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Elam v. Lake County Sheriff's Department

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

December 5, 2019




         On July 11, 2019, Plaintiff Granville Elam, who is incarcerated at the Gibson County Correctional Complex in Trenton, Tennessee, filed a pro se document which was opened as a civil complaint. (ECF No. 1.) Elam's complaint concerns events that allegedly occurred while he was a pretrial detainee at the Lake County Jail in Tiptonville, Tennessee. (ECF No. 1 at 1-2; ECF No. 1-3.) After Elam submitted the appropriate 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. 7.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as the Lake County Sheriff's Department, and Deputies Keith Ozment and Nathaniel Hayes.

         Elam alleges that on August 23, 2018, Deputy Ozment assaulted him while escorting him from the Lake County Courthouse. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 1.) He alleges that Ozment choked him while he was handcuffed and wearing shackles on his waist and legs. (Id.) Deputy Hayes was present, but Elam does not allege that he participated in the assault. (Id.) Specifically, Elam alleges that one of his wrists was handcuffed to Ozment and the other wrist was handcuffed to Hayes. (Id. at PageID 2.) Elam alleges that he has permanent scars on his wrists from the incident. (Id.)

         Elam alleges that he twice attempted to grieve the incident using inmate request forms because “there is not any grievance forms available to inmates incarcerated at Lake County Sheriff's Department.” (Id.) He states he also made “two or three verbal attempts to have action taken.” (Id.)

         Elam does not specify what relief he seeks in this lawsuit. However, he does seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Deputy Ozment. (Id. at PageID 3.) Elam contends that he “ha[s] reason to fear for my life.” (Id.) Elam says that, even after he is no longer incarcerated, he “still will be in fear due to the deputy possessing legal authority to harass, intimidate, or even take my life by means of anger in my filing of the administrative grievance complaint” and this lawsuit. (Id.) He asserts that a TRO is necessary for him “to have any mental peace of mind and faith in the legal authorities that are to uphold the law and not break or violate it.” (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))).

         The Court construes Elam's filing as an action brought 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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