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Tennyson v. Pounds

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

July 19, 2018




         This matter comes before the court on the pro se prisoner complaint of Billy Tennyson, who challenges the conditions of his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff has consented to magistrate jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 636(c); as such, the undersigned Magistrate Judge has jurisdiction to enter the instant memorandum opinion and accompanying final judgment. For the purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the court notes that the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this suit. The plaintiff has brought the instant case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a federal cause of action against “[e]very person” who under color of state authority causes the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff alleges that his current incarceration is illegal and that the defendants denied him adequate medical care. For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's claim of illegal incarceration will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a valid claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, because the plaintiff's allegations against the defendants named in the present suit involve only his claim of illegal incarceration, they will be dismissed with prejudice from this case. Further, defendant Judge Pounds enjoys absolute immunity from civil suit regarding his actions undertaken as a judge. Finally, Mr. Tennyson has not alleged that defendant Alcorn County had a policy that led to the alleged denial of adequate medical care; as such, he has not stated a valid claim for § 1983 relief against the county.

         Mr. Tennyson has, potentially, stated a valid § 1983 claim for denial of adequate medical care; however, none of the defendants he has named in this suit were involved in his medical care. Hence, the plaintiff has 30 days to identify one or more defendants who allegedly failed to provide him adequate medical care. If he cannot do so, then this case must be dismissed. Finally, Mr. Tennyson testified at his Spears hearing that he had a ruptured hernia requiring surgical repair - and that doctors had told him that his right testicle must be removed because it has a hard growth on it. Thus, Mr. Tennyson must report to the court, within 30 days, whether his hernia and testicle have been treated - and what treatment he has received for these medical issues.

         Factual Allegations

         Mr. Tennyson is currently incarcerated after his conviction in Alcorn County for vehicle theft. After his release on parole, he was arrested for violating the terms of parole. He alleges that his parole had expired at the time of his arrest and, thus, he could not have violated the terms of that parole. He also complains that he should be released onto house arrest or probation so that he can have surgery to remove his one remaining testicle and epididymis - and undergo hernia repair surgery. Mr. Tennyson had previously been scheduled for surgery a week after his parole revocation hearing, but, at the time of his Spears hearing, the surgery had not taken place.

         Free world doctors had diagnosed Mr. Tennyson with cancer of the left testicle, and he underwent a procedure to remove both the testicle and its epididymis. Doctors told him at the time that he should also have his right testicle removed, but he initially declined. He changed his mind and had been approved to have his right testicle removed. He was trying to work out transportation to and from surgery, but his parole was revoked and he was taken into custody before that could happen. He was arrested for a parole violation on March 22, 2017, and he was transported to attend a revocation hearing on March 24, 2017. He had also developed a hernia in his groin and had been scheduled for a hernia repair before his revocation. Once incarcerated, he received a hernia belt as treatment, rather than surgical repair. Medical personnel told him that the hernia belt would be sufficient until next parole hearing in March 2018. Mr. Tennyson would like to undergo procedures to repair the hernia and to remove his right testicle, and he believes that the decision by jail or prison personnel to delay the procedures constitutes a denial of adequate medical care.


         In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), the Supreme Court clarified the relationship between actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and habeas corpus proceedings. A § 1983 claim that calls into question the lawfulness of conviction or confinement or otherwise demonstrates the invalidity of the conviction or confinement is not cognizable under § 1983 until such time as a § 1983 plaintiff is able to

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 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.

Heck v. Humphrey, 114 S.Ct. at 2372; see also Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 283 (5th Cir. 1994). Only if the court finds that the plaintiff's § 1983 suit, even if successful, “will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, ” should the § 1983 action be allowed to proceed. See Mackey v. Dickson, 47 F.3d 744, 746 (5th Cir. 1995). In addition, habeas corpus petitions are the “exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release, even though such a claim may come within the literal terms of § 1983.” Heck, 512 U.S. at 481; see also Edge v. Stalder, 240 F.3d 1074 (5th Cir. 2000).

         In the present case, Mr. Tennyson argues that he could not have violated the terms of his parole because it had expired - and he should thus be released. Should he prevail on this direct challenge to his incarceration, he would necessarily draw into question the validity of his conviction or sentence. Therefore, Mr. Tennyson must “demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated, ” Heck, 114 S.Ct. at 2372, in order for the § 1983 cause of action to accrue. He has made no such showing; as such, this allegation must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which § 1983 relief could be granted, but without prejudice to his ability to seek federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         Judge Pounds Enjoys Judicial Immunity

         Under the facts of the instant case, Judge Pounds enjoys absolute immunity from suit, as all of the plaintiff's allegations against him involve acts that were judicial in nature. In Sindram v. Suda, 986 F.2d 1459 (D.C. Cir. 1993), Sindram, a very frequent filer in the Courts of the District of Columbia sued in the United District Court seeking compensatory and punitive damages from two judges and several clerks of the D.C. Superior Court. In dismissing the complaint, the lower court relied on the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity. The Appellate Court affirmed the dismissal of Sindram's action, imposing sanctions for falsifying affidavits in support of in forma pauperis petitions and prohibiting Sindram from filing any new civil actions pro se before paying the sanctions, holding that these actions were well within the judges' judicial capacity and jurisdiction.

         Courts must construe a judge's jurisdiction broadly where the issue is the immunity of the judge. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978); Crooks ...

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