United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MAURICE J. CLAYTON, Plaintiff,
BEDFORD COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEP'T AUSTIN SWING, Sheriff, TIM IOKY, Captain, and KENNETH MATTHEWS, Doctor, Defendants.
S. MATTICE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
March 10, 2016, Maurice J. Clayton filed a Complaint under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 2] against various defendants
associated with the Bedford County Correctional Complex,
where he was then incarcerated. He subsequently filed his
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc.
4], which was granted by the Court on January 11, 2019 [Doc.
6]. However, by that date Plaintiff had been transferred to
the Turney Center Industrial Complex, where he remains
incarcerated at present, and the Complaint has not yet been
screened pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”). See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A). For the reasons set forth herein,
the Court will DISMISS this action in its
entirety pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and
1915(A) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Complaint, though brief, is difficult to discern because of
the rambling and variable nature of the grievances contained
therein. Plaintiff alleges that his Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments rights under the U.S. Constitution have been
violated by the Bedford County Sheriff's Department and
three individual defendants: Sheriff Austin Swing, Captain
Tim Ioky, and Doctor Kenneth Matthews [Doc. 1 at 1]. The
stream of consciousness narrative discusses: (1)
Plaintiff's diagnosis of scoliosis, his opinion that his
“one inch thick” prison mattress exacerbates his
back pain from that medical condition, and his unanswered
requests to unnamed “nurses” to provide him with
a better mattress; (2) various complaints about Dr. Matthews,
including his denial of “proper treatment and advise,
” his statements that Plaintiff and/or his family are
responsible for payment of Plaintiff's medical expenses
during his period of incarceration, and his lack of worry or
concern regarding the inmates' medical needs or ability
to pay their bills; and (3) various complaints about
conditions of confinement at BCCX, including unsanitary
conditions that arise from Plaintiff having to sleep on a
“thin mat” close to a toilet, overcrowding in
his cell, “dirt, mold, fun[g]i, rust, and bacteria
throughout the jail, ” failure of officials to provide
him with cleaning supplies, “very small” food
portions, and lack of space for physical exercise
[Id. at 1-3]. Plaintiff's Complaint does not
contain any specific allegations as to Defendant Swing, and
mentions Defendant Ioky only once, stating “I have
filed several inmate request forms forwarding them to Captain
Tim Ioky, pertaining to my medical condition, the doctor
denying me medical treatment, and the unconstitutional living
conditions in this jail” [Id. at 2].
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“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 1915(A); Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 213 (2007); Benson v.
O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). Courts must
liberally construe pro se pleadings filed in civil rights
cases and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. See, e.g., Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); but see Leeds
v. City of Muldraugh, 174 Fed.Appx. 251, 255 (6th Cir.
2006) (noting that, despite the leniency afforded to pro
se plaintiffs, the Court is “not require[d] to
either guess the nature of or create a litigant's
dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554 (2007),
“governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under
[28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A] because the
relevant statutory language tracks the language in [Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(6).” Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). When
reviewing a complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule
12(b)(6), the Court must take all of the factual allegations
in the complaint as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678;
see Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 252 (6th Cir.
2010) (“A motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim [under Rule 12(b)(6)] is a test of the plaintiff's
cause of action as stated in the complaint, not a challenge
to the plaintiff's factual allegations.”). While
“detailed factual allegations” are not required,
a complaint must contain “more than an unadorned,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Therefore, to survive
dismissal for failure to state a claim, plaintiff's
“factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all
the allegations in the complaint are true.”
Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of
Cleveland, Ohio, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007)
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
order to succeed on 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.
Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Svcs., 555 F.3d 543, 549
(6th Cir. 2009); Haywood v. Drown, 556 U.S. 729, 731
(2009); see also 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 elsewhere”). Plaintiff's Complaint
appears to assert claims for deliberate indifference to his
serious medical needs and unconstitutional conditions of
confinement, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, as well as
violations of his rights to procedural due process pursuant
to the Fourteenth Amendment.
prison authority may violate the Eighth Amendment by
demonstrating deliberate indifference to an inmate's
serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97 (1976). “Deliberate indifference ‘is a
stringent standard of fault, requiring proof that a municipal
actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of his
action.'” Shadrick v. Hopkins Cty., Ky.,
805 F.3d 724, 737 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Bd. of Cty.
Comm'rs of Bryan Cty., Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397,
410 (1997)). The standard is comprised of both objective and
subjective components: the objective component requires a
plaintiff to show a “sufficiently serious”
deprivation, while the subjective component requires a
showing of a sufficiently culpable state of mind-one of
deliberate indifference. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 834, 842 (1994). 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 lack thereof) or by “interfer[ing]
with treatment once prescribed.” Estelle, 429
U.S. at 104-5; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 836 (defining
deliberate indifference as lying “between the poles of
negligence at one end and purpose or knowledge at the
respect to conditions of confinement, “the Constitution
does not mandate comfortable prisons.” Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981). As such, the Supreme
Court has held that only those conditions that deny a
prisoner “the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an
Eighth Amendment violation.” Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992); Helling v.
McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 33 (1993) (noting that prison
officials may not “ignore a condition of confinement
that is sure or very likely to cause serious illness and
needless suffering”); Agramonte v. Shartle,
491 Fed.Appx. 557, 560 (6th Cir. 2012) (noting that
overcrowding is not a per se violation of the Eighth
Amendment, and that the prisoner must instead allege
“extreme deprivations” resulting from the
complained of conditions).
for violation of procedural due process rights pursuant to
the Fourteenth Amendment requires the plaintiff to
demonstrate that (1) he has a liberty or property interest
which has been interfered with by the state, and (2) the
procedures attendant upon that deprivation were
constitutionally deficient. Bazzatta v. McGinnis,
430 F.3d 795, 801 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing Ky. Dep't
of Corr. v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460 (1989)). A
district court must consider the second question only if the
inmate satisfies his burden as to the first; that is, it may
“reach the question of what process is due only if the
inmate establish[es] a constitutionally protected liberty
interest.” Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209,
221 (2005). If the second question may be reached, the
“essence” of procedural due process is that
deprivations of liberty interests must be accompanied by
notice and an opportunity for an appropriate hearing.
See, e.g., Brickner v. Voinovich, 977 F.2d
235, 237 (6th Cir. 1992); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418
U.S. 539, 558 (1974) (“The touchstone of due process is
protection of the individual against arbitrary action of the
government.”). However, “[a] claim of negligence
will not support a procedural due process claim[.]”
Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 143 (1990)grint;
c.f. Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 576 (6th Cir.
2008) (noting that liability may not be imposed under §
1983 based on the denial of an administrative grievance or on
failure to act on information contained in a grievance).
Bedford County Sheriff's Department
has named the Bedford County Sheriff's Office as a
Defendant to this action. However, the Bedford County
Sheriff's Office is not a separate legal entity amenable
to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. That is, the
Sheriff's Department is not a municipality, but rather,
is merely a department or agency within Bedford County, a
political subdivision of the State of Tennessee. See,
e.g., Hull v. Davidson Cty. Sheriff's
Office, 2017 WL 1322104, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Apr. 3, 2017)
(“[P]olice departments and sheriff's departments
are not proper parties to a § 1983 suit; they are not
bodies politic and, as such, as not ‘persons'
within the meaning of § 1983.”); Mathes v.
Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cty., 2010
WL 3341889 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010)). (noting that
Tennessee law “specifically provides that
counties may be sued for the actions of
sheriff's deputies [but] it does not mention
sheriff's department”); Barrett v.
Wallace, 107 F.Supp.2d 949, 954 (S.D. Ohio 2000)
(“The question here is not whether the Sheriff's
Office is a ‘person' for the purposes of liability
under Monell and § 1983, but whether the
Sheriff's Office is a proper legal entity subject to