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Clum v. Puckett

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

June 5, 2018

SUSAN T. CLUM, Plaintiff,
v.
NICOLE PUCKETT, JOSHUA PUCKETT, DONALD CARTER, STATE OF TENNESSEE, BILL HASLAM, Governor, SULLIVAN COUNTY, TENNESSEE, SULLIVAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, SHERIFF WAYNE ANDERSON, DETECTIVE JOHN PORTER, DETECTIVE DOE 1 Porter's partner, DETECTIVE DOE 2 Porter's ‘trainee”, DEPUTY JERET RATLIFF, DEPUTY TRAVIS JACKSON, LT. DAVID MEAD, Internal Affairs, and JOSHUA PARSONS, Prosecutor, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Susan T. Clum (“Plaintiff”) has filed a pro se complaint labeled, “Civil Complaint, Violation of Rights, in Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241, 18 U.S.C. § 242, Constitutional Amendment 4, and any other applicable statute” [Doc. 2]. Plaintiff has also submitted a motion and an application to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1], the latter of which reflects that she lacks sufficient financial resources to pay the $350.00 civil filing fee. Therefore, the application is GRANTED [Id.], and Plaintiff may proceed in this action without prepayment of the filing fee.

         Pro se complaints filed in forma pauperis, such as this one, must be screened under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), before service, and must be dismissed if they are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 608-09 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 203 (2007). After screening this complaint, the Court will DISMISS this action for failure to state a claim and for suing defendants who are immune from money damages and will DENY Plaintiff's pending motion to appoint counsel [Doc. 3] and to serve process on Defendants [Doc. 4]. The Court turns now to Plaintiff's pleading.

         I. THE COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff brings this action against fifteen Defendants, including Nicole Puckett, Joshua Puckett, Donald Carter, the State of Tennessee, Sullivan County, Tennessee, the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Prosecutor Joshua Parsons, Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson, Detective John Porter, Detective Doe 1, Detective Doe 2, Deputy Jeret Ratliff, Deputy Travis Jackson, and Lieutenant David Mead.

         Plaintiff's abstrusely-drafted complaint alleges that Defendants conspired to violate her and her spouse's rights by filing false complaints, “enforcing those false complaints, ” and having her spouse falsely arrested. Plaintiff maintains that Defendants have harassed and threatened her through her cellular telephone and have placed an illegal wiretap on that telephone. Plaintiff further maintains that Defendants Nicole Puckett, Joshua Puckett, and Donald Carter lured Plaintiff's 17-year-old daughter to their home, refused to let her daughter leave, and attempted to extort payment from Plaintiff. Defendant Nicole Puckett allegedly conveyed threats to Plaintiff through her daughter that she (Defendant) would have Plaintiff's spouse arrested, if Plaintiff did not accede to the demand for payment. Plaintiff's daughter witnessed multiple cases of child abuse by Defendants, but she finally was sent home after she threatened to call Child Protective Services on Defendants. Plaintiff's daughter had several bruises on her when she arrived home. Defendants continued to threaten and assault Plaintiff's daughter.

         Defendant Nicole Puckett instructed Defendant Carter to stab Plaintiff's daughter at school, while Plaintiff's daughter was waiting to board the school bus. Plaintiff sought and obtained a restraining order against these two Defendants based on the school bus incident. When the restraining order was served on Defendant Nicole Puckett, she called Plaintiff, threatened Plaintiff and her spouse with bodily harm, and stated that she knew someone at the sheriff's department and could have Plaintiff's spouse arrested for anything for which she (Defendant) wanted to have him arrested. The restraining order hearing occurred on February 6, 2017, but Defendants refused to abide by the conditions set in the restraining order, and they continued to harass and threaten Plaintiff's daughter and to make indirect threats towards Plaintiff and Plaintiff's spouse.

         Two days later, Defendant Detective John Porter called Plaintiff on her cellular telephone and told her that he wanted to talk to Plaintiff's spouse about Defendant Puckett. Another two days passed, and Defendant Porter, his partner, and another detective intimidated, threatened and subjected Plaintiff's daughter to custodial interrogation. These three Defendants then intimidated, threatened, and questioned Plaintiff and her spouse at their home. These officials refused to listen to Plaintiff's explanations about the situation or to take Plaintiff's statement.

         On April 10, 2017, Defendant Porter falsely arrested Plaintiff and charged her with aggravated burglary and three counts of assault. Plaintiff stated that there was an eyewitness and that her spouse had done nothing. Plaintiff further maintains that, though she has a mental disability and relies on her spouse for support and care, her spouse was falsely arrested at some point and wrongfully imprisoned, causing her to suffer severe emotional distress and financial ruin.

         In August of 2017, two events allegedly occurred. Defendant Puckett reported that, on August 19, 2017, Plaintiff's spouse pushed Defendant Puckett's children aside and forced his way into the Puckett home, looking for Plaintiff's daughter and son at school. Plaintiff maintains that because that day fell on Bristol Race weekend, the school was closed, and that because the school was closed, Plaintiff's daughter and spouse were home with Plaintiff that entire day. Plaintiff insists that the only day she was at the Puckett home was August 11, 2017, when she knocked on Defendant Puckett's door, at which point Defendant Puckett and her children invited both she and her spouse to come inside.

         Due to a complaint Plaintiff's daughter filed against Defendant Nicole Puckett and Detective Porter (the filing of the complaint was unbeknownst to Plaintiff), the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Defendant David Meade contacted Plaintiff. Plaintiff took advantage of the opportunity to ask Defendant Meade to investigate the false complaint made against Plaintiff's spouse, but Defendant rejected that request and stated that he would not talk about a burglary case. Plaintiff has heard rumors that Defendant Meade engages in cover-ups to protect wrongdoing, even criminal acts, engaged in by Sullivan County Sheriff's Department employees.

         For these claimed wrongful actions, Plaintiff seeks miscellaneous types of relief. Among them are damages, a Temporary Restraining Order under Rule 65(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a Permanent Restraining Order, pre-judgment attachments of “any and all assets of the Defendant(s)” to prevent them from converting, reassigning, or attempting to hide such assets, and the removal to this Court of a state criminal prosecution against her husband.

         II. SCREENING & REVIEW STANDARDS

         As noted, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), district courts must screen complaints filed in forma pauperis 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 Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014, 1015-16 (6th Cir. 1999); see also Ongori v. Hawkins, No. 16-2781, 2017 WL 6759020, at *1 (6th Cir. Nov. 15, 2017) (observing that “non-prisoners proceeding in forma pauperis are still subject to the screening requirements of § 1915(e)”) (citing In re Prison Litig. Reform Act, 105 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1997) (mem.), and Benson, 179 F.3d at 1016). The dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) “governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)] 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 an initial review under the PLRA, 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).

         Courts liberally construe pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Allegations that give rise to a mere possibility that a plaintiff might later establish undisclosed facts supporting recovery, however, are not well-pled and do not state a plausible claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. Further, formulaic and conclusory recitations of the elements of a claim unsupported by facts are insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. Even so, “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, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [1] “a plaintiff must establish that a person acting under color of state law deprived the plaintiff of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Green v. Throckmorton, 681 F.3d 853, 859-860 (6th Cir. 2012); see also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (“Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere.”). In other words, Plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show: (1) the deprivation of a right, privilege, or immunity secured to her by the United States ...


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