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Carter v. Watkins

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

January 7, 2020

MONTE WATKINS, et al., Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Calvin Carter, is an inmate in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office in Nashville, Tennessee. Proceeding pro se, the plaintiff has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1) and has paid the filing fee.

         The case is before the court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

         I. Initial Review of the Complaint

         A. PLRA Screening Standard

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must conduct an initial review of any prisoner complaint against a governmental entity, officer, or employee, and must dismiss the complaint or any portion thereof if it is facially frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. This initial review of whether the complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted asks whether it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” such that it would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Applying this standard, the court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and, again, must take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). Furthermore, pro se pleadings must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, pro se litigants are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989), nor can the court “create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading.” Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975)).

         B. Section 1983 Standard

         The plaintiff seeks to vindicate alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of any right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or federal laws. Wurzelbacher v. Jones-Kelley, 675 F.3d 580, 583 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, to state a Section 1983 claim, the plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights 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. Carl v. Muskegon Cty., 763 F.3d 592, 595 (6th Cir. 2014).

         C. Allegations and Claims

         The plaintiff alleges that he has been incarcerated since April 4, 2015, on a first-degree murder charge. (Doc. No. 1 at 5, 13.) His trial was first continued on November 27, 2017 and was continued again on August 13, 2018. (Id. at 14.) After two more continuances of the plaintiff's trial date and the appointment of his fifth defense attorney, the plaintiff has a current trial setting before Judge Monte Watkins on June 22, 2020. (Id. at 15-17.) His fifth and current defense attorney, Mrs. Carrie Searcy, filed a motion asserting a speedy trial violation in September 2019, and Judge Watkins heard the motion in October. Judge Watkins denied the motion, refusing to dismiss the case against the plaintiff or reduce his bond because the plaintiff had “fired too many of [his] court appointed attorney[s].” (Id.)

         The plaintiff alleges that his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, in addition to his rights under Tennessee constitutional and statutory law, [1] are being violated by the denial of a speedy trial due to Judge Watkins granting a continuance to state prosecutor Deborah Housel or removing the plaintiff's defense attorney every time he gets close to his trial date. (Id. at 3-4, 12- 13.) He alleges that Housel's multiple requests for continuances are motivated by the weakness of her case against him. (Id. at 12-13.) The plaintiff sues both defendants in their official capacity (id. at 2), seeking an award of one million dollars for pain and suffering related to his “oppressive pre-trial incarceration” and “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the stat[e] of Tennessee as well.” (Id. at 5, 18.)

         D. Analysis

         The plaintiff has sued a state judge and prosecutor, seeking monetary and injunctive relief. However, neither form of relief is available against these ...

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