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Thompson v. Cheatham County Jail

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

April 24, 2018




         Plaintiff Joshua P. Thompson, a prisoner formerly confined in the Cheatham County Jail and currently incarcerated at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville, Tennessee, [1]has filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1), along with an application to proceed in district court without prepaying fees or costs. (Doc. No. 2.) The case is before the Court for a ruling on the application and 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 In Forma Pauperis

         Under the PLRA, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), a prisoner bringing a civil action may apply for permission to file suit without prepaying the filing fee of $350 required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Such an application to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) must be accompanied by a “certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the prisoner for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint . . ., obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at which the prisoner is or was confined.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). Plaintiff's application does not include the required trust fund account certification. However, in the section of his application where this certification is to be made, Plaintiff states that his jailors “refused to complete this part for me or give me a print out of trust fund.” (Doc. No. 2 at 2.) He further states that: “The one's over comissarry [sic] said they never got my request and sometimes the requests were intercepted. They've done all they can to keep me from filing this[.]” (Id.)

         If a jail does not maintain inmate trust fund accounts, or if jail officials refuse to cooperate with an inmate's efforts to get his application notarized and his inmate account statement certified, the inmate may submit a signed statement detailing his attempts to meet these statutory requirements in lieu of a certified inmate trust fund account statement. See Michael Kilpatrick v. James O'Rouke, No. 3:16-cv-01840 (M.D. Tenn. 2016) (Sharp, J.) (Doc. No. 3 at 1-2). In light of Plaintiff's statements concerning his unsuccessful attempts to obtain a certified inmate trust fund account statement from the Cheatham County Jail (which appear on the same page as his signed declaration that his allegations of poverty are true), and in view of his recent transfer from that facility, the Court finds that his IFP application is adequately supported under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2).

         Because it is apparent from Plaintiff's submission that he lacks the funds to pay the entire filing fee in advance, his application to proceed IFP is GRANTED. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(b) and 1914(a), Plaintiff is nonetheless assessed the $350.00 civil filing fee. The warden of the facility in which Plaintiff is currently housed, as custodian of Plaintiff's trust account, is DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk of Court, as an initial payment, the greater of: (a) 20% of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's credit at the jail; or (b) 20% of the average monthly balance to Plaintiff's credit for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Thereafter, the custodian shall submit 20% of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to Plaintiff for the preceding month), but only when the balance in his account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). Payments shall continue until the $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full to the Clerk of Court. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(3).

         The Clerk of Court MUST send a copy of this Order to the Warden of the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex to ensure compliance with that portion of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 pertaining to the payment of the filing fee. If Plaintiff is transferred from his present place of confinement, the custodian must ensure that a copy of this Order follows Plaintiff to his new place of confinement, for continued compliance with the Order. All payments made pursuant to this Order must be submitted to the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, 801 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203.

         II. Initial Review of the Complaint

         A. PLRA Screening Standard

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must dismiss any IFP complaint that is facially 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. Similarly, Section 1915A provides that the Court shall conduct an initial review of any prisoner complaint against a governmental entity, officer, or employee, and shall dismiss the complaint or any portion thereof if the defects listed in Section 1915(e)(2)(B) are identified. Under both statutes, this initial review of whether the complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted asks whether it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” such that it would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Applying this standard, the Court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff and, again, must take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). Furthermore, pro se pleadings must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         B. Section 1983 Standard

         Plaintiff seeks to vindicate alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of any right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or federal laws. Wurzelbacher v. Jones-Kelley, 675 F.3d 580, 583 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, to state a Section 1983 claim, Plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights 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. Carl v. Muskegon Cty., 763 F.3d 592, 595 (6th Cir. 2014).

         C. Allegations of the Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges he was deprived of mental health care by a qualified provider during his confinement as a pretrial detainee at the Cheatham County Jail. (Doc. No. 1 at 1, 5.) He alleges that he had been receiving a disability check on account of his mental illness prior to his confinement, and that his treating psychiatric nurse practitioner faxed his treatment records to the jail, establishing his diagnoses of “Bipolar I disorder, Anxiety disorder, severe anxiety panic disorder, PTSD, Hypertensive disorder, and viral Hep[atitis] C.” (Id.) ...

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