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Walden v. Murrell

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

November 6, 2019

ROBERT WALDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
JASON MURRELL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Robert Walden, a pretrial detainee at the Davidson County Sheriff's Office in Nashville, Tennessee, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Jason Murrell and Matt Norris. (Doc. No. 1.) He also filed an application to proceed in this court without prepaying fees and costs (Doc. No. 2) and a motion to appoint counsel (Doc. No. 5).

         I. Application to Proceed as a Pauper

         The court may authorize a prisoner to file a civil suit without prepaying the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Because it appears from the plaintiff's in forma pauperis application that he cannot pay the full filing fee in advance, his application (Doc. No. 2) will be granted. The $350.00 filing fee will be assessed as directed in the accompanying order. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         II. Initial Review

         Under the screening requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), the court must review and dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from an immune defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The court must also construe a pro se complaint liberally, United States v. Smotherman, 838 F.3d 736, 739 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), and accept the factual allegations as true unless they are entirely without credibility, see Thomas v. Eby, 481 F.3d 434, 437 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992)).

         A. Factual Allegations

         The plaintiff submitted a complaint (Doc. No. 1), supplement to the complaint (Doc. No. 4) and amended complaint (Doc. No. 6). The allegations within these filings are very similar, with some minor differences in detail. The court has considered these allegations collectively and hereafter summarizes them for the purpose of conducting an initial review.

         Jason Murrell and Matt Norris are detectives with the Metro Nashville Police Department (“MNPD”). (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) Around 10:30 a.m. on August 1, 2018, the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by Murrell and Norris for having a broken tail light. (Doc. No. 1 at 5; Doc. No. 6 at 1.) Murrell and Norris found a “small amount” of illegal narcotics in the driver's side door. (Doc. No. 6 at 1.) The driver “claimed” the narcotics, received a “state citation, ” and was then “released.” (Doc. No. 1 at 6.) The plaintiff, meanwhile, alleges that he remained detained for at least seven hours in the back seat of a police car in a daycare center parking lot with his arms handcuffed behind his back. (Doc. No. 6 at 2.) He alleges that it was 95 to 100 degrees, and he did not have access to a bathroom, water, phone call, or attorney. (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6.)

         After the driver was released, Detectives Norris and Murrell searched the plaintiff and checked for outstanding warrants through the National Crime Information Center database. (Doc. No. 4 at 1.) The plaintiff alleges that he did not have any illegal contraband or outstanding warrants. (Doc. No. 1 at 5; Doc. No. 4 at 1.) The plaintiff asked why he was being detained, and Norris told him that his “boss”-Detective Murrell-was “trying to obtain a search warrant.” (Doc. No. 6 at 1.) The plaintiff also asked to leave or call his attorney “several times, ” and Norris said no. (Doc. No. 1 at 6.) The plaintiff was not “charged with anything from the traffic stop.” (Id. at 7.)

         Around 11:00 a.m., Detective Murrell left to obtain a search warrant for a residence that Murrell “assumed was [the plaintiff's].” (Id.) The plaintiff alleges that the residence was not his (id. at 6), that “nothing about that residence was in [his] name” (id. at 5), and that he is “only a friend of the lease holder” (Doc. No. 6 at 2). Murrell obtained a search warrant for the residence, which was signed at 2:54 p.m. (Doc. No. 1 at 5.) Around 6:00 p.m., Murrell returned to the scene to take the plaintiff to the residence. (Doc. No. 4 at 2.) Murrell told the plaintiff that police found drugs at the residence. (Id.) The plaintiff alleges that he was “formally arrested” at 6:42 p.m. (Doc. No. 6 at 2), and he remains incarcerated “stemming from this illegal detainment” (Doc. No. 4 at 2).

         B. Standard of Review

         To determine whether a prisoner's complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted” under the PLRA's screening requirements, the court applies the same standard as under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The court therefore accepts “all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, [and] ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009)). An assumption of truth does not extend to allegations that consist of legal conclusions or “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         C. ...


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