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Hillard v. Knox County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

June 14, 2019




         Pro se Plaintiff, Christopher B. Hillard, brought this action on April 13, 2018, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is now before the Court for screening of the complaint pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). For the reasons set forth below, this action will be DISMISSED based on Plaintiff's failure to state a claim up on which relief may be granted.


         Under the PLRA, district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, dismiss sua sponte 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); Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard articulated by the United States 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 state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) 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). 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).

         In order to state 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. Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (stating that “Section 1983 . . . creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”).


         In his complaint, Plaintiff complains that his arrest and charges were made public and have tarnished his reputation in the community [Doc. 1 p. 4]. He asserts that “[t]he government should be responsible for clearing our names as it is to ruining our names” [Id.]. He believes that “[p]eople's charges should not be made public until they are found guilty” and by publicizing his charges, Defendants have violated his due process [Id.].

         Plaintiff further complains about the conditions of Knox County Jail [Id. at 5]. He complains that for two-and-a-half days he was without a bed or change of clothes and unable to take a shower [Id.]. After booking, Plaintiff complains that he was placed in a one-man cell for four days with another inmate and forced to eat his meals in the small cell near the toilet [Id.].

         Next, Plaintiff complains that Knox County Jail has no law library, no face-to-face visitation with family, and houses all classification of inmates together [Id.]. Knox County Jail also charges inmates tax on commissary items, to make phone calls, and to transfer money into their trust fund accounts [Id.]. Plaintiff asserts that Knox County jail limits inmates recreation time to either four hours or one hour per day [Id.].


         First, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants published information concerning his arrest via the internet that has violated his Constitutional right for due process [Doc. 1 p. 4]. Plaintiff contends that the publication of his arrest information suggests he is guilty when he has not yet been found guilty of any crime.

         To the extent Plaintiff intends to assert a procedural due process claim, it is subject to dismissal. To state a claim for denial of procedural due process, Plaintiff must plead and prove either that he was deprived of liberty or property as a result of an established state procedure that itself violates due process rights; or that the defendants deprived him of liberty or property pursuant to a random and unauthorized act and available state remedies would not be adequate to redress the deprivation. Macene v. MJW, Inc., 951 F.2d 700, 706 (6th Cir. 1991); see Vicory v. Walton, 721 F.2d 1062, 1064 (6th Cir. 1983). Under this standard, Plaintiff must first establish that he was deprived of a protected liberty or property interest. Macene, 951 F.2d at 706. The Supreme Court has recognized a limited liberty interest “where a person's good name, reputation, honor, or integrity is at stake because of what the government is doing to him.” Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 573 (1972). See also Med. Corp., Inc. v. City of Lima, 296 F.3d 404, 413-14 (6th Cir. 2002). Injury to reputation alone, however, is not sufficient to create a constitutionally protected liberty interest. Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 701 (1976). Here, although Plaintiff alleges he was stigmatized by the dissemination of his arrest information, he failed to show that any Defendant also deprived him of a state created right or interest.

         Plaintiff's substantive due process claim is also subject to dismissal. Due process claims of this nature involve official acts which cause a deprivation of a substantive fundamental right, or are so egregious that they “shock the conscience.” Mertik v. Blalock, 983 F.2d 1353, 1367 (6th Cir. 1993). The conduct asserted must be “so severe, so disproportionate to the need presented, and such an abuse of authority as to transcend the bounds of ordinary tort law and establish a deprivation of constitutional rights.” Id.

         The Sixth Circuit has found an individual has no constitutional right to privacy in the criminal record pertaining to him. See Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 440 (6th Cir. 2008) (finding Court Clerk's publication of arrest records including social security numbers and birth dates did not implicate a constitutional right of privacy, even when plaintiff became the victim of identity theft as a result of the publication). Here, Plaintiff has not alleged facts to suggest the government's publication of his arrest violated a fundamental right protected by the Constitution. There is no general fundamental right of informational privacy, and ...

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