Chouinard v. The United States
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION Signed by Chief District Judge Thomas A Varlan on 2/21/2017. (c/m) (MDG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
THE UNITED STATES,
Acting pro se, William Chouinard, an inmate confined to the McMinn County Justice
Center, has submitted this civil rights complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 2], as
well as an application for leave to proceed without payment of fees or costs [Doc. 1].
The Filing Fee
Based on the financial data provided, Plaintiff’s application to proceed without
prepayment of fees [Doc. 1] will be GRANTED. Nonetheless, because Plaintiff is an inmate, he
will be ASSESSED the filing fee of three hundred and fifty dollars ($350).
Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock,
549 U.S. 199 (2007).
The custodian of Plaintiff’s inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides
shall submit, 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)–(B). Thereafter, the trust account
custodian shall submit twenty percent (20%) of Plaintiff’s preceding monthly income (or income
credited to his trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income
exceeds $10.00, until the full filing fee of $350 has been paid to the Clerk’s Office. McGore,
114 F.3d at 607.
Payments should be sent to: Clerk, U.S. District Court; 800 Market Street, Suite 130,
Knoxville, Tennessee 37902. To ensure compliance with the fee-collection procedure, the Clerk
is DIRECTED to mail a copy of this memorandum and order to the custodian of inmate
accounts at the institution where Plaintiff is now confined. The Clerk is also DIRECTED to
furnish a copy of this memorandum and order to the Court’s financial deputy.
memorandum and order shall be placed in Plaintiff’s prison file and follow him if he is
transferred to another correctional institution.
Any further request contained within Plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis is
premature and will not be decided at this time.
Screening Requirement Standard
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) district courts must screen prisoner
complaints and sua sponte dismiss those that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for
relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., Benson v. O’Brian, 179 F.3d 1014
(6th Cir. 1999).
In screening this complaint, the Court bears in mind that pro se pleadings filed in civil
rights cases must be liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Still, the pleading
must be sufficient “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), which simply means that the factual content pled by a
plaintiff must permit a court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged,” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
The “facial plausibility” standard does not require “detailed factual allegations, but it
demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The standard articulated in Twombly and Iqbal
“governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) 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).
Plaintiff represents that he possesses “inalienable [sic] rights to life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness” [Doc. 2 p. 2]. He argues that “[a]nything that is termed as a victimless
crime is merely a dictatorial violation of a citizen’s pursuit of happiness and violates every
foundation element of our [C]onstitution and [B]ill of [R]ights” [Id.]. A real crime requires there
to be a victim [Id. at 3]. It is a violation of due process for a statute or a government agent to be
a “complaining citizen” for the purpose of a warrant on the accusation of a victimless crime [Id.].
Plaintiff maintains that it is cruel and unusual punishment to impose a loss of liberty if found
guilty of a victimless crime [Id. at 4]. Without a proven victim, Plaintiff argues punishment of
incarceration of a year or more is unconstitutional [Id. at 7].
Plaintiff asserts that there must be a change to the Constitution, such as the amendment
that was added to the Bill of Rights concerning alcohol [Id. at 5]. He states that “[t]he loss of
freedom for anything not considered a crime . . . would require a new amendment to the
Constitution” [Id. at 6]. He likens the incarceration of a “victimless criminal” to slavery” [Id. at
In his document entitled “Petition for joiner,” Plaintiff declares that in an effort to enforce
the complained of unconstitutional laws regarding punishment for victimless crimes, he has been
“beaten, kidnapped, blackmailed, extorted, victimized, [his] famil[y] [has] been destroyed, [his]
home invaded, [his] peace and dignity robbed” [Id. at 9].
Law and Analysis
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) (“Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates
a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere.”).
Plaintiff, however, does not assert that any defendant was acting under the color of state
law, as the only named defendant is the United States of America. Although plaintiffs may sue
federal officials for denying them their constitutional rights under Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents
of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), a Bivens action for damages may be
brought only against individual federal officials, not against the United States. Shaner v. United
States, 976 F.2d 990, 995 (6th Cir. 1992) (citing Ashbrook v. Block, 917 F.2d 918, 924 (6th Cir.
1990)). Here, Plaintiff has failed to name individual federal officials as defendants in this action.
Thus, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s asserted claims.
Notwithstanding, the Court further finds that Plaintiff fails to allege that his constitutional rights
have been violated but rather appears to be requesting that this Court amend federal laws to
eliminate punishment resulting from being found guilty of a victimless crime. This Court is not
the forum that can provide Plaintiff with the type of assistance requested. The Court finds that
Plaintiff’s motion fails to form the basis of a § 1983 claim for deprivation of rights secured by
the Constitution, and thus, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff’s application to proceed without prepayment of fees
[Doc. 1] will be GRANTED. Nonetheless, Plaintiff will be ASSESSED the filing fee of three
hundred and fifty dollars ($350), and shall follow the procedures as outlined in this
In addition, Plaintiff’s complaint will be DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)
and § 1915A(b). The Court will CERTIFY pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that for the
reasons expressed herein an appeal of this Court’s Order would not be taken in good faith. See
McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997).
AN APPROPRIATE ORDER WILL FOLLOW.
s/ Thomas A. Varlan
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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