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Morgan v. Hiwassee Mental Health

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

August 7, 2019

MICHAEL J. MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
HIWASSEE MENTAL HEALTH, HEATHER CONNER, STATE OF TENNESSEE, and MCMINN COUNTY, Defendants.

          Susan K. Lee Magistrate Judge.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TRAVIS R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is now before the Court for the required screening of Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). For the reasons set forth below, this action will be DISMISSED as the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983.

         I. SCREENING STANDARD

         Under the PLRA, district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, 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); 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 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”).

         II. ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff states that his claim is “mental” and that a court and his lawyer coerced him to plead no contest because he would not plead guilty, but Plaintiff did not understand the charge to which he was pleading or the related papers. (Doc. 2, at 3-4.) Plaintiff further states that he has “mental problems, ” was proven incompetent with no psychologist in court to help him, and was “given proba[t]ion and mental health court, ” for which the court ordered him to go to Defendant Hiwassee Mental Health (“Hiwassee”). (Id.) At Hiwassee, Plaintiff told Defendant Conner that he was innocent and coerced, as well as his personal problems that he needed to work through, including witnessing his dad's suicide. (Id. at 4.) Defendant Conner, however, wanted Plaintiff to take medications that Plaintiff did not want to take and told Plaintiff to get over his dad's suicide. (Id.)

         Also, after Defendant Conner told mental health court Judge Freiburg what Plaintiff had told her, Judge Freiburg told Plaintiff that he was tired of Plaintiff telling Defendant Conner that he is innocent, that Plaintiff needed to get over his dad's suicide, and that Plaintiff needed to take the medications he was offered in Hiwassee or he would violate probation. (Id.) Plaintiff states that he is mentally traumatized and alone and does not need drugs, but rather mental help. (Id.)

         Plaintiff also states that he did not tear up an ATM or steal a back hoe, but instead was at the wrong place at the wrong time, does not have a car and cannot drive because of his seizures, and rides a bicycle or the “sethra bus.” (Id.)

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks retraining of all staff involved and monetary damages for his mental suffering and mental scarring. (Id. at 5.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         First, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks relief based upon his allegations regarding a conviction that resulted from a coerced guilty plea, those allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983. Specifically, in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486 (1994), the Supreme Court held that if a judgment for plaintiff necessarily implies the invalidity of an underlying criminal conviction, the action must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can show the conviction has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state court, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Id. Plaintiff has not set forth any facts from which the Court can plausibly infer that any underlying conviction has been reversed or otherwise invalidated. As such, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks relief from his underlying conviction based upon the allegations in the complaint, those allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983.

         Further, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to hold Hiwassee and/or Defendant Conner liable under § 1983 because Defendant Conner wanted Plaintiff to take medications to assist him with his mental health issues and told Plaintiff that he needed to “get over” his dad's suicide, he has not set forth facts from which the Court can plausibly infer that these acts amounted to deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs.[1] A prison authority's deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs, including his mental health, violates the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976). Prison medical personnel or officials may be deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs “in their response to a prisoner's needs” or by “interfer[ing] with treatment once prescribed.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-5. Establishing the deprivation of a federal right in the Eighth Amendment medical context requires evidence that the acts or omissions of an individual operating under the color of state law were “sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. ...


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