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Thigpen v. Kane

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

May 25, 2018

JERRY ALAN THIGPEN, Plaintiff,
v.
15th JUDICIAL DISTRICT CRIMINAL COURT JUDGE BRODY NEILL KANE et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending is a motion for an ex parte temporary restraining (“TRO motion”) (Doc. No. 2) filed by Jerry Alan Thigpen against the following defendants: Tennessee Criminal Court Judge Brody Neill Kane, 15th Judicial District; Tennessee Circuit Court Judge John Wootten, Jr., 15th Judicial District; Tennessee District Public Defender Comer Donnell; Assistant Public Defenders Kelly Allan Skeen and John Archer Gholson IV; Court Reporter Gwen Cripps; Trousdale County Court Clerk Kimberly Dawn Taylor; Wilson County Court Clerk Debbie Moss; Tennessee District Attorney General Tom Price Thompson, Jr.; and Assistant District Attorneys General Jack Adrian Bare and Ian Daniel Bratton.

         Because Thigpen proceeds in forma pauperis, his complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Court finds, as set forth herein, that the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted. This action will be dismissed with prejudice, and the TRO motion will be denied as moot.

         I. Legal Standard

         The Court is required to conduct an initial review of any in forma pauperis complaint and to dismiss it if it 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).

         In conducting this review, “a district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) 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)). A pro se pleading 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) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         II. Factual Allegations

         As best the Court can ascertain from Thigpen's pleading, he is the defendant in ongoing criminal proceedings in the Tennessee's 15th Judicial District. In preparation for an appeal, Thigpen seeks to obtain the audio recordings of various criminal court hearings. He insists that the written transcripts have been falsified and are not true and correct representations of the hearings. He maintains that, under Tennessee law, any audio recordings that were prepared are public records and are subject to production in response to an open-records request.

         He further insists that, “[d]espite 4 court appearances since February 6, 2018, before Judge Kane in order to simply obtain transcripts and request PDF copies and audio recordings of the proceedings, [he] remains without transcripts necessary to advance an Appeal.” (Id. at 9.) His requests for copies of the audio recordings were denied by the court reporter, because the audio recordings constitute work product and are her own personal property. The Clerk of Court informed him that, by verbal order from Judge Kane, release of audio recordings is prohibited. Judge Kane has also announced in open court that “nobody gets audio from proceedings in my court.” (Id. at 12.) Thigpen's defense attorneys have refused his request to assist him in obtaining audio recordings, “implying they do not believe the transcripts are falsely made and that the Petitioner is not entitled to the audio records.” (Id. at 12.)

         Thigpen also complains that Judge Kane is “refusing electronic copies of transcripts, asserting paper only, to hinder the Petitioner in being able to readily scan and easily highlight and notate errors.” (id. at 12.)

         He specifically requests the following relief:

(1) that Judge Kane be temporarily restrained from arbitrarily and abusively denying anyone access to public record audio recordings of criminal proceedings before him and that he be ordered to issue a directive to his court reporter and the Clerk of Court, requiring them to produce such records upon request;
(2) that Judge Kane be restrained from denying any person having the right to a transcript the option of obtaining it in electronic instead of paper format, and that he be ordered to issue a directive to his court reporter and the Clerk of Court, requiring them to produce such records in electronic format upon request;
(3) that audio recordings be produced immediately for all hearings conducted in the matter of State v. ...

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