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Johnson v. Holt

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

February 26, 2015

TROY DELMAR JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN AHMED HOLT, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

MARC T. TREADWELL, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Charles H. Weigle. (Doc. 5). After reviewing the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Magistrate Judge recommends allowing the Plaintiff's First Amendment claim[1] against Defendant Officer Nelson to proceed but recommends dismissing his claims against the Defendants in their official capacities; his claims against Defendants Warden Holt, Deputy Warden Fagan, and Lieutenant Phelps; and his First Amendment retaliation claim. The Plaintiff has objected to the Recommendation.[2] (Doc. 10). The Court has reviewed the Recommendation and the Plaintiff's objection and has made a de novo determination of the portions of the Recommendation to which the Plaintiff objects. Because the Court finds that the Plaintiff's access-to-courts claims against Deputy Warden Fagan and Lieutenant Phelps should also be allowed to go forward, the Court ADOPTS in part and REJECTS in part the Recommendation.

I. DISCUSSION

As noted in the Recommendation, because the Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking redress from prison officials, the Court must dismiss the complaint if it "(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

A. Official Capacity Claims and First Amendment Retaliation Claim

The Court agrees that the claims against the Defendants in their official capacities and the Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim should be dismissed for the reasons stated in the Recommendation. Thus, the Court adopts the Recommendation as to these claims.

B. Access-to-Courts Claims

1. Allegations

The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants' actions pertaining to the loss of his state habeas court transcript denied him his constitutional right of access to the courts. The Plaintiff details the actions leading up to his state habeas court proceeding and the claims asserted therein. After an evidentiary hearing held on September 6, 2012, the state habeas judge instructed the parties to submit their proposed final orders or briefs within 60 days of receipt of the hearing transcript. (Doc. 1 at 12).

The Plaintiff asserts he began inquiring about the transcript in October 2012 when he still had not received it. After the Plaintiff contacted several people, the court reporter for the evidentiary hearing, Donna Cady, informed the Plaintiff that she sent him a copy of the hearing transcript via "UPS certified mail"[3] and that an Officer Nelson at Central State Prison signed for it at 10:34 a.m. on January 10, 2013. (Doc. 1 at 13).

The Plaintiff twice notified Warden Holt and Deputy Warden Fagan of the missing transcript and the reason it was crucial to his timely filing a response in his state habeas case. Holt instructed Fagan to look into the matter on February 22, 2013. (Doc. 1 at 15). On March 4, when the Plaintiff informed Holt and Fagan the matter still had not been resolved, Holt instructed Fagan to "immediately" write a letter to the Ware County Superior Court "and inform the clerk that Plaintiff's transcript had not been delivered to Plaintiff due to being misplaced by prison mailroom officials." (Doc. 1 at 15). The Plaintiff contacted the Ware County Superior Court clerk on March 12 and was informed no such letter had arrived.

On March 14, 2013, the Plaintiff contacted Defendant Phelps, the supervising officer over the mailroom, and explained the situation to him. Phelps told the Plaintiff he would look into it. (Doc. 1 at 16).

On April 24, 2013, the Plaintiff received a copy of the proposed final order submitted by the respondent in his state habeas case. (Doc. 1 at 16). However, without the evidentiary hearing transcript the Plaintiff was unable to "effectively draft and submit objections" to the proposed order. On April 26, the Plaintiff received a copy of the final order denying his state habeas petition, which had been entered on April 19.

The Plaintiff then alleges the court reporter wrote him a letter and informed him the transcript was erroneously sent to Troy Delmar Jackson instead of Troy Delmar Johnson. The address and inmate identification number were correct. The Plaintiff contends mailroom officials are required by policy to "compare the addressee's' name and GDC Identification Number... against the inmate population database to verify that said addressee is incarcerated at that facility... by entering the addressee I.D. number into the computer search engine." If there is a discrepancy, "policy dictates that the official return the article of mail to the sender." (Doc. 1 at 20). The Plaintiff contends that if the mailroom official had either ...


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