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Turner v. Coffey

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

September 16, 2019

JAMES TYLER TURNER, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF COFFEY, GLEN BALLINGER, and RICKY OAKES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS A. VARLAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court is in receipt of a pro se prisoner's complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 1] and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 2].

         I. FILING FEE

         Plaintiff alleges that prison officials have refused to complete a certified copy of his inmate trust account, despite his repeated attempts to obtain such information to support his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [See Doc. 7]. Therefore, the Court will presume that Plaintiff lacks sufficient financial resources to pay the filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 2] will be GRANTED.

         Because Plaintiff is an inmate in the Grainger County Detention Center, he will be ASSESSED the civil filing fee of $350.00. The custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account will be DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk, U.S. District Court, 800 Market Street, Suite 130, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902, as an initial partial payment, the greater of: (a) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's inmate trust account; or (b) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in his inmate trust account for the six-month period preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) (1)(A)-(B). Thereafter, the custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account shall submit twenty percent (20%) of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to Plaintiff's trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income exceeds $10.00, until the full filing fee of $350.00 has been paid to the Clerk. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(b)(2), 1914(a).

         To ensure compliance with this fee-collection procedure, the Clerk will be DIRECTED to mail a copy of this memorandum and order to the custodian of inmate accounts at the institution where Plaintiff is now confined and to the Attorney General for the State of Tennessee. This order shall be placed in Plaintiff's prison file and follow him if he is transferred to another correctional institution. The Clerk also will be DIRECTED to provide a copy of this memorandum and order to the Court's financial deputy.

         II. SCREENING

         A. COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation on December 5, 2018, while housed at the Jefferson County Justice Center that resulted in a charge of aggravated assault against him and a “charge partner” [Doc. 1 p. 3-4]. Plaintiff asserts that since the incident his partner has been allowed to work and earn good-time credits, while Plaintiff has been placed on lockdown [Id. at 4]. Plaintiff maintains that Chief Glenn Ballinger repeatedly promised him a job so that he could earn credits, but that on July 11, 2019, Plaintiff was informed he was not eligible to work because of the aggravated assault charge [Id.].

         Plaintiff asserts that Sheriff Jeff Coffey, Chief Glenn Ballinger, and Captain Ricky Oakes have ignored his complaints, both formal and informal [Id.]. He asks the Court to move him to a county where he can earn work credits and award him monetary compensation “for emotional stress” [Id. at 5].

         B. SCREENING STANDARD

         Under 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. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A; Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). The Supreme Court articulated the pleading standard for complaints to survive dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). This standard “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). Allegations that give rise to a mere possibility that a plaintiff might later establish undisclosed facts supporting recovery, however, are not well pled and do not state a plausible claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. Further, formulaic and conclusory recitations of the elements of a claim which are not supported by specific facts are insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681.

         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 ‚ÄúSection 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a ...


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