Horton v. Lincoln et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION: For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1] is GRANTED. Even liberally construing the complaint in favor of Plaintiff, however, it fails to state a cla im upon which relief may be granted under § 1983 as to all Defendants. Accordingly, this action will be DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A). The Court CERTIFIES that any appeal from this action would not be tak en in good faith and would be totally frivolous. See Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Signed by District Judge J Ronnie Greer on 2/8/2018. (Copy of Memorandum Opinion mailed to Christopher Horton at WASHINGTON COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, PO BOX 97, JONESBOROUGH, TN 37659, the Sheriff of Washington County at Sheriff's Office, P.O Box 1217, Johnson City, TN 37605-1217 and NEF sent to Court's financial deputy) (JCK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
ROBERT LINCOLN, JEFF JOHNSON,
ROBERT STINE, and WASHINGTON
This is a pro se prisoner’s civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1] will be
GRANTED and this action will be DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted under § 1983.
It appears from the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1] that Plaintiff
lacks sufficient financial resources to pay the filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915, Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1] will be GRANTED. As
Plaintiff is incarcerated in the Washington County Detention Center, he will be ASSESSED the
civil filing fee of $350.00.
The custodian of Plaintiff’s inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides
will be DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk, U.S. District Court, 220 West Depot Street, Suite 200,
Greeneville, Tennessee 37743, as an initial partial payment, whichever is the greater of: (a) twenty
percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff’s inmate trust account; or (b) twenty
percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in his inmate trust account for the six-month period
preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A) and (B). Thereafter, the
custodian of Plaintiff’s inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides shall submit
twenty percent (20%) of Plaintiff’s preceding monthly income (or income credited to Plaintiff’s
trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income exceeds ten dollars
($10.00), until the full filing fee of three hundred fifty dollars ($350.00) as authorized under 28
U.S.C. § 1914(a) has been paid to the Clerk. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).
The Clerk will be DIRECTED to send a copy of this memorandum opinion and the
accompanying order to the Sheriff of Washington County to ensure that the custodian of Plaintiff’s
inmate trust account complies with the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) with regard to
payment of the filing fee. The Clerk will also be DIRECTED to forward a copy of this
memorandum opinion and accompanying order to the Court’s financial deputy.
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 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. 554 (2007) “governs dismissals for failure 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).
In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he was
deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Black v. Barberton Citizens
Hosp., 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998); see also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223
(6th Cir. 1990) (stating that “Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates
a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”).
In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that even though Defendant Judge Lincoln had stated that
he would dismiss charges if witnesses for Plaintiff’s preliminary hearing did not show up for a
third time, Plaintiff was taken in front of a different judge on the third occasion and, even though
the witnesses again did not appear, the district attorney lied and the judge gave him extra days
[Doc. 2 p. 4]. Plaintiff also alleges that the next time he appeared in front of Defendant Judge
Lincoln, the witnesses again did not show, but an officer testified and lied about him [Id.]. Plaintiff
further claims that the district attorney dropped a charge regarding possession of a stolen firearm,
but still charged Plaintiff as a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and crack cocaine even
though Plaintiff was never seen or linked with those items [Id.]. As relief, Plaintiff seeks justice,
for the case to be in state court, where it started, rather than federal court, for dirty Johnson City
officers to be screened, and a million dollars [Id. at 5].
First, Plaintiff has set forth no allegations of misconduct as to Defendant Officer Johnson
or Defendant Stine. As such, the Court cannot plausibly infer that either of these Defendants
violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights and the complaint therefore fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted as to these Defendants.
Further, to the extent the Court can liberally construe the complaint to allege that Defendant
Stine was the district attorney to whom Plaintiff refers in his complaint, nothing in the complaint
suggests that the acts and/or omissions of the district attorney set forth in the complaint were taken
outside of the scope of his duties as a prosecutor. Thus, even if the Court liberally construes the
complaint to allege that Defendant Stine is the district attorney to whom Plaintiff refers in the
complaint, Defendant Stine is entitled to immunity for the claims therein. Imbler v. Pachtman,
424 U.S. 409, 420–31 (1976) (holding that a prosecutor has absolute immunity from civil suits
under § 1983 for actions taken within the scope of his duty to initiate and pursue criminal
Likewise, as nothing in the complaint suggests that Defendant Judge Lincoln lacked
jurisdiction or that the acts set forth in the complaint were not judicial acts, Defendant Judge
Lincoln is entitled to judicial immunity for the acts alleged in the complaint. See King v. Love,
766 F.2d 962, 966 (6th Cir. 1985) (holding that judges are entitled to absolute judicial immunity
from suits for money damages, including § 1983 civil suits, for all actions taken in the judge’s
judicial capacity, unless the actions are taken in the complete absence of any jurisdiction or the act
complained of is not a “judicial act”).
Lastly, as to Defendant Washington County, Plaintiff does not set forth any allegations of
a custom or policy underlying his alleged claims. Moreover, as set forth above, his complaint fails
to state a claim for a constitutional violation as to any individual Defendant. Accordingly, the
complaint fails to state a claim against Washington County. Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs, 436
U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (holding that a government can only be liable where its official policy causes
the constitutional rights violation); see also Wilson v. Morgan, 477 F.3d 326, 340 (6th Cir. 2007)
(holding that “[t]here can be no Monell municipal liability under § 1983 unless there is an
underlying unconstitutional act”).
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis
[Doc. 1] is GRANTED. Even liberally construing the complaint in favor of Plaintiff, however, it
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983 as to all Defendants.
Accordingly, this action will be DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and
The Court CERTIFIES that any appeal from this action would not be taken in good faith
and would be totally frivolous. See Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.
AN APPROPRIATE ORDER WILL ENTER.
s/J. RONNIE GREER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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