United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
CHARLES D. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT ATTORNEY GENERAL, et al., Defendants.
RICHARDSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a pro se complaint for alleged
violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(Doc. No. 1), filed by Charles D. Johnson, an inmate at the
Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee.
Plaintiff has also filed an application to proceed in
forma pauperis (IFP) (Doc. No. 2), which the Court will
grant by Order entered contemporaneously herewith. The
complaint is now before the Court for an initial review
pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and 42 U.S.C.
REVIEW OF THE COMPLAINT
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must dismiss any
IFP complaint that is facially frivolous or malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. Similarly, § 1915A provides that the Court shall
conduct an initial review of any prisoner complaint against a
governmental entity, officer, or employee, and shall dismiss
the complaint or any portion thereof if the defects listed in
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) are identified. Under both statutes,
this initial review of whether the complaint states a claim
upon which relief may be granted asks whether it contains
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” such
that it would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Hill v. Lappin, 630
F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Applying
this standard, the Court must view the complaint in the light
most favorable to Plaintiff and, again, must 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)). Furthermore, pro
se pleadings 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) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106
(1976)). However, pro se litigants are not exempt
from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th
Cir. 1989), nor can the Court “create a claim which [a
plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading.”
Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 613 (6th Cir.
2011) (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins.
Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975)).
SECTION 1983 STANDARD
seeks to vindicate alleged violations of his federal
constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section
1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, acting
under color of state law, deprives an individual of any
right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or
federal laws. Wurzelbacher v. Jones-Kelley, 675 F.3d
580, 583 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, to state a § 1983 claim,
Plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of
rights 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. Carl v. Muskegon
Cty., 763 F.3d 592, 595 (6th Cir. 2014).
ALLEGATIONS AND CLAIMS
alleges that he has been convicted in state court and
sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years, for the offenses
of first-degree felony murder and especially aggravated
robbery. (Doc. No. 1 at 3-4.) He alleges that “this
civil action stems from the admitted facts that the District
Attorney General's Office prosecuted the plaintiff
without . . . formally indicting him, ” and that the
presiding judge, the District Attorney, and his defense
counsel knew of this defect but failed to correct it.
(Id. at 4.) Plaintiff alleges that he has filed
“several motions appealing this matter, ”
resulting in formal recognition of the fact that he was never
indicted by the grand jury, and yet he is still illegally
restrained. (Id.) As relief, Plaintiff seeks that
“this matter be reversed, ” that he be released
from prison, and that he be awarded damages. (Id. at
action under § 1983, Plaintiff seeks immediate release
from incarceration and monetary damages based on his
prosecution in the absence of an indictment. However,
challenges to the validity of an inmate's confinement are
not properly lodged under § 1983, but are within the
sole province of habeas corpus. Muhammad v. Close,
540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004). Moreover, regardless of the theory
under which Plaintiff seeks damages, “[w]hen success in
a § 1983 prisoner action would implicitly question the
validity of conviction or duration of sentence, the prisoner
must first successfully pursue his state or federal habeas
corpus remedies, ” i.e., his conviction or sentence
must have been “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.” Gardner v. Morriss,
No. 3:17-cv-00747, 2017 WL 4805205, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Oct.
24, 2017) (citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477,
486-87 (1994)); see Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294,
309 (6th Cir. 2010) (applying Heck's favorable
termination rule in § 1983 action for malicious
prosecution). The complaint before the Court obviously does
not reflect Plaintiffs success in the pursuit of such
although the complaint contains no further information
concerning the subject convictions or their timing, the Court
takes judicial notice of the June 1, 2018 decision of the
Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirming the dismissal
of Plaintiff s third petition for state habeas relief, in
which it is recited that Plaintiff pled guilty to these
offenses and was sentenced in 1998. Johnson v.
State, No. E2018-00112-CCA-R3-HC, 2018 WL 2491619, at *1
(Tenn. Crim. App. June 1, 2018). It therefore appears that,
in addition to the grounds discussed above, this action is
subject to dismissal pursuant to the one-year statute of
limitations. See, e.g., Henley v. Little, No.
3:08-1148, 2009 WL 211139, at *2 (M.D. ...