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Calloway-Armstrong v. Clarksville Police Department

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

January 6, 2020



          Aleta A. Trauger, United States District Judge.

         Tyson Dion Calloway-Armstrong and Evelyn Rachel Northern co-filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Clarksville Police Department, the Metro Police Department, Drake Forrest, and Ion Chaney. (Doc. No. 1). The plaintiffs are residents of Nashville, Tennessee.

         I. Screening Standard

         Because the plaintiffs are proceeding as paupers in this action, the court must conduct an initial review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and dismiss it or any portion of it that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. In assessing whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court applies the standards under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as construed by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). See Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that "the dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)").

         "Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed." Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 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, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) ("[A] court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Payne v. Sec'y o/Treas., 73 Fed.Appx. 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, "[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her").

         II. Section 1983 Standard

         The plaintiffs seek relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under § 1983, the plaintiff must allege and show: (1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981)(overruled in part by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330 (1986)); Flagg Bros. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-56 (1978); Black v. Barberton Citizens Hosp., 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998). Both parts of this two-part test must be satisfied to support a claim under § 1983. See Christy v. Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6thCir. 1991).

         III. Alleged Facts

         According to the complaint, on December 15, 2017, the plaintiffs, who are husband and wife, pulled into the driveway of the residence of Plaintiff Calloway-Armstrong's father. Two to three undercover police vehicles surrounded the plaintiffs, and police announced with guns drawn that there was an arrest warrant in Calloway-Armstrong's name. Officers arrested both of the plaintiffs and subsequently searched their home. In executing the search, the police took $150 that was under a mattress. The police did not seize any electronic devices, even though the search warrant stated that all electronic devices must be seized. The police left a copy of the search warrant and an illegible inventory list at the plaintiffs' residence.

         Later, the plaintiffs attempted to obtain a copy of the affidavit of record stated for the search warrant. The county clerk's office stated that they had no record of the warrant or the affidavit. Agent Ion Chaney, the officer who gave the sworn statement for the warrant, refused to speak with the plaintiffs. The public information officer of Montgomery County told the plaintiffs that he could not locate any record of the affidavit or the warrant. The plaintiffs believe a forged warrant was executed on their home.

         The plaintiffs have spent the last two years pursuing legal recourse for the December 15, 2017 search and arrest. Recently the plaintiffs were told that the "The State of Tennessee is no longer prosecuting." (Doc. No. 1 at 5). The plaintiffs have submitted copies of the May 29, 2019 state court orders expunging their criminal records pertaining to these crimes. (Id., Attach. 1). The plaintiffs' property that was taken during the search of their home has not been returned to them.

         IV. Analysis

         A. Section 1983 Claims

         First, the plaintiffs name the Clarksville Police Department and the Metro Police Department as defendants. (Doc. No. 1 at 1). However, a police or sheriffs department is not an entity capable of being sued under 42 U.S.C § 1983. See, e.g., Durham v. Estate of Gus Losleben, No. 16-1042-STA-egb, 2017 WL 1437209, at *2 (W.D. Tenn. Apr. 21, 2017); McKinney v. McNairy Cnty., Tenn., 1:12-CV-01101, 2012 WL 4863052, at *3 (W.D. Tenn. Oct. 11, 2012); Newby v. Sharp, 3:11-CV-534, 2012 WL 1230764, at *3 (E.D. Tenn. Apr. 12, 2012); Mathes v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville and Davidson Cnty., No. 3:10-CV-0496, 2010 WL 3341889, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010). ...

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