Morton v. George et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER. The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis 7 . Plaintiff is ASSESSED the civil filing fee of $350.00. The Court DIRECTS the custodian of Plaintiffs inmate trust account to submit the filing fee to the Clerk in the manner set forth. Judgment Order to follow. Signed by District Judge Katherine A. Crytzer on 1/17/23. (c/m Christopher Morton Bedford County Jail 110 North Creek Road Shelbyville, TN 37160 and custodian of Plaintiffs inmate trust account)(ADA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
SHANE GEORGE, SAM BRAGGS, and
BEDFORD COUNTY JAIL,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, an inmate of the Bedford County Jail, filed (1) a pro se Complaint under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388
(1971)1 challenging events before and during his current confinement [Doc. 1] and (2) a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 7]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 7] and DISMISSES
this action because the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
It appears from Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 7] that he
is unable to pay the filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court GRANTS
Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
Bivens governs claims against persons acting under federal law and is analogous to
Section 1983, which governs claims against persons acting under state law. See Hartman v.
Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 254 n.2 (2006). The limited information Plaintiff provided in his Complaint
regarding Defendants does not suggest that any Defendant was acting under federal law with
regard to the actions alleged in the Complaint. Nevertheless, for the reasons that follow, the
Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Section 1983 or Bivens,
to which “the same legal principles apply,” Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 614 (6th Cir. 2014).
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Plaintiff will be ASSESSED the $350.00 civil filing fee. The custodian of Plaintiff’s
inmate trust account will be DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk, United States District Court, 900
Georgia Avenue, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402, as an initial partial payment, whichever is the
greater of: (a) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to his inmate trust account;
or (b) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in his inmate trust account for the six
months before the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A) and (B). Thereafter, the
custodian of Plaintiff’s inmate trust account shall submit twenty percent (20%) of his preceding
monthly income (or income credited to his 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.
To ensure compliance with this fee-collection procedure, the Clerk will be DIRECTED to
provide a copy of this Memorandum Opinion and Order to the custodian of inmate accounts at the
institution where Plaintiff is now confined and to the Court’s financial deputy. This document
shall be placed in Plaintiff’s file and follow him if he is transferred to another correctional
A. Screening Standard
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), district courts must screen prisoner
complaints and sua sponte dismiss any claims that are “frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted,” or “seek monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B); see
also Benson v. O’Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard that the Supreme
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Court articulated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544 (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) (citations omitted). 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).
Formulaic and conclusory recitations of the elements of a claim do not state a plausible
claim for relief. Id. at 681. Likewise, an allegation that does not raise a plaintiff’s right to relief
“above a speculative level” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570. However, the Supreme Court has instructed that courts should 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).
B. Complaint Allegations
First, Plaintiff asserts that unspecified state or local officials have violated his rights under
Section 1983 by not providing him a fair and speedy trial, harassing him, falsely imprisoning him,
and using “[d]roin [sic] surveillance . . . for stalking” [Doc. 1 at 3]. Next, he alleges that
unspecified federal officials violated his Fourth Amendment rights [Id.]. Plaintiff also claims that
(1) unnamed individuals have used “‘droins [sic]’” to harass him and gain unlawful knowledge,
(2) the Sheriff’s Department Task Force has had “numerous cases of assault and attempted assault
. . . [and] trespassing,” and (3) “[t]hese officials and others, including the district attorney,
“terr[or]ized [him]” [Id. at 4].
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Plaintiff indicates that he is a pretrial detainee but has not had a preliminary hearing during
his five (5) months in jail [Id. at 4]. And, in response to a question on the Complaint Form asking
him to describe the claims giving rise to his Complaint, Plaintiff states that he has “too much to
[write],” and that Bedford County officers have watched “‘dope being ‘planted’ in [his] house then
[come] back when [he is] home and com[e] in with no warrant” [Id.]. Underneath this statement,
Plaintiff writes “Shane George” [Id.].
Plaintiff also indicates that while he was in jail on an unspecified date, he “[h]ad his face
broke . . . with staged attack by BCJ etc.” and that his attacker was Jonathan Fowler, but that he
did not get a bail reduction or any “‘real’ legal help” after this attack [Id. at 4-5].
Plaintiff then states that one of the claims giving rise to his Complaint occurred on January
19, 2019, and that he will have to research dates of the other attacks and arrest [Id. at 5]. Also, the
district attorney allegedly forced Plaintiff to drop the charges arising out of Jonathon Fowler’s
attack on him, and unspecified jail officials denied him medical care “until next day of attack [sic]”
and told him that “it was on [him] and they would not cover it” after he bonded out [Id.].
Plaintiff additionally asserts that Defendant Sam Braggs issued a warrant that resulted in
him being falsely arrested [Id.].
Plaintiff sued Shane George,2 Sam Braggs, and the Bedford County Jail [Id. at 1]. Plaintiff
sued the individual Defendants in their official capacities only and sued Bedford County Jail in
The caption of Plaintiff’s Complaint lists “17th District Judicial Task Force” before
“Shane George,” and Plaintiff included a bracket linking these items together [See Doc. 1 at 1].
