United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
KEITH LEMONT FARMER, No. 401959, Plaintiff,
RON MUNKEBOE, et al., Defendants.
A. Trauger United States District Judge.
an inmate of the Northwest Correctional Complex in
Tiptonville, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma
pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Ron
Munkeboe, Kara L. Everett, Leon Ruben, Carolyn Piphus, Harold
Dean Haney, Assistant District Attorney, Judge Monte D.
Watkins, and Bill Haslam, alleging violations of his civil
rights and state law. (Docket No. 1).
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.
PLRA Screening Standard
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the court must dismiss any
portion of a civil complaint filed in forma pauperis
that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,
is frivolous, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief. Section 1915A similarly requires
initial review of any “complaint in a civil action in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity, ”
id. § 1915A(a), and summary dismissal of the
complaint on the same grounds as those articulated in §
1915(e)(2)(B). Id. § 1915A(b).
Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard
articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), “governs
dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes
because the relevant statutory language tracks the language
in Rule 12(b)(6).” Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d
468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Thus, to survive scrutiny on
initial review, “a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). “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.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[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, 561F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009)
(citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th
Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).
pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent
standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Jourdan v.
Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991), the courts'
“duty to be ‘less stringent' with pro
se complaints does not require us to conjure up
[unpleaded] allegations.” McDonald v. Hall,
610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation omitted).
Section 1983 Standard
filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(Docket No. 1 at 1). Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a
cause of action against any person who, acting under color of
state law, abridges “rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws . . . .” To state
a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege and show
two elements: (1) that he was deprived of a right 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. Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590
(6th Cir. 2003); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
to the filing of his complaint, the plaintiff filed numerous
motions. The court will address each motion in turn before
completing the required screening pursuant to the PLRA.
Motions to amend the complaint
the plaintiff filed a Declaration (Docket No. 5) in which he
asks the court to amend his complaint to allege a First
Amendment denial of access to the courts claim against
Corporal f/n/u Bentley, corrections officer f/n/u Tinsley,
and Warden LeBoore. The plaintiff alleges that these
defendants are not the delivering to the plaintiff mail sent
to him from this court and the Eastern District of Tennessee.
(Id. at 3).
15(a) (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that
leave to amend should be freely given “when justice so
requires.” In deciding whether to grant a motion to
amend, courts should consider undue delay in filing, lack of
notice to the opposing party, bad faith by the moving party,
repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments,
undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of
amendment. Brumbalough v. Camelot Care Ctrs., Inc.,
427 F.3d 996, 1001 (6th Cir. 2005).
plaintiff filed the motion to amend shortly after the filing
of his complaint. There appears to be no undue prejudice to
the opposing party by permitting the plaintiff to amend his
complaint at this time; the defendants have not been served.
With regard to the consideration of futility of an amendment,
the law is well settled that a prisoner has a First Amendment
right of access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430
U.S. 817, 821-823 (1977). The right of access to the courts
requires prison officials to ensure that inmates have access
to the courts that is “adequate, effective and
meaningful.” Id. at 822. To ensure the
meaningful exercise of this right, prison officials are under
an affirmative obligation to provide inmates with access to
an adequate law library, Walker v. Mintzes, 771 F.2d
920, 931 (6th Cir. 1985), or some alternative form
of legal assistance, Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S.
396, 419 (1974)(overruled on other grounds by Thornburgh
v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401 (1989)). Meaningful access
varies with the circumstances, and prison officials are
accorded discretion in determining how that right is to be
administered. Bounds, 430 U.S. at 830-31. However,
it is not enough for a plaintiff simply to claim that he was
denied access to the courts, or that he did not have access
to an adequate law library or to some alternate form of legal
assistance. To state a claim on which relief may be granted,
a plaintiff must show that a defendant's conduct in some
way prejudiced the filing or prosecution of a legal matter.
Walker, 771 F.2d at 932; Kensu v. Haigh, 87
F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1996).
the plaintiff alleges that three individuals are not
delivering mail from two federal district courts. However,
the plaintiff has not alleged that he has been prejudiced in
filing this instant lawsuit or has suffered any litigation
related detriment to either this case or another case. In
fact case, the plaintiff submitted a 159 page complaint and
multiple motions in this case alone. While he claims that he
has not been able to respond to orders from the court, he has
not pointed to anything specific to demonstrate that he
incurred a legal detriment to this lawsuit or another action.
Because the plaintiff has not shown that he sustained an
actual injury in his efforts to litigate, if the court
allowed the plaintiff to amend his complaint to allege denial
of access to courts claims, the claims would be subject to
dismissal under the PLRA for failure to state claims upon
which relief can be granted. Therefore, the court finds that
the plaintiff should not be permitted to amend his complaint
to assert these new claims.
the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended
complaint on November 3, 2017. (Docket No. 7). In his motion,
the plaintiff seeks to clarify the capacity in which he sues
the defendants named in the original complaint. The court
finds that the proposed amendments to the complaint are
appropriate under Rule 15(a), and the plaintiff will be
permitted to amend his complaint to assert that all named
defendants are sued in their individual capacities only.
plaintiff later filed another motion to amend his complaint.
(Docket No. 15). In the motion, the plaintiff requests to be
released from custody. (Id. at 1). He asks the court
to mail him a blank form for filing a petition for writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The
court will grant the motion because it informs the court as
to the plaintiff's intent in filing the instant action,
and the Clerk will mail the plaintiff the requested form.
March 8, 2018, the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file
an amended complaint “adding a party of proof.”
(Docket No. 20). The plaintiff wants the court to subpoena a
witness, Mrs. Erin Coleman, who the plaintiff contends has
information relevant to his claim that his arrest warrant was
not signed or was falsified in some way. (Id. at 1).
These claims fall under the Heck bar discussed
herein at pages 14 and 15 and therefore are not appropriately
brought in a § 1983 complaint. Consequently, an
amendment to add Mrs. Fowler's information to the
complaint would be futile as the claims which her testimony
would support are subject to dismissal. The plaintiff's
request for leave to file an amended complaint, therefore,
will be denied.
“Motion Jury to be Pick after Defendants and Plaintiff
plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to administer
polygraph tests to the plaintiff and all defendants prior to
jury selection. (Docket No. 8). The plaintiff's request
regarding jury selection is premature as his claims have not
yet been screened pursuant to the PLRA. Consequently, the
plaintiff's motion will be denied.
Motion for the appointment of counsel
plaintiff filed a motion requesting the appointment of
counsel. (Docket No. 14). He states that he is unable to
afford an attorney, his imprisonment limits his ability to
litigate effectively, and a trial in this case will involve
conflicting testimony ...