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Smith v. Maury County

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

April 17, 2018




         TO Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., Chief District Judge

         By Order entered September 22, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 9), the Court referred this prisoner civil rights action to the Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings under 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Court.

         Presently pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 14) filed by Defendants Maury County, Tennessee and the Maury County Sheriff's Office. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully recommends that the motion be granted and that this action be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This pro se lawsuit was filed on August 3, 2017, against Maury County, Tennessee (“Maury County”) and the Maury County Sheriff's Office (“Sheriff's Office”) by Harold Smith (“Plaintiff”) and Keith Pierce (“Pierce”), who were inmates at the Maury County Jail (“Jail”) at the time the lawsuit was filed.[1] Although Plaintiff was granted in forma pauperis status, Pierce failed to either pay the filing fee or submit an application to proceed in forma pauperis, and he was dismissed from the action. See Docket Entry No. 9 at 1. Seeking injunctive and monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff complains about a variety of conditions of confinement at the Jail and contends that these conditions violate his constitutional rights. Upon initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court found that Plaintiff stated arguable constitutional claims and directed that process issue to Defendants in the action.

         Summarizing a somewhat difficult to follow complaint that sets out allegations pertaining to Plaintiff, Pierce, and other inmates, the Court noted in the initial review that Plaintiff complains about overcrowding, mold in the living areas and showers, inadequate outdoor recreation time, cold food, unsanitary food service, insects in the Jail, a lack of inmate jobs, inmate clothing not being properly washed, a lack of access to a law library, inadequate grievance procedures, and inadequate medical staffing and medical care. See Docket Entry No. 9 at 2-3. Plaintiff makes further allegations that Jail staff interfered with legal mail being sent to other law enforcement agencies, that inmates were made to sit in a “drunk tank” for hours without shoes during the booking process, that inmates were charged for hygiene products that should have been available free of charge, that staff would often fail to investigate inmate violence, that staff were under the influence of alcohol, that inmates serving time for misdemeanors were mixed in with convicted felons, and that inmates were denied accrued sentence reduction credits without due process. Id.


         In lieu of answers, Defendants jointly filed the pending motion for summary judgment. Relying upon the Declaration of Debra Wagonshutz, the Jail Administrator (Docket Entry No. 15-1), Defendants assert that Plaintiff was an inmate at the Jail for approximately two months, from June 13, 2017, to August 16, 2017, and that his lawsuit is subject to dismissal on the following grounds:

1) the Sheriff's Office is not a “person” amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
2) Plaintiff's claims are subject to dismissal under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), because Plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust the claims through the Jail's grievance process before filing his lawsuit;
3) Plaintiff fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted based on his allegations about the denial of accrued sentence reduction credits, inadequate grievance procedures, a lack of access to a law library, insufficient inmate jobs, and the fact that inmates are charged for hygiene products; and
4) Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief has become moot because of his release from the Jail. See Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry No. 14) at 1-2.

         By Order entered January 17, 2018, the Court advised Plaintiff of the need to respond to the motion for summary judgment and gave him a deadline of February 23, 2018, to file a response. See Docket Entry No. 17. Plaintiff has not ...

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