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Ruley v. Tinnell

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

July 1, 2013

GREGORY EDWARD RULEY, Plaintiff,
v.
SUMMER TINNELL et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES R. SIMPSON, III, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Gregory Edward Ruley, a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, filed a pro se complaint that the Court construes as being brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (DN 1). This matter is before the Court for initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss this action.

I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

Plaintiff names the following four Defendants in this action: Summer Tinnell; Shain Ruley; Ms. Chassity; and Marion County. He sues Summer Tinnell in her individual capacity and identifies her as an employee of Fantastic Sams. Shain Ruley is also sued in his individual capacity and is identified as an employee at OwensIllinois. Plaintiff sues Ms. Chassity in both her individual and official capacities, and he identifies her as being employed at Marion County Child Protective Services. The final Defendant, Marion County, Plaintiff states, is being sued in its official capacity. Plaintiff seeks monetary and punitive damages and for Defendant Ruley to return "fathers Jewelry."

In his complaint Plaintiff states as follows:

In the month of September 2008 Summer Ruley Tinnell, Shain Ruley made allegations toward myself. Ms. Chassity, a employee of the Marion County Child Protective Services already had knowledge that the other (2) defendants had made same allegations (2) years prior to making allegations against Plaintiff against another person. Those allegations were false as well. All defendants conspired to bring false charges against Plaintiff and the County itself set out for a malicious prosecution of Plaintiff. 2009 charges against Plaintiff were dismissed. By the defendants having knowledge that they had done same against another Person and then to Plaintiff and a County employee choosing not to disclose of vital information have violated Plaintiffs U.S. Constitutional Amendment (14) Due Process and equal Protection of law. In a Order entered 4-23-09 in Marion Circuit Court asking for information. [See Attached].[1]

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of it, if it determines that the complaint is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d at 604. A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The trial court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

"[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, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). "But the district court need not accept a bare assertion of legal conclusions.'" Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). The court's duty "does not require [it] to conjure up unpled allegations, " McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979), or to create a claim for a plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To command otherwise would require the Court "to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

III. LEGAL ANALYSIS

Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and their powers are enumerated in Article III of the Constitution and in statutes enacted by Congress. Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986); see generally, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330 et seq. Under the federal-question statute, "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Private entities are not usually liable for most rights secured by the Constitution. Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 936 (1982). However, Congress enacted 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment. Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 838 (1982). Plaintiff appears to be bringing this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Court will analyze this action as being so brought.

A. Official-Capacity Claims

Plaintiff states that he is bringing this action against Defendant Chassity in her official capacity as an employee of Marion County Child Protective Services. He also brings this action against the municipality, Marion County. "Official-capacity suits... generally represent [] another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'" Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985) (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). Suing Defendant Chassity in her official capacity is the equivalent of suing her employer, Marion County. See Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439-40 (6th Cir. 2008) (stating that civil rights suit against county clerk of courts in his official capacity was equivalent of suing clerk's employer, the county); Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003) ("[I]ndividuals sued in their official capacities stand in the shoes of the entity they represent."); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994) (advising that since the chief of the county police department sued in his official capacity is a suit against the county police department, an entity which may not be sued, the county is the proper party); Smallwood v. Jefferson Cnty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990) (concluding that a suit against the fiscal court and judge executive is actually a suit against the county itself).

When a § 1983 claim is made against a municipality, this Court must analyze two distinct issues: (1) whether Plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) if so, whether the municipality is responsible for that violation. Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). The Court will first address the second ...


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