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Russell v. First Baptist Church

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

November 7, 2017



          Greg N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court.

         Plaintiff Clarence L. Russell, a state prisoner currently incarcerated in the Kentucky State Reformatory, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court on initial screening of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss the action.


         Plaintiff brings this civil-rights action against the following Defendants in their individual and official capacities: (1) First Baptist Church in Fulton, Kentucky; (2) Youth Pastor Jeff Bowman; (3) Centri-Kid Camp at Lambuth College in Tennessee; (4) Cortney Meyer, a counselor at Centri-Kid Camp; (5) Fulton Police Department (FPD); (6) FPD Det. Sgt. Steven Williams; (7) FPD Sgt. Buckingham; (8) FPD Sgt. Purcell; (9) FPD Ofc. Latta; (10) FPD Ofc. Jere Hughes; (11) Department of Child Based Services, KY (DCBS); (12) Diann Sheppard, caseworker for DCBS; (13) Fulton County Detention Center (FCDC); (14) FCDC Jailer Ricky Parnell; (15) Fulton County Judicial System; (16) Michael Stacy, Commonwealth's Attorney; (17) Margot Merrill, Attorney with the Department of Public Advocacy; (18) Popular Bluff Police Department (PBPD) in Missouri; and (19) PBPD Det. Jeff Shackleford.

         In the sealed memorandum attached to the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that in July 2009 Defendants Bowman and Meyer reported a crime allegedly committed by Plaintiff by contacting Defendants Hughes and Williams of the FPD. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Sheppard and Williams interviewed the alleged victim, who Plaintiff claims was coached on what to say by Defendant Bowman. Plaintiff further claims that Defendant FPD and its officers, Defendants Williams, Buckingham, Purcell, Latta, and Hughes, failed to read him his Miranda[1] rights and conducted an illegal search and seizure in July 2009. Plaintiff claims that on July 24 or 28, 2009, Defendants Williams, Buckingham, Purcell, Latta, [2] and Sheppard served an arrest warrant and a search warrant at Plaintiff's residence. Plaintiff reports that during his transport to and interview at the FPD, he kept asking for a lawyer but that Defendant Williams denied his requests. Plaintiff also alleges that he has a history of mental health problems, which Defendant Sheppard should have told Defendant Williams about before his interview with Plaintiff. Plaintiff also lists several items which were allegedly seized during the search in July 2009.

         In addition, Plaintiff alleges that in 2005, Defendant Shackleford of the PBPD in Missouri had an open case on Plaintiff which was later closed. He claims that following Kentucky's imposition of criminal charges against him in July 2009, Defendant Shackleford reopened the Missouri case and went to Kentucky to assist Defendant Williams.

         As to the Fulton County Judicial System, Plaintiff cites to Case # 09-CR-00045 and claims that his public defender, Defendant Merrill, was ineffective for several reasons; that the trial court violated his due process rights and a fair trial by improperly admitting a hearsay statement and not allowing his attorney to question a prosecution witness regarding bias and credibility; that Defendant Merrill was engaged in an affair with the Commonwealth's Attorney, Defendant Stacy, and that the trial judge knew about it; that in October 2009 the trial judge ordered a “Profession Investigation and Security Consultants” that was never conducted, which resulted in Plaintiff being denied a fair trial; and that the trial judge “allowed [Defendant Shackleford of Missouri] to enter this case.”

         Plaintiff also complains of various jail conditions during his incarceration at the FCDC “from July 2009 until the time he left.”[3] First, he alleges “Inadequate Housing” due to “Numerous insects”; overcrowding (requiring him “to sleep on the floor with a mat for many of nights”); “Inadequate or no ventilation for fresh air” causing him to “suffer[] headaches and nausea from time to time”; and inadequate lighting in cells for safety. Second, he alleges “Inadequate Medical Care” because he was “unable to obtain examinations or care upon request. [He] has a mental health problem and no treatment at all.” Third, Plaintiff claims an “Unsafe Environment” because he “was Assault from time to time and a other inmate protect Russell.” He claims that the jail was reckless and failed to train, manage, and supervise. Lastly, Plaintiff alleges a denial of access to courts because “no way to call Attorney.”

         Finally, Plaintiff claims that in the summer of 2009, he and his family were having a cookout and picnic in the park; that Defendant Latta came to the park and said that they were not allowed there and “took the meat off the grill and threw it on the ground”; that Plaintiff and his family packed up and left and went to eat elsewhere; and that when Plaintiff went to the police department to report the incident involving Defendant Latta, the police chief said, “‘He can do what he wants.'”

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and declaratory relief. He also asks that this Court investigate his criminal case and “Reverse his sentence and Dissmiss all charges against him after the investigation is complete.”


         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court must review the instant action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). Under § 1915A, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the court determines that it 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. See § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

         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 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, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation ...

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