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Bailey v. Holloway

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

January 7, 2020

MICHAEL BERNARD BAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL HOLLOWAY, TONY PARKER, SHAUN PHILLIPS, GARY HAMBY, JACKIE RATHER, BRANDON ROBINSON, TIMOTHY BALL, ROGER MASON, MICHAEL PRITCHARD, ANTHONY GIBSON, and MICHAEL PARRISH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a prisoner of the Tennessee Department of Correction, has filed an amended pro se complaint for violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 setting forth claims regarding his placement in a prison program which he alleges violated his constitutional rights [Doc. 6] that the Court must screen pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). For the reasons set forth below, this action will be DISMISSED as the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted as to any Defendant.

         I. SCREENING STANDARD

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, sua sponte dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A); Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) “governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6).” Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Thus, to survive an initial review under the PLRA, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Courts liberally construe pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         A claim for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires a plaintiff to establish that a person acting under color of state law deprived him a federal right. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 315 (1981).

         II. ALLEGATIONS OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

         On October 31, 2015, Defendant Holloway had Plaintiff placed in the “Security Management Unit” (“SMU”), which is a federally-funded program for “close custody” inmates or inmates that have “documented disruptive behavior or [are] actively involved in ‘STG' activity like assault, significant criminal activity, strong-arming, . . . [or] introduction of contraband” [Doc. 6 at 3-4]. Defendant Holloway placed Plaintiff in this program in retaliation for Plaintiff filing grievances against staff members at a separate prison at which Defendant Holloway was the Warden [Id. at 4]. Also, Defendant Parker approved Plaintiff's placement in the SMU program without investigating whether Plaintiff qualified for it, which he did not [Id.]. Also, Defendant Phillips never answered Plaintiff's letter or appeal regarding this placement [Id. at 4-5].

         Further, Defendants Hamby and Rather told Plaintiff to stop complaining about the SMU program because they would not take him out of it, and when Plaintiff stated on December 6, 2015, that he would not be in the program if it was not federally funded and the jail was not making money from it, these Defendants responded that Plaintiff was “not that dumb after all” [Id. at 5]. Also, after Defendants Robinson, Ball, Mason, and Pritchard found out that Plaintiff has bipolar disorder and intermittent explosive disorder in 2016, they began “constantly” making Plaintiff upset and filing “bogus” disciplinary charges against him so that they could keep phasing Plaintiff back into the program [Id.]. Subsequently, on May 27, 2018, Defendant Gibson told Plaintiff that he never should have been placed in the SMU, but that he would go ahead and give Plaintiff a SMU certificate [Id.]. Lastly, the Warden who took Defendant Phillips's place told Plaintiff that he would not put his or the prison's name on Plaintiff's SMU certificate, which is normally done in accordance with SMU policy, and Plaintiff did not have to sign a behavioral contract when he received his SMU certificate, which everyone else has to do [Id. at 6].

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Defendants Parker and Phillips

         First, Plaintiff's only allegations against Defendant Phillips are that he did not answer the letter or appeal that Plaintiff sent him regarding Plaintiff's placement in the SMU program. However, a prisoner has “no inherent constitutional right to an effective prison grievance procedure.” Argue v. Hofmeyer, 80 Fed.Appx. 427, 430 (6th Cir. 2003). Further, knowledge of a grievance and failure to remedy the issue therein is not sufficient grounds to hold a supervisory jail official liable under § 1983. Frazier v. Michigan, 41 Fed.Appx. 762, 764 (6th Cir. 2002) (providing that “a complaint must allege that the defendants were personally involved in the alleged deprivation of federal rights” to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983); Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999) (finding that knowledge of a prisoner's grievance and a failure to respond or remedy the complaint was insufficient to impose liability on supervisory personnel under § 1983).

         Also, while Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Parker approved Plaintiff's placement in the SMU program without first investigating it, nothing in the complaint suggests that this omission was deliberate or that Defendant Parker had any reason to know that this placement was improper. Thus, this allegation does not allow the Court to plausibly infer that Defendant Parker's failure to investigate Plaintiff's placement in SMU was anything more than negligence, which is not actionable under § 1983. See Ahlers v. Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 373 (6th Cir. 1999) (holding that allegations of negligence are insufficient to support a § 1983 claim).

         Accordingly, the amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983 as to Defendants Parker and Phillips and they will be DISMISSED.

         B. Defendants Robinson, Bell, ...


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