United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
STEPHEN D. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
ESCO JARNIGAN, Sheriff, Defendant.
A. VARLAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
February 11, 2019, Stephen D. Anderson, a prisoner at the
Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, filed a Complaint under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 2], a motion for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis [Doc. 1], and a “Motion to
Seal Case” [Doc. 3]. On March 15, 2019, the Court
granted Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis [Doc. 5]. The Motion to Seal remains
pending, and the Complaint has not yet been screened pursuant
to the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”). See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A). For the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiff's Complaint will be DISMISSED
pursuant to the PLRA for failure to state a claim [Doc. 2],
and his Motion to Seal will be DENIED [Doc.
complaint is a twelve-page narrative that mentions: (1) the
failure of prison and court officials to provide him with a
copy of the arrest warrant for his October 2018 arrest for
violating parole; (2) issues with the arrest warrant used in
connection with his April 26, 2016 arrest for violating
parole; (3) his belief that his legal mail may have been
thrown away because he has not received copies that he
requested from the federal courts; (4) various complaints
regarding corrections officers at the Hamblen County Jail,
including accusations that they are understaffed,
“slow” in doing their jobs correctly, and
either ignore or support gang and drug activity within the
facility; (5) hearsay statements about inmates at the Hamblen
County Jail who have died or been hospitalized, and concerns
about the number of inmates in the facility with assault
convictions and gang-related fights or assaults; (6)
generalized complaints about conditions of confinement at the
Hamblen County Jail including overcrowding, lack of
recreation and outdoor time, failure to discuss fire safety
with inmates, and problems with “healthcare, food, and
time kept”; and (7) complaints regarding the length of
time inmates remain incarcerated without going to trial or
sentencing and the role and quality of representation
provided by public defenders [Id. at 3-11].
Plaintiff concedes that he was not assaulted by or in any way
involved with the gangs and that he has not made any attempt
to utilize the prison grievance system [Id. at 2].
As for relief, Plaintiff requests (1) that a United States
Marshal “get arrested in Hamblen County” to go
undercover in the Hamblen County Jail to confirm his various
allegations, (2) a federal court Order that the United States
Marshal's Office “take over” Hamblen County
to “fix the court system and jail, ” (3) the
arrest of Jarnigan and “any others br[e]aking the law,
” and (4) that any money be given to the Boys and Girls
Club [Id. at 12].
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”),
district courts must screen prisoner complaints and sua
sponte dismiss any claims that are frivolous or
malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a
defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A); Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 213 (2007); Benson v.
O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). Courts must
liberally construe pro se pleadings filed in civil rights
cases and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. See, e.g., Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); but see Leeds
v. City of Muldraugh, 174 Fed.Appx. 251, 255 (6th Cir.
2006) (noting that, despite the leniency afforded to pro
se plaintiffs, the Court is “not require[d] to
either guess the nature of or create a litigant's
dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554 (2007),
“governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under
[28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A] because the
relevant statutory language tracks the language in [Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(6).” Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). When
reviewing a complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule
12(b)(6), the Court must take all of the factual allegations
in the complaint as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678;
see Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 252 (6th Cir.
2010) (“A motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim [under Rule 12(b)(6)] is a test of the plaintiff's
cause of action as stated in the complaint, not a challenge
to the plaintiff's factual allegations.”). While
“detailed factual allegations” are not required,
a complaint must contain “more than an unadorned,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Therefore, to survive
dismissal for failure to state a claim, plaintiff's
“factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all
the allegations in the complaint are true.”
Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of
Cleveland, Ohio, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007)
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
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”).
Complaint names only one Defendant - Sheriff Esco Jarnigan -
but it fails to specify whether he seeks to sue Jarnigan in
his official capacity, his individual capacity, or both.
Plaintiff's Complaint has failed to set for any factual
allegations against Sheriff Jarnigan individually. Because
Plaintiff has not pled any facts regarding Jarnigan's
actions or inactions that give rise to a plausible §
1983 claim, any claims against Jarnigan in his individual
capacity must be DISMISSED pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A) for failure to
state a claim.
