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Rivers v. Jones County Task Force

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

September 24, 2014

JONES COUNTY TASK FORCE, et al., Defendants.


MARC T. TREADWELL, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Ray Roger Rivers has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, while confined at Calhoun State Prison in Morgan, Georgia. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was previously granted, and he was ordered to pay an initial partial filing fee. Plaintiff paid the initial partial filing fee, and his claims are now ripe for preliminary review.


I. Standard of Review

Because Plaintiff is a prisoner "seeking redress from a governmental entity or [an] officer or employee of a governmental entity, " this Court is required to conduct a preliminary screening of his Complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In so doing, the district court must accept all factual allegations in the Complaint as true. Brown v. Johnson , 387 F.3d 1344, 1347 (11th Cir. 2004). Pro se pleadings, like the one in this case, are also "held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed." Tannenbaum v. United States , 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998). Even so, a district court must dismiss a prisoner complaint after the initial review if: (1) it is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted"; or (2) it "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) (requiring the same of pleadings filed by parties proceeding in forma pauperis ).

A claim is frivolous when it appears from the face of the complaint that the factual allegations are "clearly baseless" or that the legal theories are "indisputably meritless." Carroll v. Gross , 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). A complaint is thus properly dismissed by the district court sua sponte if it is found to be "without arguable merit either in law or fact." Bilal v. Driver , 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001).

When determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court must accept as true all facts set forth in the Plaintiff's complaint and limit its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits attached thereto. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007); Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc. , 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009); see also Alba v. Montford , 517 F.3d 1249, 1252 (11th Cir. 2008) ("The standards governing dismissal under Rule 12(b(6 apply to § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii)."). "[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 Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). The complaint must include sufficient factual allegations "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. "[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. Although the complaint must contain factual allegations that "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the plaintiff's claims, id. at 556, a complaint should not be dismissed "simply because it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, '" Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) an act or omission deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a statute of the United States; and (2) the act or omission was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Hale v. Tallapoosa Cnty. , 50 F.3d 1579, 1581 (11th Cir. 1995). If a litigant cannot satisfy these requirements, or fails to provide factual allegations in support of his claim or claims, the complaint is subject to dismissal. See Chappell v. Rich , 340 F.3d 1279, 1282-84 (11th Cir. 2003) (affirming court's dismissal of a § 1983 complaint because the factual allegations were insufficient to support alleged constitutional violation); s ee also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (dictating that a complaint, or any portion thereof, that does not pass the standard in § 1915A "shall" be dismissed on preliminary review).

II. Statement of Claims

In his complaint, Plaintiff, who states that he was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to fifteen years in prison, sues the Jones County Task Force, Jones County Sheriff's Office, and Jones County Humane Society. (Compl. 4, Doc. 1). In an amended complaint[1] filed on September 18, 2014, Plaintiff added Jones County Task Force Officers R. Reese, G. Nelson, and J. Black, as well as Jones County Sheriff's Deputy Sheen and Jones County Animal Control employee Mike Harrel as Defendants. (Doc. 6).

Plaintiff contends that on May 28, 2013, he and his girlfriend, along with their dog Marley, were pulled over by the Jones County Task Force and the Jones County Sheriff's Department. Plaintiff, his girlfriend, and the dog were taken to the Jones County Jail as a result of the stop and search of the vehicle. At the jail, Plaintiff's girlfriend and dog were put in a holding cell together. Plaintiff was told by Defendant Officer Robert Reese that the dog could not stay and would need to be turned over to Animal Control. Plaintiff states that he and his girlfriend begged the officers to allow them to call someone to pick up the dog. Defendant Reese refused and called the Jones County Humane Society (a term Plaintiff uses interchangeably with Humane Society) to come retrieve the dog. The next day, Animal Control came and picked up the dog. At some point thereafter, the dog was lost by Animal Control. The dog, Marley, has not been located to date, despite diligent efforts by Plaintiff's girlfriend.

Plaintiff alleges claims of abuse of process, abuse of discretion, wanton and willful misconduct, duty to act, and malicious injury. In the form of relief, Plaintiff seeks actual and punitive damages in the amount of $85, 000, as well as all court costs and expenses Plaintiff has incurred.

III. Analysis

A. Jones County ...

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