Evans v. Maury County, TN
MEMORANDUM OPINION OF THE COURT. Signed by Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr on 7/12/2017. (xc:Pro se party by regular mail. ) (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(jw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
MAURY COUNTY, TN,
CHIEF JUDGE CRENSHAW
Josh Evans, an inmate of the Maury County Jail in Columbia, Tennessee, brings this pro se,
in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Maury County, Tennessee, alleging a
violation of his civil and constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 1). The Plaintiff seeks damages and
injunctive relief. (Id. at 6).
The complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.
PLRA Screening Standard
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must dismiss any portion of a civil complaint
filed in forma pauperis that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, is frivolous, or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Section 1915A similarly
requires initial review of any “complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity,” id. § 1915A(a), and summary
dismissal of the complaint on the same grounds as those articulated in § 1915(e)(2)(B). Id. §
The Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court
in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007),
“governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes 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 scrutiny on initial review, “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). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for
the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[A] district court must (1) view
the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual
allegations as true.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009)
(citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).
Although pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520–21 (1972); Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108,
110 (6th Cir. 1991), the courts’ “duty to be ‘less stringent’ with pro se complaints does not require
us to conjure up [unpleaded] allegations.” McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979)
Section 1983 Standard
Plaintiff brings his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates
a cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, abridges “rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws . . . .” To state a claim under § 1983,
a plaintiff must allege and show two elements: (1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a person acting
under color of state law. Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590 (6th Cir. 2003); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The complaint alleges that, while incarcerated at the Maury County Jail, the Plaintiff
converted to Judaism and thereafter asked to be served kosher meals. According to the complaint,
the jail staff fails to recognize the Plaintiff’s religious conversion and refuses to provide the Plaintiff
with kosher meals and, as a result, the Plaintiff is “being forced to eat foods that is [sic] against [his]
religion.” (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6).
A review of the Court’s records shows that, on February 24, 2017, the Plaintiff brought a
federal civil rights action against the Maury County Jail and Sheriff Bucky Rawland alleging
essentially the same facts as those raised in the instant complaint. See Joshua Evans v. Maury
County Jail, et al., No. 1:17-cv-00019 (M.D. Tenn. 2017)(Crenshaw, J.). On March 2, 2017, the
Court dismissed that action for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted as to both
Defendants. (Id., Doc. Nos. 4 and 5). In dismissing the Plaintiff’s claims against Sheriff Rawland
is his official capacity, the Court found that the Plaintiff had failed to allege that his rights were
violated pursuant to a policy or regulation of Maury County that requires the jailers at the Maury
County Jail to deny the Plaintiff kosher meal service. (Id., Doc. No. 4 at 2).
The broad doctrine of res judicata encompasses both claim preclusion (res judicata) and
issue preclusion (collateral estoppel). J.Z.G. Res., Inc. v. Shelby Ins. Co., 84 F.3d 211, 214 (6th Cir.
1996). Under claim preclusion, a final judgment on the merits bars any and all claims by the parties
or their privies based on the same cause of action, as to every matter actually litigated, as well as
every theory of recovery that could have been presented. Id. Under issue preclusion, once an issue
actually is determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, that determination is conclusive in
subsequent suits based on a different cause of action when used against any party to the prior
litigation. Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 152-54 (1979). Dismissal with prejudice is
considered a final judgment on the merits for purposes of res judicata. See Haddad v. Mich. Nat’l
Corp., 34 Fed. Appx. 217, 218 (6th Cir. 2002)(citing Matter of W. Tex. Mktg. Corp., 12 F.3d 487,
501 (5th Cir. 1994)).
After reviewing the Plaintiff’s instant complaint, it appears that the Plaintiff has restated the
same or similar allegations pertaining to the Maury County Jail’s alleged refusal to provide him with
kosher meals. The complaint names only Maury County as a Defendant and fails to allege that the
Plaintiff’s rights are being violated pursuant to a custom, practice, or policy of Maury County. As
the Court explained in the Plaintiff’s previous case, a claim against Sheriff Rawland in his official
capacity is a claim against Maury County, the municipal entity that employs Sheriff Rawland, and
such a claim requires that the Plaintiff allege that the alleged misconduct occurred pursuant to a
custom, policy, or practice of Maury County. See Evans v. Maury County Jail, No. 1:17-cv-00019
(Doc. No. 4 at 2). The Court already has rendered a final decision on the merits regarding the
Plaintiff’s claims against the Maury County Jail and Sheriff Bucky Rawland in his official capacity.
(Id.) The Plaintiff has not alleged any facts differentiating his current complaint. As a result, the
Plaintiff’s instant claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata.
For these reasons, the Court finds that the Plaintiff’s complaint fails the PLRA initial
screening. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata.
In the absence of an actionable claim, the Court is obliged to dismiss the complaint sua sponte. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Accordingly, the Plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.
An appropriate Order will be entered.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR.
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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