United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
pro se prisoner's complaint for violation of civil rights
filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is now before the
Court for screening of the complaint pursuant to the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”).
the 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 1915A; Benson v.
O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). The
dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and in
Bell Atl. 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).
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). Allegations that give rise to a mere
possibility that a plaintiff might later establish
undisclosed facts supporting recovery are not well-pled and
do not state a plausible claim, however. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555, 570. Further, formulaic and conclusory
recitations of the elements of a claim which are not
supported by specific facts are insufficient to state a
plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 681 (2009).
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 does not itself create any
constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the
vindication of constitutional guarantees found
ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT
his arrival at the Anderson County Jail, Sgt. Smith placed
Plaintiff in Unit 2 workers' pod and asked him to inform
officers of inmates brought drugs into the jail from work
[Doc. 2 p. 4]. Plaintiff agreed to this arrangement, and
approximately one month later, Deputy Brisk got on the
jail's intercom and asked, “Mr. Jones, who are you
sni[t]ching on this time?” [Id.]. Because of
the statement, Plaintiff was moved to Unit 5, where Deputy
Brisk again told other inmates that Plaintiff was a snitch
[Id.]. Thereafter, Plaintiff was moved to Unit 7,
which was on lockdown, and Cpl. G. Gilson told Deputy Ward to
remove all of Plaintiff's belongings [Id.].
Deputy Ward removed all of Plaintiff's property from the
cell, but Deputy Young brought Plaintiff's property back
the following day [Id. at 4-5]. Plaintiff retained
his property for a day before Sgt. McKamey again removed
Plaintiff's property from his cell, with Deputy Young
retrieving the property and returning it to Plaintiff upon
his arrival at the jail [Id. at 5].
claims that he was asleep when Deputy Earley came to his cell
yelling about Plaintiff's vent being covered, and that
Deputy Earley sprayed mace in Plaintiff's face and
punched him on the right side of his face [Id. at
5]. Plaintiff asserts that the following day, his breakfast
tray had soap in it, and his lunch tray contained only one
piece of bread [Id.]. Plaintiff brought the issue to
the attention of Deputy Thompson, who made the kitchen give
Plaintiff adequate food [Id.].
asserts that he was brought handcuffed into Sgt. Smith's
office the following day, and that Sgt. Smith slapped him in
the face and threatened him [Id. at 6]. During the
next shift, Plaintiff's property was again taken by
Deputy Davis, but the property was subsequently returned
[Id.]. That evening, Plaintiff claims, he was taken
to the “lawyers trap, ” where Sgt. McKamey
punched him in the head and ribs and trapped him in between a
table and a wall [Id.].
the Court finds that the temporary confiscation of
Plaintiff's property, presumably as a punitive measure,
does not constitute a due process violation if there is a
meaningful post-deprivation remedy available. See, e.g.,
Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984); Parratt v.
Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981). Tennessee law provides an
avenue for prisoners to recover personal property. See
McQuiston v. Ward, 2001 WL 839037 * 1 (Tenn. Ct. App.
July 25, 2001) (citing to Tenn. Code. Ann. § 29-30-101
and § 29-30-201). Therefore, to the extent that
Plaintiff has been deprived of his property, the Court finds
that he has not shown that Tennessee's statutory remedies
are inadequate, and therefore, he has not stated a claim that
would entitle him to relief under § 1983. See
Bailey, 15 Fed.Appx. at 251 (observing that even if due
process deprivation was shown through co-pay charge,
“the inmates failed to allege that the post-deprivation
procedure is inadequate”).
the Court finds that the temporary removal of Plaintiff's
property is a de minimis deprivation that fails to
implicate constitutional concerns. See, e.g., George v.
Lamey, No. CV 06-41-GFSEH, 2007 WL 118912, at *3 (D.
Mont. Jan. 8, 2007) (dismissing as frivolous claim that
inmate's toothbrush and cutlery were confiscated for two
weeks); Redmond v. Garvey, No. 91-CIV-6777-AGS, 1998
WL 600992, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, ...