Federal District Court Opinions

SHOEMAKE v. JOHNSON, (E.D.Tenn. 2006) BILLY G. SHOEMAKE v. BRAD JOHNSON, Carter County Deputy Sheriff or Investigator; JOHN HENSON, Carter County Sheriff; CARTER COUNTY, TENNESSEE; STATE OF TENNESSEE; and JOE N. WALTON, Judge of the General Sessions Court. No. 2:05-CV-254. United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division. January 19, 2006


THOMAS HULL, District Judge

Plaintiff Billy G. Shoemake, a former prisoner in the
Carter County Detention Center (CCDC), brings this pro se
civil rights action for damages under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that he was arrested on various charges;
held without bail in the CCDC; and, when all charges were
dismissed more than nine months later, released from
confinement. Because plaintiff was imprisoned when this
action was filed, he is ASSESSED the civil filing fee of
$250.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and (b)(1). However,
the statutory fee-collection provisions of § 1915(b)
do not apply since he is no longer a prisoner. Page 2

1. The Factual Allegations

In the complaint, plaintiff states his claims as follows.

1. I was arrested August 23, 2004 and held illegally
without bail until June 9, 2005 on the charges of
aggravated burglary, theft over $1,000, and criminal
Tresspassing(sic). On June 9, 2005 I was released and all
charges were dismissed.

2. My car was stolen by the Carter County Sheriff’s
department off of private property with all my personal
property packed inside the car.

3. My liberty was taken illegally by the Carter County
Sheriff and I was abused in his jail and I was never
convicted of a crime in Carter County, Tennessee. Compl.,
§ IV.

In a subsequent letter (Doc. 10), plaintiff provides the
following additional allegations of fact. The actual
perpetrator of the crimes was a Paul Wooten, who committed
the crimes at a time when the plaintiff was with his son
Robert Shoemake, eleven miles away from the situs of the
crimes. On August 31, 2004, plaintiff’s son and Mr. Wooten
were released on their own recognizance. (Plaintiff appears
to be alleging, inferentially, that he, his son, and Wooten
were all arrested in connection with the crimes and,
expressly, that he alone was not released on bail.)

On November 10, 2004, the prosecutor told defendant Judge
Joe N. Walton that plaintiff had been charged with a
failure to appear. However, plaintiff had been confined in
the Carter County facility since August — a
situation which he explained to everyone (presumably, for
the purpose of suggesting that he could not Page 3 have
made a court appearance due to the fact of his
incarceration). The District Attorney commented to
plaintiff, “I have to find a reson (sic) why we’re holding

Thirteen days later, plaintiff appeared before the Court
and explained to the Judge, the prosecutor, and R.O. Smith
(plaintiff’s attorney?) what had happened (i.e., that
plaintiff had been miles away from the scene when the crime
was committed), but “they did not care.”

Although the complaint does not include the legal theories
upon which his lawsuit rests, the Court infers, from the
nature of plaintiff’s factual allegations, that he is
pleading claims for arrest without probable cause and for
malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth
Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure,
as well as claims for deprivation of property and wrongful
conditions of confinement.

2. Fourth Amendment Claims

The Sixth Circuit has summarized the law on such claims.

“[I]t is well established that any arrest without
probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment. For probable
cause to arrest to exist, the facts and circumstances
within the officer’s knowledge [must be] sufficient to
warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in
believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect
has committed, is committing or is about to commit an
offense. Whether there exists a probability of criminal
activity is assessed under a reasonableness standard based
on an examination of all facts and circumstances within an
officer’s knowledge Page 4 at the time of an arrest.”

. . . . . . . . .

“Although this Court has yet to resolve the elements of a
federal malicious prosecution claim, it is clear that a
plaintiff must show, at a minimum, that there was no
probable cause to justify [his] arrest and prosecution.”

Thacker v. City of Columbus, 328 F.3d 244, 255 and 259 (6th
Cir. 2003) (all internal punctuation marks and citations

Thus, as Thacker makes clear, a plaintiff must demonstrate
that probable cause was lacking in order to succeed on a
§ 1983 claim of unlawful arrest or malicious

Here, however, the factual allegations offered by plaintiff
are insufficient to show that probable cause was lacking.
Because plaintiff bears the burden of showing “all material
elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal
theory,” Lillard v. Shelby County Bd. of Educ., 76 F.3d
716, 726 (6th Cir. 1999) (emphasis in original), and
because he has not shown that his arrest and prosecution
were not supported by probable cause, he has not
demonstrated that his arrest and prosecution violated the
Fourth Amendment. The fact that the state court charges
were dismissed does not alter this conclusion. See Baker
v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 (1979) (“The Constitution
does not guarantee that only the guilty will be arrested.
If it did, § 1983 would provide a cause of action
for every defendant acquitted — indeed, for Page 5
every suspect released.”).

Therefore, even reading this pro se plaintiff’s filings
generously, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972),
it is clear that he cannot prevail on his implied claims
for malicious prosecution or arrest without probable cause
since the allegations in the complaint fail to state
actionable § 1983 claims.