Then, in the portion of the Complaint Form that asks Plaintiff to provide the name and certain
information for each Defendant, Plaintiff names “Shane George” and lists his title as the “Director”
of the “17th Judicial Task Force” [Id. at 2]. But Plaintiff does not name the “17th District Judicial
Task Force” as a Defendant [See id. at 2-3]. As such, it appears that Plaintiff only intended to sue
“Shane George” the Director of the 17th Judicial Task Force and not the “17th Judicial Task Force”
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both its individual and official capacities [Id. at 2-3]. As relief, Plaintiff requested that all people
involved in his claims be fired and prosecuted, and he requested compensatory damages [Id. at 5].
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. And Bivens
provides a parallel remedy based on the same conduct against persons acting under color of federal
law. Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 254 n.2 (2006) (citation omitted).
For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted under Section 1983 or Bivens. Plaintiff’s Complaint generally sets forth
some factual allegations and/or legal claims, but he does not connect those allegations and/or legal
claims to any named Defendant. However, the Court liberally construes the Complaint to assert
that (1) Defendant Shane George is liable for Bedford County officers watching individuals plant
drugs at Plaintiff’s house and then arresting Plaintiff without a warrant when he came home;
(2) Defendant Sam Braggs is liable for signing a warrant that resulted in false arrest/imprisonment
of Plaintiff; and (3) Defendant Bedford County Jail is liable for Jonathon Fowler’s attack
Facts and Claims Unconnected to any Defendant
Plaintiff’s Complaint sets forth factual allegations and/or legal claims that he does not
connect to any named Defendant. These unconnected allegations and/or claims fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted as to any named Defendant. See Frazier v. Michigan, 41 F.
App’x 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 Section 1983).
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Liberally construing the Complaint in Plaintiff’s favor, Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendant
George, Director of the 17th Judicial Task Force, liable for Bedford County officers seeing
individuals planting drugs in Plaintiff’s home while he was not there and later arresting Plaintiff
without a warrant when he came home [Doc. 1 at 4]. However, Plaintiff provides no facts from
which the Court can plausibly infer that Defendant George was personally involved in this
incident, id., nor does the Complaint set forth any other facts from which the Court could plausibly
infer that Defendant George may be liable for these events. See Troutman v. Louisville Metro
Dep’t of Corr., 979 F.3d 472, 487 (6th Cir. 2020); Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir.
2009) (providing that Section 1983 liability cannot be premised upon a theory of respondeat
superior). Accordingly, the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted as
to Defendant George.
Plaintiff alleges that his false arrest and/or imprisonment arose from Defendant Braggs
signing a warrant. But such claims3 require Plaintiff to establish that Defendant Braggs lacked
probable cause for the arrest and/or imprisonment, see Voyticky v. Vill. of Timberlake, 412 F.3d
669, 677 (6th Cir. 2005), and Plaintiff has not set forth any facts from which the Court can
plausibly infer such facts.4 As such, the Complaint likewise fails to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted under Section 1983 as to Defendant Braggs.
Under federal law, false arrest is a species of false imprisonment, and, as such, the
Supreme Court has referred to these torts collectively as “false imprisonment.” Wallace v. Kato,
549 U.S. 384, 388-99 (2007).
It is evident that Plaintiff’s claim accusing Defendant Braggs of signing a warrant arises
from a different arrest than the allegedly warrantless arrest for which Plaintiff seeks to hold
Defendant George liable, and nothing in the Complaint suggests these arrests are related.
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Defendant Bedford County Jail
Finally, although Plaintiff has named the Bedford County Jail as a Defendant, it is not an
entity subject to suit under Section 1983. See, e.g., Cage v. Kent Cnty. Corr. Facility, No. 961167, 1997 WL 225647, at *1 (6th Cir. May 1, 1997) (stating that “[t]he district court also properly
found that the jail facility named as a defendant was not an entity subject to suit
under § 1983”). Moreover, Plaintiff does not allege that a custom or policy of Bedford County
caused any violation of his constitutional rights, such that the Court could liberally construe the
Complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Section 1983 against the
County. See, e.g., Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs, 436 U.S. 658, 708 (1978) (Powell, J., concurring)
(explaining a municipality can only be held liable for harms that result from a constitutional
violation when that underlying violation resulted from “implementation of [its] official policies or
established customs”). Thus, the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
under Section 1983 as to Defendant Bedford County Jail.
For the reasons set forth above:
1. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis
2. Plaintiff is ASSESSED the civil filing fee of $350.00;
3. The Court DIRECTS the custodian of Plaintiff’s inmate trust account to submit the
filing fee to the Clerk in the manner set forth above;
4. The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to provide a copy of this Memorandum Opinion and
Order to the custodian of inmate accounts at the institution where Plaintiff is now
confined and the Court’s financial deputy;
5. Even liberally construing the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, it fails
to state any claim upon which relief may be granted under Section 1983;
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6. Accordingly, the Court DISMISSES this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; and
7. The Court CERTIFIES that any appeal from this action would not be taken in good
faith and would be totally frivolous. See Fed. R. App. P. 24. Should Plaintiff file a
notice of appeal, he is DENIED leave to appeal in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24.
AN APPROPRIATE JUDGMENT WILL ENTER.
s/ Katherine A. Crytzer
KATHERINE A. CRYTZER
United States District Judge
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