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Plemons v. Core Civic

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

August 20, 2019

HOPKINS DAVID PLEMONS #368201, Plaintiff,
v.
CORE CIVIC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, an inmate of the South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tennessee, has filed a pro se complaint for alleged violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff did not submit with his complaint either the requisite $400 civil filing fee or an application to proceed in district court without prepaying fees and costs. Moreover, his complaint did not comply with Rule 8(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Accordingly, on July 26, 2019, the Court ordered Plaintiff to either pay the filing fee or submit an application to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) and to file an amended complaint. (Doc. No. 3.)

         Plaintiff has now filed an IFP application and a pleading the Court construes to be Plaintiff's effort to comply with the Order to file an amended complaint. (Doc. Nos. 4, 5.) The case is before the Court for a ruling on the IFP application and 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. § 1997e.

         I. APPLICATION TO PROCEED AS A PAUPER

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), a prisoner bringing a civil action may be permitted to file suit without prepaying the filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Because it appears from Plaintiff's submission that he lacks sufficient financial resources from which to pay the full filing fee in advance, his application (Doc. No. 4) is GRANTED.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(b) and 1914(a), Plaintiff must still pay the $350.00 civil filing fee in installments. The administrator of the facility in which Plaintiff is currently incarcerated, as custodian of his trust account, is DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk of Court, as an initial payment, the greater of: (a) 20% of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's credit at the jail; or (b) 20% of the average monthly balance to Plaintiff's credit for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the Complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Thereafter, the custodian shall submit 20% of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to Plaintiff for the preceding month), but only when the balance in his account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). Payments shall continue until the $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full to the Clerk of Court. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(3).

         The Clerk of Court MUST send a copy of this Order to the Warden of the South Central Correctional Facility to ensure payment of the filing fee. If Plaintiff is transferred from his present place of confinement before the fee is paid in full, the custodian must ensure that a copy of this Order follows him to his new place of confinement, for continued compliance with the Order. All payments made pursuant to this Order must be submitted to the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, 801 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203.

         II. INITIAL REVIEW OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to conduct an initial review of any complaint filed in forma pauperis, and to dismiss the complaint if it is facially frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 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, 561F.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)).

         Plaintiff sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which confers a private federal right 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). To state a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that “the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law.” Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590 (6th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Plaintiff did not use the Section 1983 complaint form that the Court provided in drafting his second pleading. (Doc. No. 5.) In this pleading, Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a “new outstanding medical problem” consisting of unspecified “on-going medical problems” and “medical issues.” (Id. at 1.) He alleges that, as a result of his medical problem, a physician has recommended that he be excused from attending the Adult Basic Education program in which he is enrolled for 30 days. (Id. at 2.) However, “Principle Bilings” has refused to comply with that order and has required Plaintiff to attend class or face disciplinary action and the loss of unspecified liberties. (Id. at 1-2.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Bilings's actions have caused his “condition to worsen” in ways he does not describe. (Id. at 1.) He lists Core Civic and Bilings as Defendants and claims that they have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. (Id. at 1-2.)

         Deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs “constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” and violates the Eighth Amendment rights of convicted prisoners and Fourteenth Amendment rights of pretrial detainees. Ruiz v. Martin, 72 Fed.Appx. 271, 275 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)); Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 812 (6th Cir. 2005). A “serious medical need” is “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Villegas v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville, 709 F.3d 563, 570 (6th Cir. 2013). The “deliberate indifference” necessary to violate the constitution is a higher standard than negligence and requires that the official know of and disregard an excessive risk to the inmate. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).

         Plaintiff has failed to allege facts that satisfy this standard. His vague references to medical “problems” and “issues” are not sufficient to establish that he has a serious medical need as required to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment. Pickle v. Curry, No. 2:13-CV-01197-KOB, 2013 WL 6162990, at *4 and n.1 (N.D. Ala. Nov. 22, 2013) (holding that the plaintiff's “statement that he still suffers from ‘medical issues' is entirely too vague to confer constitutional liability on the defendants” and dismissing because “the plaintiff fails to identify even in vague terms the actual injuries he allegedly suffered, much less a description sufficient to show that those conditions are serious enough to invoke constitutional review”); Lofton v. St. Clair Cty. Jail, No. 13-CV-00823-MJR, 2013 WL 4804508, at *3 (S.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 2013) (holding that inmate's “vague reference to ‘medical problems' is insufficient to support an Eighth Amendment claim).

         Plaintiff attaches to his recent pleading several pages of institutional grievance materials that might provide clues about the facts underlying his claim. (Doc. No. 5 at 5-15.) But those documents, like the ones attached to Plaintiff's original complaint, include “facts” ranging from the potentially relevant to the clearly irrelevant, and even the potentially relevant information is not cohesive. (Doc. No. 1-1; Doc. No. 5 at 5-15.) For example, the grievance documents reflect that Plaintiff has complained at times that the requirement to attend school or work is detrimental to his “psychological disorder” and “psychologist diagnosis” (Doc. No. 1-1 at 2-3) and at other times that it is harmful to “a urinary problem” and/or a “bulging disc.” (Doc. No. 5 at 9.) And a significant portion of the substance of the documents pertain to Plaintiff's efforts to “substantiate” ...


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