United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING LEAVE TO
DANIEL BREEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
6, 2016, the pro se Plaintiff, Willie Ray Woods, who
at the time of filing was incarcerated at the Obion County
Jail in Union City, Tennessee, initiated this action pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Hardeman County,
Tennessee, Sheriff's Office. (Docket Entry
("D.E.") 1.) That same date, he also moved for
leave to proceed in forma pauperis (D.E. 2), which
was granted on May 24, 2016 (D.E. 6). The complaint is now
before the Court for screening.
municipal agency such as a sheriff's office is not a
proper defendant in a § 1983 action. See Matthews v.
Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994) (a county
police department is not an entity that may be sued under
§ 1983); Mathes v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville
& Davidson Cty., No. 3:10-cv-0496, 2010 WL 3341889,
at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010) ("since
Matthews, federal district courts in Tennessee have
frequently and uniformly held that police departments and
sheriff's departments are not proper parties to a §
1983 suit."). A § 1983 claim against a local police
agency is best construed as one against the municipality.
Nouri v. Cty. of Oakland, 615 Fed.Appx. 291, 300
(6th Cir. 2015). Accordingly, the Clerk of Court is
DIRECTED to substitute Hardeman County,
Tennessee, as the Defendant.
avers in his complaint that, while he was an inmate at the
Hardeman County Jail in Bolivar, Tennessee, he “was not
given a pork substitute on [his] meal trays as per [his]
religion” on twenty-nine separate occasions. (D.E. 1 at
PageID 2.) He seeks "legal disciplinary action"
against the Defendant. (Id. at PageID 3.)
are required to screen prisoner complaints and dismiss such
pleadings or any portions thereof that “[are]
frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b);
see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). To assess
whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be
granted, the Court applies the pleading standards under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) announced in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010).
"To survive scrutiny under [§§ 1915(e)(2)(B)
and 1915A(b)], a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Walton v. Gray, 695
Fed.Appx. 144, 145 (6th Cir. 2017) (per curiam) (quoting
Hill, 630 F.3d at 471) (internal quotation marks
omitted). "Pro se complaints are to be held to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed."
Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir.
2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). That said, courts
have not "been willing to abrogate basic pleading
essentials in pro se suits." Wells v.
Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also
Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 Fed.Appx. 506, 510 (6th
Cir. 2011) (“declin[ing] to affirmatively require
courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf
of pro se litigants”).
CLAIMS AND ANALYSIS
1983 provides in pertinent part as follows:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or
the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for
state a claim under the statute, "a plaintiff must set
forth facts that, when construed favorably, establish (1) the
deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of
the United States (2) caused by a person acting under the
color of state law." Doe v. Miami Univ., 882
F.3d 579, 595 (6th Cir. 2018).
municipality or other local government may be liable under
[§ 1983] if the governmental body itself
subjects a person to a deprivation of [constitutional] rights
or causes a person to be subjected to such
deprivation." Richmond v. Huq, 885 F.3d 928,
948 (6th Cir. 2018) (emphasis added) (internal quotation
marks omitted), reh'g en banc denied (May 17,
2018). "A municipality may not be sued under § 1983
for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or
agents." Stanfield v. City of Lima, ___
Fed.Appx. ___, 2018 WL 1341646, at *8 (6th Cir. Mar. 15,
2018) (quoting Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d 462, 478
(6th Cir. 2013)). “A plaintiff raising a municipal
liability claim under § 1983 must demonstrate that the
alleged federal violation occurred because of a municipal
policy or custom.” Bickerstaff v. Lucarelli,
830 F.3d 388, 401-02 (6th Cir. 2016). "This means that
the plaintiff must ...