French v. Davidson County Sheriff's Office
MEMORANDUM OPINION OF THE COURT. Signed by District Judge William L. Campbell, Jr on 4/12/2018. (xc:Pro se party by regular mail.) (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(mg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
DAVIDSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S
OFFICE, et al.,
MAGISTRATE JUDGE FRENSLEY
Plaintiff Jamon French, an inmate of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in Nashville,
Tennessee, filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Davidson
County Sheriff’s Office, alleging violations of his civil and constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 1).
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. § 1915A(b).
The Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard established 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) (citation omitted).
Section 1983 Standard
Plaintiff brings his complaint under 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 inmates of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office must purchase
pin numbers from a kiosk in order to make outgoing telephone calls. Plaintiff purchased a pin
number but it did not work, and Plaintiff was unable to make ongoing telephone calls during
January to June 2017. Plaintiff complained to corrections officers but they did not know how to
help Plaintiff. According to the complaint, Plaintiff tried to call his family and attorney but was
prevented from doing so due to his pin not working. (Doc. No. 1 at 5).
First, the complaint names the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office as the only Defendant to
this action. However, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office is not a suable entity under § 1983.
See Mathes v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., No. 3:10–cv–0496, 2010 WL 3341889,
at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010) (“[F]ederal district courts in Tennessee have frequently and
uniformly held that police departments and sheriff's departments are not proper parties to a § 1983
suit.”) (collecting cases)). Thus, Plaintiff’s claims against the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office
must be dismissed.
Giving this pro se complaint a liberal construction, the Court could construe Plaintiff’s
complaint as an attempt to state claims against Davidson County, Tennessee. While Davidson
County is a suable entity, it is responsible under § 1983 only for its “own illegal acts. [It is] not
vicariously liable under § 1983 for [its] employees' actions.” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51,
131 S. Ct. 1350, 1359, 179 L.Ed.2d 417 (2011) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Under § 1983, a municipality can only be held liable if the plaintiff demonstrates that the alleged
federal violation was a direct result of the city's official policy or custom. Burgess v. Fisher, 735
F.3d 462, 478 (6th Cir.2013) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 693, 98 S. Ct.
2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)); Regets v. City of Plymouth, 568 Fed. Appx. 380, 2014 WL 2596562,
at *12 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Slusher v. Carson, 540 F.3d 449, 456-57 (6th Cir. 2008)). A
plaintiff can make a showing of an illegal policy or custom by demonstrating one of the following:
(1) the existence of an illegal official policy or legislative enactment; (2) that an official with final
decision making authority ratified illegal actions; (3) the existence of a policy of inadequate
training or supervision; or (4) the existence of a custom or tolerance or acquiescence of federal
rights violations. Burgess, 735 F.3d at 478.
Here, the allegations of the complaint are insufficient to state a claim for municipal liability
against Davidson County under § 1983. The complaint does not identify or describe any of
Davidson County’s policies, procedures, practices, or customs relating to training; it does not
identify any particular shortcomings in that training or how those shortcomings caused the alleged
violations of Plaintiff’s rights; and it does not identify any other previous instances of similar
violations that would have put Davidson County on notice of a problem. See Okolo v. Metropolitan
Gov’t of Nashville, 892 F. Supp.2d 931, 944 (M.D. Tenn. 2012); Hutchison v. Metropolitan Gov’t
of Nashville, 685 F. Supp.2d 747, 751 (M.D. Tenn. 2010); Johnson v. Metropolitan Gov’t of
Nashville, No. 3:10-cv-0589, 2010 WL 3619790, at **2-3 (M.D. Tenn. Sept. 13, 2010).
Accordingly, the Court finds that the complaint does not contain sufficient allegations to state a
claim for municipal liability against Davidson County. Any such claim will be dismissed.
For the reasons explained above, the Court finds that the complaint fails to state claims
upon which relief can be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Davidson County Sheriff’s
Office. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Therefore, this action will be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
An appropriate Order will be entered.
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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