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Vestal v. Madison County Sheriff's Department

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

November 18, 2019

BRANDON NICHOLAS VESTAL, Plaintiff,
v.
MADISON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, ET AL., Defendants.

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

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On August 30, 2019, Plaintiff Brandon Nicholas Vestal, 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. (ECF No. 1.) After he submitted the necessary 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 Madison County Sheriff's Department, Lieutenant First Name Unknown Balderrama, and Nurse Ashley.[1]

         Vestal alleges that on May 22, 2019, he wrote to Lieutenant Balderrama requesting a vegetarian diet in compliance with his religion as a Seventh Day Adventist. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 1.) Balderrama refused to provide him a vegetarian diet because, according to Vestal, he had not previously requested a vegetarian diet at the CJC. (Id. at PageID 1-2.) Vestal asserts that “a nurse named Ashley who worked at Carrol[l] County when I was a[n] inmate over there”[2] told Balderrama “that they did not accept and denied my request of me being a seventh day adventist.” (Id. at PageID 2.) Nurse Ashley, who now works at the Madison County Sheriff's Department, “advised LT Balderrama she denied me my 1st [amend]ment.” (Id.) The same day Vestal requested a vegetarian tray, Balderrama “posted a memo saying that she will not approve any more veg[e]tarian trays.” (Id. at PageID 2-3.)

         Vestal alleges that he is “forced to have meat on my tray and meat touching my food, ” which he says interferes with his ability to practice his religion. (Id. at PageID 2.) He alleges that he “is really suffering because I do not eat and everything served here has meat either in the food or on the tray.” (Id. at PageID 3.) Vestal alleges that he “was told that my belief of my religion was make believe or [I']m just acting.”[3]

         Vestal seeks $2.5 million in damages. (Id. at PageID 3, 4.)

         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))).

         Vestal 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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