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Walker v. Garner

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

May 22, 2019

KELLY WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
JESSICA GARNER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Kelly Walker, an inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, Tennessee, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Jessica Garner and Johnathan Topper. (Doc. No. 1.) He also filed an application to proceed in this Court without prepaying fees and costs. (Doc. No. 2.) The complaint is before the Court for an initial screening, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”).

         I. Application to Proceed as a Pauper

         Because Plaintiff has now paid the filing fee (Doc. No. 7), his application to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. No. 2) will be denied as moot.

         II. Initial Review

         Under the PLRA, the Court must screen and dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). The Court must also construe a pro se complaint liberally, United States v. Smotherman, 838 F.3d 736, 739 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), and accept the factual allegations as true unless they are entirely without credibility. Thomas v. Eby, 481 F.3d 434, 437 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992)).

         A. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that he had a disciplinary hearing set for October 10, 2018, and that his designated “inmate advisor” was fellow inmate Herman Phillips. (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6.) The day before the scheduled hearing, Phillips informed Plaintiff that the hearing was rescheduled for October 11. (Id.) Plaintiff reported to the Disciplinary Board for his hearing at 7:30 A.M. on October 11. (Id.) At that point, an unnamed inmate advisor told Plaintiff that his hearing was, in fact, held on October 10. (Id.) Plaintiff presented his “pass” to the inmate advisor, who took the pass to Defendant Garner, a sergeant and disciplinary chairman at Trousdale Turner. (Id.) The inmate advisor then relayed to Plaintiff Garner's statement that she “found [Plaintiff] guilty already, ” and that Plaintiff would “need to raise that on appeal.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Garner had an inmate advisor named Perry Kirkman present on October 10 “to move farther with [Plaintiff's] disciplinary hearing” without Plaintiff present. (Id.) Kirkman did not “complete[] the investigation of [Plaintiff's] allegations or claims, ” nor did he “prepare for [Plaintiff's] defense.” (Id. at 5-6.) According to Plaintiff, his “Class A” disciplinary charge should have been dismissed because another inmate named “Dean Shawn” accepted responsibility for it. (Id. at 6.) But because Plaintiff was not present at the hearing, he could not present this defense. (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that his October 10 hearing took place without a 24-hour notice. (Id.)

         Defendant Johnathan Topper is a Captain at Trousdale Turner. (Id.) At the October 10 hearing, Plaintiff alleges, Defendant Garner allowed Topper “to testify as the employee when in actuality he did not witness anything.” (Id.) The disciplinary conviction “had an outcome [on Plaintiff's] parole hearing, ” resulted in “a higher custody level” placement for eighteen months, and led to Plaintiff being restricted from seeing his family for three months. (Id.)

         Plaintiff requests the expungement of his disciplinary conviction, another disciplinary hearing, and another parole hearing. (Id. at 7.)

         B. Standard of Review

         To determine whether a prisoner's complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted” under the PLRA, the Court applies the same standard as under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court therefore accepts “all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, [and] ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009)). An assumption of truth does not, however, extend to allegations that consist of legal conclusions or “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         C. ...


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