Taylor v. Lebo

Filing 8


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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE WESTERN DIVISION DEANGELO C. TAYLOR Plaintiff, VS. JONATHAN LEBO, Warden, Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. 16-2515-STA-egb ORDER DISMISSING CLAIMS, CERTIFYING AN APPEAL WOULD NOT BE TAKEN IN GOOD FAITH AND NOTIFYING PLAINTIFF OF APPELLATE FILING FEE On June 24, 2016, Plaintiff Deangelo C. Taylor, an inmate at West Tennessee State Penitentiary (“WTSP”) in Henning, Tennessee, filed pro se a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. On July 7, 2016, the Court issued an order granting Taylor 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). The Clerk shall record the defendant as WTSP Warden Jonathan Lebo. BACKGROUND Taylor alleges that Warden Lebo placed him in maximum security at WTSP because Taylor had a “physical confrontation” with a corrections officer at the Shelby County Jail on April 22, 2016. (Compl. at 2.) Taylor alleges that by placing him in maximum security, Warden Lebo has essentially punished him twice for the same conduct and caused him to suffer emotional distress. (Id.) According to the Complaint, Taylor has not received medical treatment for his emotional distress. (Id.) Taylor seeks $1 million in damages and an order directing Warden Lebo to release Taylor from maximum security into the general population and to lower his security level to minimum security. (Id. at 3.) SCREENING STANDARD The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint— (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 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 pleading standards under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), announced in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009) and 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.”). 2 “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, 415 F. App’x 608, 612-13 (6th Cir. 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’”) (quotation omitted); 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 pursue.”). I. Section 1983 Taylor filed his Complaint on the court-supplied form for 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 Columbia. 3 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 (1970). The Court holds that the Complaint fails to state a claim. Taylor alleges that Warden Lebo’s decision to house him in maximum security has caused him to suffer emotional distress. Taylor’s claim arises under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991). An Eighth Amendment claim consists of both objective and subjective components. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The objective component requires that the deprivation be “sufficiently serious.” Id. To satisfy the objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim, a prisoner must show that he “is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm,” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; see also Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 812 (6th Cir. 2005), or that he has been deprived of the “minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities,” Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Hadix v. Johnson, 367 F.3d 513, 525 (6th Cir. 2004) (“To succeed in an Eighth Amendment challenge, [a prisoner] must establish that . . . a single, identifiable necessity of civilized human existence is being denied . . . .”). The Constitution “does not mandate comfortable prisons.” Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “[R]outine discomfort is part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.” Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Thus, “extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions-of-confinement claim.” Id. at 9. 4 Taylor merely alleges that being housed in maximum security has caused him emotional pain and suffering. Taylor’s jail assignment and classification does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Moreover, Taylor does not allege that he has suffered any physical injury to his health. Under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), “[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury or the commission of a sexual act.” Therefore, Taylor’s Eighth Amendment claim for mental pain and suffering must be DISMISSED. Regarding Taylor’s request for a change in his security classification, this Court does not have the authority to supervise classification and assignment of inmates. An inmate does not have a constitutionally protected right to be assigned to a particular prison, security classification, or housing assignment. Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238 (1983); Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215 (1976); Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236 (1976); see also Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484-87 (1995) (confinement in particular part of prison or jail does not implicate due process absent “atypical and significant hardship” “in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life”). Therefore, Taylor’s request to lower his security classification must be DISMISSED. This leaves Taylor’s allegations of double jeopardy. Any claims for double jeopardy arising from Taylor’s conviction are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, in which the Supreme Court held as follows: [I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 5 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. But if the district court determines that the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit. 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (footnotes omitted); see also Schilling v. White, 58 F.3d 1081, 1086 (6th Cir. 1995) (same) (footnotes omitted). Plaintiff has no cause of action under § 1983 if the claims in that action hinge on factual proof that would call into question the validity of a state court order directing his confinement unless and until any prosecution is terminated in his favor, his conviction is set aside, or the confinement is declared illegal. Heck, 512 U.S. at 481-82; Schilling, 58 F.3d at 1086. Cf. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973) (whenever the relief sought is release from prison, the only remedy is through a habeas petition, not a § 1983 complaint). Although it is not at all clear that Taylor has alleged a double jeopardy claim, the Court holds that Heck bars any claims arising from Taylor’s conviction. Taylor does not allege that his conviction was overturned on direct appeal or set aside through a collateral attack. As such, any double jeopardy claim alleged in the Complaint is DISMISSED. II. Leave to Amend The Sixth Circuit has held that a district court may allow a prisoner to amend his complaint to avoid a sua sponte dismissal under the PLRA. LaFountain v. Harry, 716 F.3d 944, 951 (6th Cir. 2013). In this case, the Court concludes that leave to amend is not warranted. 6 CONCLUSION The Court DISMISSES Taylor’s Complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b(1). Leave to amend is DENIED because the deficiencies in Taylor’s Complaint cannot be cured. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(a)(3), the Court must also consider whether an appeal by Taylor in this case would be taken in good faith. The good faith standard is an objective one. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). The test for whether an appeal is taken in good faith is whether the litigant seeks appellate review of any issue that is not frivolous. Id. It would be inconsistent for a district court to determine that a complaint should be dismissed prior to service on the Defendants, but has sufficient merit to support an appeal in forma pauperis. See Williams v. Kullman, 722 F.2d 1048, 1050 n.1 (2d Cir. 1983). The same considerations that lead the Court to dismiss this case for failure to state a claim also compel the conclusion that an appeal would not be taken in good faith. Therefore, it is CERTIFIED, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(a)(3), that any appeal in this matter by Taylor would not be taken in good faith. The Court must also address the assessment of the $505 appellate filing fee if Taylor nevertheless appeals the dismissal of his case. A certification that an appeal is not taken in good faith does not affect an indigent prisoner plaintiff’s ability to take advantage of the installment procedures contained in § 1915(b). See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 610-11 (6th Cir. 1997), partially overruled on other grounds by LaFountain, 716 F.3d at 951. McGore sets out specific procedures for implementing the PLRA, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)-(b). Therefore, Taylor is instructed that if he wishes to take advantage of the installment procedures for paying the appellate filing fee, he must comply with the procedures set out in McGore and § 1915(a)(2) by 7 filing an updated in forma pauperis affidavit and a current, certified copy of his inmate trust account for the six months immediately preceding the filing of the notice of appeal. For analysis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) of future filings, if any, by Taylor, this is the first dismissal of one of his cases as frivolous or for failure to state a claim. This “strike” shall take effect when judgment is entered. Coleman v. Tollefson, 135 S. Ct. 1759, 1763-64 (2015). The Clerk is directed to prepare a judgment. IT IS SO ORDERED. s/ S. Thomas Anderson S. THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE Date: September 13, 2017. 8

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