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Ware v. Mehr

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

October 22, 2019

TERRY LEE WARE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN MEHR, Defendant.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 10, 2019, Plaintiff Terry Lee Ware, 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 June 11, 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.) Ware sues Madison County Sheriff John Mehr.

         Ware alleges that the CJC is overcrowded, and some inmates must sleep on the floor with, and sometimes without, plastic mats. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) He alleges that water leaks from the toilets and ceiling onto the floor, there is black mold throughout the building, and inmates are getting ill from the conditions. (Id.) Inmates allegedly are given unwrapped sandwiches to eat through a dirty “flap” in their cell, through which inmates often throw human waste. (Id.) Ware alleges that inmates are kept in solitary confinement for months without physical exercise or health care. (Id.) He alleges that Sheriff Mehr is aware of the conditions and “never comes through” the CJC. (Id.)

         Ware wants the CJC to be repaired or closed and the inmates sent to different facilities until a new facility is constructed. (Id. at PageID 3.) He also seeks monetary 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))).

         Ware 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 Ware intends to assert an official capacity claim against Sheriff Mehr, his claim is against Madison County. The complaint, however, does not state a valid § 1983 claim against Madison County. When a § 1983 claim is made against a municipality or county, the court must analyze two distinct issues: (1) whether the plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) if so, whether the ...


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