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Allen v. Holt

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

April 5, 2018

BILL HOLT, Defendant.



         The plaintiffs, Ronald Allen and Justin Ezra Jones, proceeding pro se, have filed a civil Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §1983 against defendant Bill Holt. (ECF No. 1.) Before the court are the plaintiffs' applications to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF Nos. 2, 3.) In addition, their 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, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

         I. Application to Proceed as a Pauper

         Under the PLRA, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), a prisoner bringing a civil action may be permitted to file suit without prepaying the filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Because the plaintiffs properly submitted their in forma pauperis applications, and because it appears from their submissions that the plaintiffs lack sufficient financial resources from which to pay the full filing fee in advance, their applications (ECF Nos. 2, 3) will be granted.

         However, under § 1915(b), the plaintiffs nonetheless remain responsible for paying the full filing fee. The obligation to pay the fee accrues at the time the case is filed, but the PLRA provides prisoner-plaintiffs the opportunity to make a “down payment” of a partial filing fee and to pay the remainder in installments. Accordingly, the plaintiffs will be assessed $175 each, which represents each plaintiff's proportional share of the full $350 filing fee, to be paid as directed in the accompanying order.

         II. Dismissal of the Complaint

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court is required to conduct an initial review of any complaint filed in forma pauperis and to dismiss the complaint if it is facially frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Begola v. Brown, 172 F.3d 47 (Table), 1998 WL 894722, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 14, 1998) (citing McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007)). The court must construe a pro se plaintiff's complaint liberally, Boag v. McDaniel, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982), and accept the plaintiff's allegations as true unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992).

         A. Factual Allegations

         In their Complaint, the plaintiffs allege that about once per week or once every two weeks a chaplain or preacher will come into the pod where they are housed to perform a church service. (ECF No. 1 at Page ID# 5.) During the service the television is on and the volume is very loud. (Id.) Additionally, other inmates are allowed to be out of their cells, and they are loud and disrespectful to the “very few people trying to worship in the middle of the pod.” (Id.) The plaintiffs contend that “this is no way what I consider having church.” (Id.)[1]

         The plaintiffs allege that, since they arrived at the Robertson County Jail on October 7, 2017, they “have not had any outside rec[reation].” (Id.)

         Finally, the plaintiffs allege that they “have not been able to access a law library and the staff keeps telling me the problem is being looked into.” (Id.) At least one plaintiff has a “serious case pending and no way to try and help fight my case.”

         The plaintiffs allege claims for violation of their right to exercise their religion, failure to provide outdoor recreation, and violation of their right to access the courts. As relief, the plaintiffs seek a transfer and monetary damages.

         B. Standard of Review

         If an action is filed in forma pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court applies the standards under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as construed by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). See Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that “the dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under [§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)”). “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘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 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (alteration in original). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions[] are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 ...

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