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Shanklin v. State

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

December 5, 2019




         On September 5, 2019, Plaintiff Mickey Shanklin, inmate number 117589, who is currently incarcerated at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex (BCCX) in Pikeville, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis.[1](ECF Nos. 1 & 3.) Shanklin filed three additional pro se complaints and accompanying motions to proceed in forma pauperis. Two of those complaints and the accompanying motions were opened as case numbers 19-1193 and 19-1205, and the third was docketed as an amended complaint in this case. (ECF No. 5.) Because all the complaints alleged similar claims about Shanklin's state-court criminal proceedings, the Court consolidated the four complaints into this action and directed the Clerk to close case numbers 19-1193 and 19-1205. (ECF No. 7.)[2] The Court also ordered Shanklin to comply with the requirements of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b) or to pay the full $400 filing fee. (Id. at PageID 24-25.) After Shanklin submitted the necessary 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. 12.)[3] The Clerk shall list the Defendants as the State of Tennessee, Assistant District Attorney General (ADA) Shaun Brown, Public Defender Gregory Gookin, Jackson Metro Narcotics Agent Mike Arnold, and Circuit Court Judge Don Allen.

         Shanklin's claims address his state criminal proceedings, conviction, and sentence. He alleges that Defendant ADA Brown falsely charged him with unspecified crimes. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) Shanklin alleges that his attorney, Public Defender Gookin, provided him ineffective assistance and “let me get falsely convicted and sentenced to 30 yrs.” (ECF No. 5 at PageID 14.) Shanklin contests video evidence presented at his trial and contends that he was not given a fair trial. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) He asserts that Defendant Arnold altered the video evidence and “put my life in danger with my Defendant in the case by turning us against each other.” (ECF No. 8 at PageID 27.) He further contends that Judge Allen “let the State of Tenn convict me on charges that were not to be placed on me and that were bogus.” (ECF No. 9 at PageID 33.)

         Shanklin seeks a retrial, termination of the employment of Defendants Brown, Gookin, and Arnold, and unspecified monetary compensation. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 3; ECF No. 5 at PageID 15; ECF No. 8 at PageID 28; ECF No. 9 at PageID 34.)

         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))).

         Shanklin 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).

         To the extent Shanklin seeks to sue Defendants Brown and Allen in their official capacities, his claims are construed as against the State of Tennessee.[4] 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 not waived its sovereign immunity and therefore may not be sued for damages. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-13-102(a). Moreover, a state is not a person within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Lapides v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. Sys. of Ga., 535 U.S. 613, 617 (2002); Will, 491 U.S. at 71.

         The Supreme Court has clarified, however, that “a state official in his or her official capacity, when sued for injunctive relief, would be a person under § 1983 because ‘official-capacity actions for prospective relief are not treated as actions against the State.'” Will, 491 U.S. at 71 n.10 (quoting Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 14 (1985), and Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 159-60 (1908)); see also Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of Treasury, State of Mich., Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376, 381 (6th Cir. 1993) (“[T]he [eleventh] amendment does not preclude ...

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