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Lewis v. Phillips

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

October 22, 2019

TERRY LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
SHAWN PHILLIPS, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND AND DENYING REQUEST FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 6, 2019, Plaintiff Terry Lewis, who is incarcerated at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, 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 June 7, 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 NWCX Warden Shawn Phillips, NWCX Chief of Security Justin Lannom, NWCX Associate Warden of Security First Name Unknown (FNU) Reeves, and NWCX Correctional Officer FNU Cooper.

         Lewis alleges that on January 25, 2019, he was stabbed “eleven or twelve times” by armed gang members who were allowed to enter his housing unit, despite not living there, “for the sole purpose of robbing” him. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) Lewis asserts that gangs routinely roam NWCX to attack or rob other inmates, NWCX allows the gangs to do so, and “[a]ll of the defendants are aware” that NWCX allows this but have failed to stop it. (Id.) Lewis alleges that the gang members who stabbed him had to pass through two fences that either were not locked or were not manned because of staffing shortages at NWCX. (Id. at PageID 3.) Lewis suggests that unspecified prison staff allowed the gang members to leave their housing unit, pass through the fences, and enter Lewis's housing unit. (Id.)

         Lewis further asserts that “[a]ll of the defendants know” that other inmates are making weapons out of materials in their cells but have done nothing to stop it, in violation of their official duties. (Id. at PageID 3-4.) He contends that “[t]he defendants failed to ensure that NWCX was safe and secure, ” which led to his attack. (Id. at PageID 4.)

         Lewis sues the Defendants in their official and individual capacities. (Id. at PageID 2.) He seeks an injunction ordering NWCX to hire more staff, declaratory relief, and money damages. (Id. at PageID 5.) He also requests that the Court appoint him counsel. (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))).

         Lewis 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 ...


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