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Stephens v. Crenshaw

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

May 15, 2018

JOHNNY WADE STEPHENS, Plaintiff,
v.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The plaintiff Johnny Wade Stephens, proceeding pro se, has filed a complaint against defendant Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. (ECF No. 1.) Before the court are the plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 6) and a Motion for Orders to be Transcribed and Mailed (ECF No. 8.) In addition, his 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 it appears from his submissions that the plaintiff lacks sufficient financial resources from which to pay the full filing fee in advance, the application (ECF No. 6) will be granted.

         However, under § 1915(b), the plaintiff nonetheless remains 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 plaintiff will be assessed the full $350 filing fee, to be paid as directed in the accompanying order.

         II. Initial Review of the Complaint

         A. Factual Allegations

         In his complaint, the plaintiff alleges that on March 28, 2016, he filed a case against the Franklin County Jail for overcrowding. (ECF No. 1 at Page ID# 7) The case was originally assigned to Judge Sharp, who transferred it to the Eastern District of Tennessee, the proper venue for the case. (Id.; see also Stephens v. Franklin County Jail et al., Case No. 3:16-cv-0682 (M.D. Tenn.) at ECF No. 3.) The plaintiff sent letters to the court seeking information about the status of his case, to which the court responded. (Id.; see also ECF No. 7-8.)[1] On June 1, 2017, the plaintiff filed a Motion to Reopen Case, which was denied by Judge Crenshaw on June 27, 2017. (See Stephens, Case No. 3:16-cv-0682 at ECF Nos. 11-12.)[2] On July 29, 2016, the case file was destroyed. (See id.) The plaintiff complains that he did not receive notice that his case file would be destroyed.

         The plaintiff also complains that Judge Crenshaw denied his Motion to Reopen Case because the plaintiff believes that his Motion to Reopen Case was returned to him as undeliverable.

         As relief, the plaintiff seeks money damages. (ECF No. 1 at Page ID# 7.)

         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 U.S. at 555 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”).

         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); see also Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (recognizing that “[p]ro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).) Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the 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 the plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 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 Fed.Appx. 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 state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because ยง 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under ...


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