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Goff v. Pickens

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

October 3, 2019

GREGORY ARNEZ GOFF, Plaintiff,
v.
JODY PICKENS, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On May 15, 2019, Plaintiff Gregory Arnez Goff, who is incarcerated at the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex (CJC) in Jackson, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The Court issued an order on May 21, 2019, granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessing the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Jody Pickens, Assistant District Attorney Jerry Mike Mosier, and Madison County Sheriff John Mehr.[1]

         Goff alleges the District Attorney's Office in Jackson, Tennessee, discriminated against him, maliciously prosecuted him, and slandered him. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) He alleges he was held in custody without any evidence from July 9, 2015, until May 2016, when he was found not guilty of aggravated assault after a trial.[2] (Id.) Goff also alleges that he has been subjected to unpleasant conditions at the CJC, including overcrowding, mold on the walls, inmates sleeping on the floors, violent attacks, water leaks in the cells, inadequate cleaning supplies, and an absence of recreational time. (Id.)

         Goff seeks injunctive relief in the form of the termination of Pickens's and Mosier's employment and closure of the CJC until it is cleaned. (Id. at PageID 3.) He also seeks compensatory damages. (Id.)

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint_

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court accepts the complaint's “well-pleaded” factual allegations as true and then determines whether the allegations “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). Conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” and legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), Rule 8 nevertheless requires factual allegations to make a “‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 612, 613 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'” (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975))).

         Goff filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the “Constitution and laws” of the United States (2) committed by a defendant acting under color of state law. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970).

         To the extent Goff seeks to assert a claim against Defendants Pickens and Mosier in their official capacities, his claim is construed as brought against the State of Tennessee.[3] The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const. amend. XI. The Eleventh Amendment has been construed to prohibit citizens from suing their own states in federal court. Welch v. Tex. Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 483 U.S. 468, 472 (1987); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); see also Va. Officefor Protection & Advocacy v. Stewart, 131 S.Ct. 1632, 1638 (2011) (“A State may waive its sovereign immunity at its pleasure, and in some circumstances Congress may abrogate it by appropriate legislation. But absent waiver or valid abrogation, federal courts may not entertain a private person's suit against a State.” (citations omitted)). Tennessee has not waived its sovereign immunity. See Tenn. Code Ann. ยง 20-13-102(a). Moreover, a ...


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