3. Property Claim

In addition to the above inferred claims, the plaintiff
also maintains that his car, which contained all his
personal property, was stolen by defendant Carter County
Sheriff. It is well-settled that a plaintiff may not
maintain an action under § 1983 for a random and
unauthorized deprivation of personal property, whether
negligent, Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 543-44 (1981),
or intentional, Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984), if
there is an adequate post-deprivation state remedy to
address the claim. Thus, a plaintiff must plead and prove
that there are no state remedies or that any remedies which
exist are inadequate to redress the wrong. See Hahn v. Star
Bank, 190 F.3d 708, 716 (6th Cir. 1999).

In this case, plaintiff has not pled, much less proven,
that there are no available state remedies or that the ones
which are offered (filing a claim under the Governmental
Tort Liability Act or filing a common law action for
conversion) are not adequate to resolve his property claim.
Therefore, the allegations involving his Page 6 “stolen”
automobile do not state a valid § 1983 claim.

4. Conditions of Confinement Claim

In another claim, the plaintiff alleges that he was abused
during his confinement in the jail. However, he provides no
factual elaboration, such as an explanation as to the nature
of the abuse or allegations as to the date it occurred or
the identity of the purported wrongdoer. The plaintiff
himself is in the best position to plead facts, if these
facts exist. See Veney v. Hogan, 70 F.3d 917, 922 (6th Cir.
1995). A conclusory allegation such as this one does not
state a constitutional claim for relief. See Morgan v.
Church’s Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987).

5. Immunity and Liability Issues

There are problems with the named defendants as well, the
first of which is that Judges, such as defendant Joe
Walton, cannot be sued for money damages (the only relief
sought in the complaint) for performing judicial acts, even
when the acts result in unfairness and injustice to a
litigant. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9 (1991). In this case,
denying bail to plaintiff while granting it to others and
allowing the charges to remain intact, despite plaintiff’s
assertion that he was elsewhere when the crime was
committed, are actions taken in Judge Walton’s judicial
capacity. Thus, they are judicial acts which confer on
Judge Walton absolute immunity from this suit for damages.
Page 7

Secondly, plaintiff’s suit for damages against the State
of Tennessee is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless
Congress has abrogated that sovereign immunity or the State
has expressly waived it. See, e.g., Hans v. Louisiana, 134
U.S. 1, 10 (1890); Berndt v. State of Tennessee, 796 F.2d
879, 881 (6th Cir. 1986). Congress has not abrogated
Eleventh Amendment immunity, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332
(1979), and the State of Tennessee has not waived its right
to sovereign immunity. See Gross v. University of
Tennessee, 620 F.2d 109, 110 (6th Cir. 1980). See also
Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-13-102(a). Accordingly,
plaintiff’s claims against defendant State of Tennessee are

As to defendants Sheriff Henson and Deputy Sheriff (or
Investigator) Johnson, the complaint does not specify
whether they are being sued in their official capacities,
individual capacities, or both. A suit brought against a
public official will not be construed as seeking damages
against the defendant in his individual capacity unless
such a claim for individual liability is clearly and
definitely set forth in the pleading. See Pelfrey v.
Chambers, 43 F.3d 1034, 1038 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 515
U.S. 1116 (1995). The designation of individual capacity
need not be explicit — though, of course, that is
preferable — so long as the pleadings and other filed
documents provide sufficient notice to defendants that they
are being sued as individuals. Moore v. City of Harriman,
272 F.3d 769 (6th Cir. 2001). Page 8

Here, plaintiff has made no express designation of the
capacity in which he is suing defendants. Nor has he
alleged anything in the pleading or other filed documents
to indicate that he is suing these particular defendants in
their individual capacities — indeed, he lists the
official titles of these defendants in the caption of his
complaint. Absent an indication — express or
otherwise — that these two defendants are being sued
in their individual capacities, the Court must assume they
are being sued only in their official capacities as
employees of the government entity. Id. at 772.

A suit against defendants Henson and Johnson in their
official capacities is treated as being an action against
defendant Carter County, Tennessee — the
governmental entity who employees them. Hafer v. Melo, 502
U.S. 21, 25 (1991); Barber v. City of Salem, Ohio, 953 F.2d
232, 237 (6th Cir. 1992). A governmental entity is liable
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional violations
which result from acts representing a policy or custom of
that entity. Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of the City
of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978).

To establish entity liability, plaintiff must: 1) identify
the questioned policy or custom which allegedly caused the
injury; 2) connect the policy to the entity; and 3) show
that the specific injury was incurred because of the
implementation of the policy, all of which he has failed to
do. Garner v. Memphis Police Department, Page 9 8 F.3d
358, 363-64 (6th Cir. 1993). Accordingly, plaintiff has not
stated a claim against Carter County, Tennessee; its
Sheriff; or its Deputy Sheriff either.

6. Conclusion

In view of the above law and analysis, the Court will
dismiss this case sua sponte. All pending motions are
DENIED as moot.

A separate order will enter. Page 1