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Govea v. State

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

July 16, 2019

TONY ARMANDO GOVEA, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Tony Armando Govea, a pre-trial detainee in the custody of the Montgomery County Jail in Clarksville, Tennessee, filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Tennessee and the District Attorney's Office. (Doc. No. 1). He also has filed a “Motion for Dismissal of All Charges.” (Doc. No. 5).

         The complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.

         I. PLRA Screening Standard

         Under the PLRA, the Court must conduct an initial review of any civil complaint brought by a prisoner if it is filed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), seeks relief from government entities or officials, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, or challenges the prisoner's conditions of confinement. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Upon conducting this review, the Court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion thereof, that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, is frivolous, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), “governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes 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 scrutiny on initial review, “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). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         In reviewing the complaint to determine whether it states a plausible claim, “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, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir.2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir.2009) (citations omitted)). A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         II. Section 1983 Standard

         Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, abridges “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws . . . .” To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege and show two elements: (1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law. Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Sigley v. City of Panama Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533 (6th Cir. 2006)); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         III. Alleged Facts

         The complaint alleges that Plaintiff is a pre-trial detainee in the custody of the Montgomery County Jail. According to the complaint, Plaintiff was denied bail in state court “with no reason, ” there has been an unreasonable time delay “in indictment, ” and he has been denied the appointment of counsel. (Doc. No. 1 at 4). The complaint also alleges that he is being housed with convicted felons and this arrangement violates his constitutional rights because he has not been convicted of any crimes. As relief, he seeks personal recognizance bail and dismissal of the charges against him.

         IV. Analysis

         The complaint names only two Defendants: the State of Tennessee and the District Attorney's Office in Clarksville, Tennessee. (Doc. No. 1 at 2). However, with respect to Plaintiff's claims against the State of Tennessee, the complaint lists the “Job or Title” of this Defendant as “Montgomery County Jail/Circuit Court.” (Id.). Construing the pro se complaint liberally, the Court understands the complaint to assert claims against the State of Tennessee, the Montgomery County Jail, the Circuit Court in Clarksville, Tennessee, and the District Attorney's Office in Clarksville, Tennessee.

         The Court will first consider the allegations of the complaint pertaining to the state court criminal charges pending against Plaintiff. According to the complaint, Plaintiff has been denied bail in state court for no reason, the indictment process is taking too long, and no attorney has been appointed for him. (Doc. No. 1 at 4). Through this federal civil rights action, he seeks his release from the Montgomery County Jail and the dismissal of the state charges against him. (Id. at 5). However, the law is well established that “habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement . . . even though such a claim may come within the literal terms of § 1983.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 488-90 (1973)) (emphasis added). A Section 1983 claim challenging confinement must be dismissed even where a plaintiff seeks only injunctive or monetary relief. Heck, 512 U.S. at 489-90 (claim for damages is not cognizable); Preiser, 411 U.S. at 488-90 (claim for injunctive relief is only cognizable under 28 U.S.C. § 2254).

         Additionally, a state prisoner does not state a cognizable claim under Section 1983 where a ruling on his claim would imply the invalidity of his conviction and/or confinement, unless and until the conviction has been favorably terminated, i.e., reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87; Ruff v. Runyon, 258 F.3d 498, 502 (6th Cir. 2001). The United States Supreme Court extended Heck to bar Section 1983 actions that ...


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