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Huntley v. Preston

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

August 1, 2019




         On January 23, 2017, Plaintiff Joseph Daniel Huntley, who at that time was incarcerated at the West Tennessee Detention Facility (WTDF) in Mason, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint on the form used for commencing actions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The Court issued an order on January 25, 2017, granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessing the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as WTDF Health Administrator Robert Dennis Preston and Dr. Naved Gill, a physician at the WTDF.

         Huntley is a paraplegic. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) His complaint alleges that during his detention at WTDF, he was hospitalized for hip fractures, wounds inflicted by prison staff, and twice for sepsis. (Id.) Huntley further alleges that prison staff have denied him medication and sick call visits with a physician. (Id.) Huntley claims he has filled two notebooks documenting the failures of prison staff to meet his needs, including leaving him to lie in his own feces for days at a time. (Id.) Huntley's complaint requests release on bond so that he can receive outside medical care and compensation for his pain and suffering. (Id. at 3.)

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court accepts the complaint's “well-pleaded” factual allegations as true and then determines whether the allegations “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). Conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” and legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), Rule 8 nevertheless requires factual allegations to make a “‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 612, 613 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'” (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975))).

         The WTDF is a facility operated by a private prison corporation, CoreCivic, which houses federal detainees in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Department of Homeland Security. See west-tennessee-detention-facility. Though he did not specifically allege his status in the complaint, it appears that Huntley was a federal pre-trial detainee in the custody of the Marshals at the time of the events in this case.[1] Therefore, his claims cannot be brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which applies only to deprivations of constitutional rights committed by a person acting under color of state law. Therefore, his claims arise, if at all, under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Bivens provides a right of action against federal employees who violate an individual's rights under the United States Constitution. “Under the Bivens line of cases, the Supreme Court has recognized a cause of action against federal officials for certain constitutional violations when there are no alternative processes to protect the interests of the plaintiff and no special factors counseling against recognizing the cause of action.” Koubriti v. Convertino, 593 F.3d 459, 466 (6th Cir. 2010).

         Though Huntley was a federal detainee when the events at the WTDF occurred, [2] the prison facility is operated, as stated, by CoreCivic rather than by federal officials. Defendants Preston and Gill were, therefore, presumably employed by CoreCivic. The Supreme Court has held that a Bivens action may not be brought against private corporations that operate prison facilities housing federal detainees and convicted prisoners. Corr. Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61 (2001). Therefore, to the extent Huntley intended to assert any claims against the Defendants in their official capacities, such claims are construed as having been brought against CoreCivic and fail to state a valid claim.

         The Supreme Court also has declined to extend the Bivens remedy to actions brought against “privately employed personnel working at a privately operated federal prison” where the allegedly unconstitutional conduct “is of a kind that typically falls within the scope of traditional state tort law.” Minneci v. Pollard, 565 U.S. 118, 131 (2012). Like Huntley's claims in this case, Minneci involved a federal prisoner's claim for lack of adequate medical care against employees of a private prison company. Id. at 120. The Supreme Court stated that in such cases, “the prisoner must seek a remedy under state tort law. We cannot imply a Bivens remedy in such a case.” Id. at 131.

         The Court concludes that pursuant to the decision in Minneci, Huntley has no plausible Bivens damages remedy against the Defendants in their individual capacities.

         For the foregoing reasons, Huntley's complaint is subject to dismissal in its ...

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