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Barnes v. Hardin County Jail

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

October 30, 2019

LAKEWAN MYKEL BARNES, Plaintiff,
v.
HARDIN COUNTY JAIL, 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 July 15, 2019, Plaintiff Lakewan Mykel Barnes, who is presently incarcerated at the Wayne County Jail in Waynesboro, 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 complaint addresses events that allegedly occurred while Barnes previously was incarcerated at the Hardin County Jail in Savannah, Tennessee. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) After Barnes 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 the Hardin County Jail (Jail), Hardin County Sheriff Johnny Alexander, Chief Mike Fielder, and Jail Administrator Derek Cortez.

         Barnes alleges that he “asked numerous times for law book 7A regarding to a case I have pending.” (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) Barnes allegedly asked Defendant Cortez “about the issue” and also had asked other unspecified Jail officials for the law book since July 4, 2018. (Id.) He had yet to receive the law book when the complaint was filed. (Id.)

         Barnes wants “inmates to be allowed to have access to law book when asked, ” appointment of counsel and compensatory damages. (Id. at PageID 3.)

         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))).

         Barnes 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).

         The Jail is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983. See Jones v. Union Cnty., Tennessee, 296 F.3d 417, 421 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994)). Barnes's claims against the Jail are construed as against Hardin County, which may be held liable only if Barnes's injuries were sustained pursuant to an unconstitutional custom or policy. See Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978). To demonstrate municipal liability, a plaintiff “must (1) identify the municipal policy or custom, (2) connect the policy to the municipality, and (3) show that his particular injury was incurred due to execution of that policy.” Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 815 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Garner v. Memphis Police Dep't, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993)). “[T]he touchstone of ‘official policy' is designed ‘to distinguish acts of the municipality from acts of employees of the municipality, and thereby ...


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