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Harris v. Forrester

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

June 4, 2018

JARON HARRIS, Plaintiff,


         Acting pro se, Jaron Harris, an inmate confined to the North East Correctional Complex (“NECX”), has submitted this civil rights complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 1], as well as an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 6] and a motion to appoint counsel [Doc. 2]. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 6] will be GRANTED, his motion to appoint counsel [Doc. 2] will be DENIED, and service shall issue.


         On January 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging constitutional violations against Sgt. Forrester, Corporal Dollar, C/O Murwin, J. McCracken, Mrs. Dixon, M. Moody, and Randy Lee [Doc. 1]. Thereafter, this Court entered a Notice of Deficiency advising Plaintiff to “either pay the required filing fee or submit an application to proceed in forma pauperis” [Doc. 3 p. 1]. On February 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed a notarized certificate of his prisoner trust fund account statement and a print out of transactions from the previous six-month period showing that he has the sum of $49.00 to his credit [Doc. 4 p. 1]. On March 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 6]. Based on the financial data provided, it appears that Plaintiff lacks the sufficient financial resources to pay the filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 6] is GRANTED. However, because Plaintiff is a prisoner, he is ASSESSED the filing fee of three hundred and fifty dollars ($350). McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). The custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides shall submit, as an initial partial payment, whichever is the greater of: (a) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's inmate trust account; or (b) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in his inmate trust account for the six-month period preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A) and (B). Thereafter, the trust account custodian shall submit twenty percent (20%) of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to his trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income exceeds $10.00, until the full filing fee of $350 has been paid to the Clerk's Office. McGore, 114 F.3d at 607.

         Payments should be sent to: Clerk, USDC; 800 Market Street, Suite 130, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902. To ensure compliance with the fee-collection procedure, the Clerk is DIRECTED to mail a copy of this Order to the custodian of inmate accounts at the institution where Plaintiff is now confined. The Clerk is also DIRECTED to furnish a copy of this Order to the Court's financial deputy. This order shall be placed in Plaintiff's prison file and follow him if he is transferred to another correctional institution.


         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), district courts must screen prisoner complaints and sua sponte dismiss those that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999).

         In screening this complaint, the Court bears in mind that pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases must be liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Still, the pleading must be sufficient “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), which simply means that the factual content pled by a plaintiff must permit a court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         The “facial plausibility” standard does not require “detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The standard articulated in Twombly and Iqbal “governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A] 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).


         On August 31, 2017, Sgt. Forrester, Cpl. Dollar, and C/O Murwin (Collectively “Defendants”) entered Plaintiff's cell with the purpose of executing a search of Plaintiff's cell and person [Doc. 1 p. 6]. During the course of their search, Plaintiff described the language used by Defendants as “verbally abusive, sick, foul, gross, degrading, disrespectful, demeaning, belittling, sexually threatening, intimidating, and derogatory” [Id.]. Cpl. Dollar instructed Plaintiff to remove his clothing, stating “you know the position, spread and show me your [explicative]hole” [Id.]. Plaintiff complied [Id.]. Next, Cpl. Dollar instructed Plaintiff to “turn around slowly and repeat it again” [Id.]. At that time, Plaintiff claims that he felt “intimidated by the unprofessional and sexually aggressive remarks” made by Defendants, so he placed both of his hands in the air and told Defendants that he refused any further search [Id.]. Plaintiff cites a T.D.O.C. policy stating that when an inmate refuses a search he is to be “placed in a dry cell” [Id.]. In accordance with this policy, Plaintiff requested to be placed in a dry cell [Id.]. Ignoring his request, Sgt. Forrester instructed Cpl. Dollar and C/O Murwin to “forcefully restrain” Plaintiff face down on the bed and “to rip off his boxer briefs” [Id. at 7]. Plaintiff asserts that he “felt a [sic] object penetrate [his] anal cavity” and heard Sgt. Forrester say “scream all you want, we gave you a chance to do things the easy way, but you wanted it the hard way” [Id.].

         Plaintiff attempted to report the incident to the Prison Rape Elimination Act Center (“PREA”) [Id.]. However, by direct order from Counselor M. Moody, C/O Parks denied Plaintiff's request to use the phone to call PREA [Id.]. Later that afternoon, Plaintiff was escorted by two officers to the medical center but instead of being examined by a doctor, Sgt. McCrackens and Mrs. Dixon informed Plaintiff that they “would be acting on behalf of PREA” because PREA “refused to be a part of this issue” [Id.]. Plaintiff requested to be seen by a medical examiner and a representative of PREA, but his request was denied.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         In order to succeed on a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Svcs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009); Haywood v. Drown, 556 U.S. 729, 731 (2009); see also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (stating that “Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”).

         At the screening stage, given the factual allegations offered in this pro se prisoner's pleading and the indulgence with which they must be viewed, Haines, 404 U.S. at 520-21, the Court finds that Plaintiff has stated arguable claims against Defendant Sgt. Forrester, Cpl. Dollar, C/O Murwin, J. ...

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