United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MICHAEL L. SPARKS, Plaintiff,
STATE OF TENNESSEE and PAUL DeWITT, Defendants.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR., CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
L. Sparks, an inmate currently confined at the Davidson
County Sheriff's Office in Nashville, Tennessee, filed
this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the State of Tennessee and Paul DeWitt.
Plaintiff has also filed an application to proceed in
forma pauperis. (Doc. Nos. 2 and 3.)
Application to Proceed as a Pauper
prisoner bringing a civil action may be authorized to file
suit without prepaying the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a). Because it appears from Plaintiff's in forma
pauperis application that he lacks sufficient financial
resources from which to pay the full filing fee in advance,
Plaintiff's application (Doc. No. 2) will be granted.
Plaintiff nonetheless remains responsible for paying the full
$350.00 filing fee, and so the fee will be assessed as
directed in the accompanying Order. 28 U.S.C. §
Court is required to conduct an initial review and dismiss
the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary
relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A, 1915(e)(2)(B); 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(c)(1). The Court must construe a pro se
complaint liberally, United States v. Smotherman,
838 F.3d 736 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), and accept the
plaintiff's factual allegations as true unless they are
entirely without credibility. See Thomas v. Eby, 481
F.3d 434, 437 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992)).
alleges that, as of early July 2016, Joseph Sharper was the
landlord of the property where Anthony Lewis and
Plaintiff's longtime friend Pam Crawley lived. (Doc. No.
1 at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that he lived at this residence as
well (id. at 8), but also alleges that he stayed at
the mission and his nephew's house around this time.
(Id. at 6.) Crowley was killed at this residence.
(Id. at 8.) Plaintiff is currently incarcerated and
facing a first degree murder charge for the death of Pam
Crowley. (Id. at 6, 8.) Plaintiff maintains his
innocence. (Id. at 6-8.) According to Plaintiff,
“the DA has no evidence linking [him] to this murder,
” and “[n]one of the evidence at hand ties [him]
to this murder.” (Id. at 7-8.) Plaintiff seeks
monetary damages for pain and suffering and loss of wages.
(Id. at 7.)
Standard of Review
determine whether a prisoner's complaint “fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted” under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court
applies the same standard as under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Hill v. Lappin,
630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court therefore
accepts “all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint
as true, [and] ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in
[the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an
entitlement to relief.'” Williams v.
Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681
(2009)). An assumption of truth does not, however, extend to
allegations that consist of legal conclusions or
“‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.'”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). A pro se
pleading must be liberally construed and “held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (citing
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
set forth facts that, when construed favorably, establish (1)
the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under
the color of state law.” Dominguez v. Corr. Med.
Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Sigley v. City of Parma Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533
(6th Cir. 2006)).
alleges that he has been wrongly accused and incarcerated for
Crowley's murder, and asserts claims against the State of
Tennessee and Paul DeWitt for defamation of character and
false imprisonment. (Doc. No. 1 at 7.) There is a cause of
action for false imprisonment under § 1983 where a
plaintiff can “prove that the [defendants] lacked
probable cause to arrest the plaintiff.” Garner v.
Harrod, 656 F. App'x 755 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Voyticky v. Vill. of Timberlake, 412 F.3d 669, 677
(6th Cir. 2005)). In this circumstance, however, the Court
must abstain from considering Plaintiff's claim due to
the doctrine set forth in Younger v. Harris, 401
U.S. 37 (1971).
Supreme Court's decision in Younger v. Harris,
‘counsels federal-court abstention when there is a
pending state proceeding' and ‘reflects a strong
policy against federal intervention in state judicial
processes in the absence of great and immediate irreparable
injury to the federal plaintiff.'” Meyers v.
Franklin Cty. Court of Common Pleas, 23 F. App'x
201, 204 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Moore v. Sims, 442
U.S. 415, 423 (1979)). Thus, “[t]o abstain under
Younger, ‘(1) there must be on-going state
judicial proceedings; (2) those proceedings must implicate
important state interests; and (3) there must be an adequate
opportunity in the state proceedings to raise constitutional
challenges.'” Hill v. Snyder, 878 F.3d
193, 206 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting Squire v.
Coughlan, 469 F.3d 551, ...