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Prescott v. Hardeman County Correctional Facility

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

October 30, 2019

DONALD PRESCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
HARDEMAN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER PARTIALLY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING THAT PROCESS BE ISSUED AND SERVED ON DEFENDANT BEARD

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On June 5, 2019, Plaintiff Donald Prescott, who is incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) Prescott's complaint addresses events that allegedly occurred during his previous confinement at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility (HCCF) in Whiteville, Tennessee. (Id. at PageID 3.) After Prescott submitted the required financial documents, the Court issued an order 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. 6.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as HCCF Unit Manager Dorothy Robertson;, former HCCF Warden Grady Perry; HCCF Lieutenant First Name Unknown Beard; the HCCF; and the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC).

         Prescott alleges that, sometime prior to May 28, 2019, he was assaulted by five inmates at the HCCF and received a disciplinary write-up for fighting. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 4.) On May 28, 2019, the same five inmates again attacked and stabbed Prescott. (Id.) Prescott was assigned to segregated housing after the incident, where Lieutenant Beard (then Sergeant Beard) was the officer in charge. (Id.) Prescott asserts that Beard was aware of the earlier altercation yet placed one of the inmates who had assaulted Prescott in a cell with him while Prescott was still in handcuffs. (Id.) That inmate, who was not handcuffed, immediately began to attack Prescott again. (Id.) Prescott alleges that when he and the five inmates were released from segregation, all six of them were placed back into the same housing pod. (Id.) Prescott alleges he was stabbed several more times by the same prisoners. (Id.)

         Prescott asserts claims of negligence, emotional distress, imminent harm and danger, and defamation of character. (Id. at PageID 5.) He seeks 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))).

         Prescott 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).

         Prescott has no valid claim against the TDOC. Claims against the TDOC are treated as claims against the State of Tennessee. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). 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. Office for Protection & Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247, 253-54 (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 ...


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