Martinez v. Shelby County Division of Corrections et al
ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO AMEND, DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING LEAVE TO FURTHER AMEND 23 24 25 32 22 . Signed by Judge James D. Todd on 3/13/17. (Todd, James)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
SHELBY COUNTY, ET AL.,
ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO AMEND, DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND
GRANTING LEAVE TO FURTHER AMEND
On September 18, 2015, Plaintiff Douglas Martinez (“Martinez”), who was, at the time,
an inmate at the Shelby County Correctional Center (“SCCC”) in Memphis, Tennessee, filed a
pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, along with a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) After Martinez complied with the Court order, ECF Nos. 4 & 6),
in an order issued on October 6, 2015, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and
assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 7.) On October 19, 2015, Martinez submitted a letter notifying the
court of his intent to file an amended complaint intended to serve as the “new statement of facts.”
(ECF No. 8.) Martinez filed the amended complaint on October 29, 2015. (ECF No. 10.) On
April 4, 2016, Martinez filed a motion to amend complaint. (ECF No. 22.) That motion is
GRANTED. Plaintiff filed another motion to amend on November 1, 2016, in which he seeks to
clarify the names of some of the Defendants and remove two named Defendants. (ECF No. 32.)
That motion is also GRANTED. The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Shelby County,
Tennessee;1 SCCC Director William Gupton, SCCC Assistant Director First Name Unknown
(“FNU”) Spears, Deputy Admin of Security Dennis Tillman, SCCC Manager Minus Adams,
Lieutenant (“Lt.”) Stephen Craig, Sergeant (“Sgt.”) FNU Ward, Sgt. FNU Strickland, G.
Building Unit Manager Chris Packard, B Counselor Carlitha Parrish, B. Counselor Ms. FNU
Bryant, B. Counselor FNU Houston, A. Counselor Ms. FNU Lee, A Counselor Mr. FNU Long,
A Counselor Mr. FNU Green, A Counselor Dwight Aaron, H Building Unit Manager Lorraine
Washington, Administrator Stanley Lipford, Disciplinary Board Supervisor Doris Smith,
Grievance Department Supervisor Tonya Beasley, Disciplinary Hearing Officer Carol Gregory,
Sgt. FNU Hurd, “CCS” Health Administrator Gary Soileau, CCS Q1 Kelley Brumky, CCS
Nurse Practitioner Allen Hopkins, CCS Nurse Practitioner Ron Abston, CCS Nurse FNU
Lincoln, CCS Psychiatrist Dr. FNU Spells, Aramark, Aramark Employee Janice Wilson, SCCC
Legal Clerk Eugene McIntyre, Maintenance Supervisor Ann Rogers, and Grievance
Representative Shawn Farmer.
The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any
portion thereof, if the complaint—
is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted; or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be
granted, the court applies the standards under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), as
The Court construes the allegations against the Shelby County Division of Corrections
as claims against Shelby County.
stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). “Accepting
all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘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 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (alteration in
original). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions . . . are not entitled to the
assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they
must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing,’ rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to
relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could
satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice’ of the nature of the claim, but also
‘grounds’ on which the claim rests.”).
“A complaint can be frivolous either factually or legally. Any complaint that is legally
frivolous would ipso facto fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Hill, 630 F.3d
at 470 (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 328-29 (1989)).
Whether a complaint is factually frivolous under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) is a separate issue from whether it fails to state a claim for relief.
Statutes allowing a complaint to be dismissed as frivolous give “judges not only
the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory,
but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint’s factual allegations
and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Neitzke,
490 U.S. at 327, 109 S. Ct. 1827 (interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1915). Unlike a
dismissal for failure to state a claim, where a judge must accept all factual
allegations as true, Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50, a judge does not have to accept
“fantastic or delusional” factual allegations as true in prisoner complaints that are
reviewed for frivolousness. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28, 109 S. Ct. 1827.
Id. at 471.
“Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers,’ and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383
(quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants and prisoners
are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown,
891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, No. 09-2259, 2011 WL
285251, at *5 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to
comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a
plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading’”) (quoting Clark v. Nat’l Travelers Life Ins. Co.,
518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975)) (alteration in original); Payne v. Sec’y of Treas., 73 F.
