 41 F.3d 1061, 1064 (6th Cir. 1994). The court should allow “a well-pleaded complaint [to] proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. However, a “plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions.” Id. at 555. “‘[A] legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation' need not be accepted as true on a motion to dismiss, ” Fritz v. Charter Twp. of Comstock, 592 F.3d 718, 722 (6th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted), and mere recitation of the elements of a cause of action “or an “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” will not do, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While the court must accept “as true all non-conclusory allegations in the complaint, ” Delay v. Rosenthal Collins Grp., LLC, 585 F.3d 1003, 1005 (6th Cir. 2009), it does not have to accept unsupported legal conclusions, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court is not required to create a claim for a plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life. Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F. App'x 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (“a court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Payne v. Sec'y of Treas., 73 F. App'x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, “[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her”). To demand otherwise would require the “courts to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         Not every allegation of constitutional violations in prisoner proceedings is the proper subject for an action under § 1983. In a series of cases beginning with Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 3 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973), the Supreme Court has considered the interplay between 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In Preiser, state prisoners who had been deprived of good-conduct-time credits by the New York State Department of Correction Services as a result of disciplinary proceedings brought a § 1983 action to compel the restoration of the credits which would have led to their immediate release but did not seek compensatory damages for the loss of the credits. 411 U.S. at 476, 494. The Supreme Court held that: “when a state prisoner, though asserting jurisdiction under the Civil Rights Act, is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 500.

         Years later in Heck v. Humphries, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), the Court considered a question related to the one presented in Preiser, whether a prisoner could challenge the constitutionality of his conviction in a suit for damages only under ยง 1983, a ...

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