Court must then turn to any purported official-capacity
claims. It is well established that “[a] suit against
an individual in his official capacity is the equivalent of a
suit against the governmental entity.” Matthews v.
Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994); see also
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985)
(“[A]n official capacity suit is, in all respects other
than name, to be treated as a suit against the
entity.”). Thus, Plaintiff's claims against
Jarnigan in his official capacity is the equivalent to claims
against the municipality itself-in this case, Hamblen County.
order to succeed on a § 1983 claim premised on municipal
liability, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) his harm was
caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) the
municipality itself was responsible for that violation,
generally because of a policy, custom, pattern, or practice
of the municipal defendant that caused the Plaintiff's
constitutional injury. See, e.g., Spears v.
Ruth, 589 F.3d 249, 256 (6th Cir. 2009); Pembaur v.
City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479 (1986); see
also Okolo v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville, 892
F.Supp.2d 931, 941 (M.D. Tenn. 2012); Monell v. New York
City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)
(“[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because
it employs a tortfeasor-or, in other words, a municipality
cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat
Court notes that Plaintiff has generally failed to specify
any constitutional bases for his § 1983 claims, and the
Court is not required to speculate as to the nature of
Plaintiff's claims. The Court has nonetheless afforded
the pleadings a liberal construction and concludes that
Plaintiff's factual allegations are insufficient to state
any viable claim for relief pursuant to § 1983. First,
any issues with respect to the warrants for Plaintiff's
arrest or other issues that may relate to or undermine the
legitimacy of his convictions may not be litigated in a
§ 1983 action unless that conviction has been
invalidated. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87
(1994) (footnotes omitted); see also Wilkinson v.
Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) (holding that
Heck bars § 1983 claims that could invalidate a
prisoner's conviction or sentence regardless of whether
damages or equitable relief are sought). Next, to the extent
that Plaintiff makes various generalized claims regarding
injustices or harms that he has seen or heard about, he has
failed to allege that he himself has been deprived of any
federal right or suffered any personal harm, and as such, has
failed to state a plausible claim for relief pursuant to
§ 1983. And with respect to Plaintiff's generalized
allegations, regarding prison officials not fulfilling their
duties and the conditions of confinement such as the efficacy
of the legal mail system, medical care, food, and safety, the
facts he states are too vague and conclusory to raise a
plausible claim for relief.
only claim that the Court can clearly discern from the
complaint is that the overcrowding at Hamblen County Jail
constitutes cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to the
Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. However,
“overcrowding is not, in itself, a constitutional
violation.” Agramonte v. Shartle, 491
Fed.Appx. 557, 560 (6th Cir. 2012). Rather, to state an
Eighth Amendment claim premised on overcrowding, a prisoner
must allege “extreme deprivations” resulting
therefrom. Id. (quoting Hudson v. Millian,
503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992)). And even liberally construing
Plaintiff's Complaint, he has failed to set forth any
facts from which the Court could plausibly infer that the
alleged overcrowding at Hamblen County Jail resulted in an
“extreme deprivation.” Accordingly,
Plaintiff's overcrowding claim also fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983.
has not pled facts sufficient to allege a viable claim for a
constitutional violation, but even assuming that Plaintiff
could establish that he suffered a constitutional violation,
the Plaintiff's Complaint does not contain any
allegations regarding any policies, customs, patterns, or
practices of Hamblen County that caused Plaintiff any harms.
As such, he has failed to set forth a valid claim for
municipal liability against Hamblen County, thus all of his
official-capacity claims against Jarnigan must be
the Court notes Plaintiff is not currently residing at
Hamblen County Jail; rather, he is presently housed at
Bledsoe County Correctional Complex. An inmate's request
for injunctive relief against corrections officials based on
their allegedly unconstitutional actions or inactions while
the inmate was housed at a certain facility are rendered moot
when he is no longer incarcerated at that facility. See,
e.g., Henderson v. Martin, 73 Fed.Appx. 115,
117 (6th Cir. 2003); Moore v. Curtis, 68 Fed.Appx.
561, 562 (6th pCir. 2003); Gawloski v.
Dallman, 803 F.Supp. 103, 108 (S.D. Ohio 1992). Because
Plaintiff has sought only ...