App’x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2) and stating, “[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne’s
claim for her”); cf. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004) (“District judges have no obligation
to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants.”); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F. App’x 506,
510 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[W]e decline to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause
of action on behalf of pro se litigants. Not only would that duty be overly burdensome, it would
transform the courts from neutral arbiters of disputes into advocates for a particular party. While
courts are properly charged with protecting the rights of all who come before it, that
responsibility does not encompass advising litigants as to what legal theories they should
Martinez filed his complaint and amended complaints pursuant to actions under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects,
or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within
the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an
action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in
any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such
officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a
declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the
purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the
District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation
of rights secured by the “Constitution and laws” of the United States (2) committed by a
defendant acting under color of state law. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a), “[a] party asserting a claim . . . may
join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party.”
Rule 20(a)(2) provides that persons may be joined in one action as defendants if:
(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the
alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence,
or series of transactions or occurrences; and
(B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has succinctly summarized
the legal principles:
In considering whether joinder should be permitted, the court is mindful that
“the impulse is toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action
consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies
is strongly encouraged.” United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715,
724 . . . (1966). This impulse, however, does not provide a plaintiff free
license to join multiple defendants into a single lawsuit where the claims
against the defendants are unrelated. See, e.g., Pruden v. SCI Camp Hill,
 F. App’x 436, 437 (3d Cir. 2007) (per curiam); George v. Smith, 507
F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007); Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1350 (9th
Cir. 1997). Thus, “[a] buckshot complaint that would be rejected if filed by a
free person—say, a suit complaining that A defrauded the plaintiff, B defamed
him, C punched him, D failed to pay a debt, and E infringed his copyright, all
in different transactions—should be rejected if filed by a prisoner.” George,
507 F.3d at 607.
Harris v. Gerth, No. 08-CV-12374, 2009 WL 368011, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 11, 2009); see also
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (“[M]ultiple claims against a single party are
fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against
Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits.”)
The complaint and amended complaint in this case assert numerous, unrelated claims
against approximately thirty-four named defendants plus five unidentified John Doe and Jane
Doe defendants. Martinez’s various claims include, for example, that he (1) wrote grievances
that were ignored; (2) was denied access to the law library on numerous occasions by multiple
parties; (3) had his due process violated when disciplinary hearings were held past the statute of
limitations, included altered statements, and where Martinez was not allowed to present
evidence; (4) was falsely accused of stealing and not allowed to present his side of the story; (5)
received a false disciplinary in retaliation for Martinez writing a complaint; (6) was forced to
take a drug test before the expiration of his probationary period; (7) was retaliated against due to
the filing of grievances; (8) was subject to inhumane treatment and jail conditions during his
confinement in C building where he was not given a shower, soap or toilet paper, was not given
utensils to eat, and where the toilet did not work; (9) was denied medical care on multiple
occasions; (10) was forced to reside in building with black mold where the kitchen is unclean,
the food preparation is unsanitary, and the food lacks nutritional balance; and (11) was yelled at,
intimidated, insulted, and threatened by multiple defendants.
Although Plaintiff’s claims have some factual similarities in that they occurred at the
same facility, there are many disparate claims. Thus, this is “the kind of ‘buckshot complaint
that . . . should be rejected if filed by a prisoner.’” Harris, 2009 WL 368011, at *1 (quoting
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d at 607)). Martinez must therefore decide which related claims to
bring in this lawsuit and he must provide a short and plain statement of those claims. See Fed R.
Civ. P. 8(a). If Martinez wishes to sue on all of his claims, he will necessarily have to bring
more than one lawsuit and each lawsuit will have to be accompanied by a separate application to
proceed in forma pauperis. See George, 507 F.3d at 607. Thus, since the claims in the
complaint and amended complaints are not properly joined, they are DISMISSED. All other
pending motions (ECF Nos. 23, 24 & 25) are DENIED without prejudice to re-filing at the
appropriate time if this case ultimately survives screening.
Martinez is GRANTED leave to further amend his complaint. Any amendment must be
filed within thirty (30) days after the date of this order. The amended complaint will supersede
the original complaint and must be complete in itself without reference to the prior pleadings.
The text of the complaint must allege sufficient facts to support each claim without reference to
any extraneous document. Any exhibits must be identified by number in the text of the amended
complaint and must be attached to the complaint. All claims alleged in an amended complaint
must arise from the facts alleged in the original complaint or amended complaints. Martinez
may add additional defendants provided that the claims against the new parties are properly
joined. Each claim for relief must be stated in a separate count and must identify each defendant
sued in that count. If Martinez fails to file an amended complaint within the time specified, the
Court will enter judgment.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ James D. Todd
JAMES D. TODD
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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