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Hopper v. Madison County, Tennessee

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

January 15, 2020

CASEY LYNN HOPPER, Plaintiff,
v.
MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, Defendant.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On January 13, 2020, Plaintiff Casey Lynn Hopper, who is incarcerated at the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex (CJC) in Jackson, Tennessee, filed a pro se civil complaint and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The Court issued an order on January 14, 2020, 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. 4.) Hopper sues Madison County.

         Hopper alleges various problems with the conditions at the CJC, including double-celling of inmates in overcrowded conditions that amount to a fire code violation. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) He contends there is black mold which is a health hazard and that the building in general is “unfit for human habitation.” (Id.) Hopper further alleges that some inmates are confined in segregation for more than one week without physical exercise. (Id.) He alleges these conditions violate his rights under article 1, section 32 of the Tennessee Constitution. (Id.)

         Hopper seeks compensation of $5 million and wants the CJC to be rid of black mold and made “liveable.” (Id. at PageID 3.)

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))).

         Hopper filed his complaint on the form used for commencing actions 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).

         Though Hopper alleges the conditions at the CJC violate the Tennessee Constitution, Tennessee does not recognize actions for damages for violations of the Tennessee Constitution. See Bowden Bldg. Corp. v. Tenn. Real Estate Comm'n, 15 S.W.3d 434, 444-45 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999); see also Siler v. Scott, No. E2017-01112-COA-R3-CV, 2019 WL 2306932, at *11 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 30, 2019). However, because Hopper used the ยง 1983 complaint ...


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