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Pointer v. Scott

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

May 30, 2018


          Trauger Judge.



         I. Introduction and Background

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Docket No. 18. Along with their Motion, Defendants have contemporaneously filed a supporting Memorandum of Law. Docket No. 19.

         Plaintiff has filed a Response. Docket No. 24. Plaintiff has additionally filed the “Affidavit of Darcell Sykes” with attached letter. Docket Nos. 28, 29.

         Defendants have filed a Reply. Docket No. 30.

         Plaintiff filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging that Defendants violated his rights when they terminated him, and other African-American inmates, from their particular Jail work detail and replaced them with Caucasian inmates. Docket Nos. 1, 6. Plaintiff avers that he was terminated for reportedly “complaining of not being able to go to work.” Id. Plaintiff essentially argues that this was pretext; he contends that his termination (along with the termination of other African-American inmates) “appears to be racially motivated”; and he contends that Defendant Joe Scott and his staff have developed a racially biased environment. Id. Plaintiff also asserts that he heard Defendants refer to African-Americans as “colored, ” and heard statements such as “Y'all are not at the back of the bus anymore.” Id. Plaintiff further avers that Defendants Richard Grissom and Bernard Salandy were aware of the racial discrimination and had the ability to report and investigate the terminations but failed to do so, and that Defendant Chris Fly was aware of the terminations but did nothing about them. Id. Plaintiff argues that the “terminations affect [sic] the sentencing and behavior credits of inmate workers.” Id. Plaintiff additionally argues that, because of his termination, he was removed from the inmate work unit and placed in general population. Id.

         As for his constitutional allegations in particular, Plaintiff maintains:

There are no written policies or rules in the inmate handbook that addresses the behavior of officers or staff with racial discrimination that inmates are entitled to file a Title VI complaint, but the affects of filing a Title VI complaint comes with consequences as from an African-American inmate from July 11, 2017. Defendant Lt. Richard Grissom becomes personally involved by having knowledge of such behavior and did nothing to fix it. This is a violation of Plaintiff's 1st Amendment rights, that he was unable to express himself concerning issues in fear of lost job, lost program and behavior credits. Defendants, Lt. Richard Grissom, and Sgt. Joe Scott violated his 14th Amendment violation of Due Process and Equal Protection that he was not given a disciplinary hearing if it regarded the revolves of terminating Plaintiff as a maintenance helper. Defendants making racial comments, slurs, discrimination, racial bias is an act of officials abusing their authority act under “color of law.”

Docket No. 6, p. 6.

         Plaintiff sues Maintenance Supervisor Joe Scott, Job Coordinator Richard Grissom, Chief of Security Chris Fly, and Jail Administrator Bernard Salandy (all employees of the Rutherford County Jail) in their official capacities, seeking that Defendants “be held in contempt for racial discrimination”; that the Justice Department investigate the Rutherford County Jail “for racial discrimination and racial bias amongst offender population”; that Defendants be ordered to “show cause for their actions and reports of their investigation”; and “$75.00 a day of each lost sentence credit.” Docket No. 1. Plaintiff further seeks removal of Defendants from their “positions of authority, ” and an order requiring Defendants to “attend any classes or programs relating to discrimination, race, and bias.” Docket No. 6.

         Defendants filed the instant Motion and supporting Memorandum arguing that this action should be dismissed because: (1) there is no constitutional right to a particular job at a Jail under federal or state law and therefore no constitutional right of Plaintiff's that could have been violated; (2) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; (3) to the extent that the Complaint is construed as one against the government instead of the individual Defendants, Plaintiff cannot receive monetary damages; and (4) in addition to there being no constitutional right to any particular job in Jail, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to give rise to a First Amendment or Equal Protection claim. Docket Nos. 18, 19.

         Plaintiff filed his Response arguing that his claim is about racial discrimination and racial bias, not about having a constitutional right to a particular job. Docket No. 24. Plaintiff maintains that Defendants are in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because they “cannot make a distinction that (1) burden a fundamental right; (2) target a suspect class; (3) intentionally treat one individual differently from others similarly without any rational basis.” Id. (citation omitted). Plaintiff clarifies, “So job assignment is not in question, but how officials use race as a basis in determining institutional jobs, and only African-Americans were targeted, and such race determination and bias is a abuse of their authority under color of law.” Id. Plaintiff notes that he is a TDOC inmate who is housed in the Jail and that he is subject to TDOC policies, one of which states that inmates shall be assigned to work, educational, and/or vocational training programs when positions in those programs are available. Id.

         Plaintiff additionally responds: “The Equal Protection Clause is simple in it's legal definition. If Defendants use race discrimination and bias as a means to hire and terminate inmates from work assignments, then Equal Protection is infringed, and if such infringed behavior affects all the African-Americans on a work assignment or job, then Defendants are held responsible and violate Plaintiffs rights.” Id. Plaintiff essentially argues that Caucasian inmates are treated differently than African-American inmates and that the termination of African-American inmates from their work detail and replacing them with Caucasian inmates “causes ...

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