Rye v. Tidwell et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION OF THE COURT. Signed by District Judge Aleta A. Trauger on 1/17/2023. (xc:Pro se party by regular mail. ) (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(kc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
JOHN EDWIN RYE, JR.,
BERRY TIDWELL, et al.,
John Edwin Rye, Jr., an inmate at Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville,
Tennessee, 1 filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1) and an
application to proceed as a pauper. (Doc. No. 2.) This case is before the court for initial review.
Application to Proceed as a Pauper
An inmate may bring a civil suit without prepaying the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).
Because the plaintiff cannot pay the full filing fee in advance (see Doc. No. 2 at 3), his application
will be granted, and the $350.00 filing fee will be assessed against him. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b).
The court must review and dismiss the complaint is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a
claim, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A.
In doing so, the court must hold the complaint to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted).
Although the complaint lists the plaintiff’s address as the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office (Doc. No. 1
at 1, 6), the plaintiff mailed the complaint from Bledsoe County Correctional Complex (BCCX). (Id. at 7.)
A search of the Tennessee Felony Offender Information database confirms that the plaintiff is located at
BCCX. See https://foil.app.tn.gov/foil/search.jsp (searched using TDOC #103889, the number listed on the
mailing envelope) (last visited Jan. 9, 2023). The Clerk will be directed to update the plaintiff’s address
accordingly in the accompanying order.
Case 3:22-cv-00962 Document 5 Filed 01/17/23 Page 1 of 3 PageID #: 23
The plaintiff alleges that, on November 6, 2021, he suffered a broken collarbone. (Doc.
No. 1 at 5.) He was then “thrown in jail for 48 hours.” (Id.) And on November 19, 2021, Rutherford
County Circuit Court Judge Berry Tidwell ordered the plaintiff to complete eight hours of
community service. (Id.) The plaintiff brings this case against Judge Tidwell and Elcindra Smith,
an employee of the mental health court, seeking monetary damages. (Id. at 1–2, 6.)
On initial review, the court applies the same standard as under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470–71 (6th Cir. 2010). The court therefore
accepts “all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, [and] ‘consider[s] the factual
allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.’”
Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
681 (2009)). An assumption of truth does not extend to legal conclusions or “‘naked assertion[s]’
devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)).
“There are two elements to a § 1983 claim. First, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant
acted under color of state law. Second, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant’s conduct deprived
the plaintiff of rights secured under federal law.” Handy-Clay v. City of Memphis, Tenn., 695 F.3d
531, 539 (6th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted).
The plaintiff fails to state a claim against both defendants. As to Judge Tidwell, “judges
enjoy judicial immunity from suits arising out of the performance of their judicial functions.”
Brookings v. Clunk, 389 F.3d 614, 617 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553–
Case 3:22-cv-00962 Document 5 Filed 01/17/23 Page 2 of 3 PageID #: 24
54 (1967)). The doctrine of judicial immunity “is expansive, applying even when a party alleges
that the judge acted maliciously or violated its constitutional rights.” HLV, LLC v. Van Buren
Cnty., 775 F. App’x 204, 210 (6th Cir. 2019) (citing Bright v. Gallia Cnty., 753 F.3d 639, 648–49
(6th Cir. 2014)). There are only two exceptions to this doctrine: where “liability aris[es] from nonjudicial actions, say driving to and from work,” and where a judge “act[s] in the complete absence
of all jurisdiction.” Norfleet v. Renner, 924 F.3d 317, 319 (6th Cir. 2019) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted). Here, Judge Tidwell’s alleged actions are judicial in nature, and the
plaintiff does not allege that Judge Tidwell acted in the complete absence of jurisdiction.
Accordingly, Judge Tidwell is entitled to absolute immunity from this suit.
Next, as to Elcindra Smith, the plaintiff does not make any factual allegations describing
what Smith did to violate his constitutional rights. Indeed, aside from listing Smith as a defendant
and requesting monetary damages from Smith (see Doc. No. 1 at 1–2, 6), the complaint does not
mention Smith at all. Even under the liberal standards for pro se pleadings, that is not enough to
state a claim for relief. See Sampson v. Garrett, 917 F.3d 880, 882 (6th Cir. 2019) (“Even a pro se
prisoner must link his allegations to material facts and indicate what each defendant did to violate
his rights.”) (citations omitted).
For these reasons, the plaintiff will be granted pauper status and this case will be dismissed
for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order is filed herewith.
ALETA A. TRAUGER
United States District Judge
Case 3:22-cv-00962 Document 5 Filed 01/17/23 Page 3 of 3 PageID #: 25
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?