United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
ORDER & RECOMMENDATION
STEPHEN HYLES, Magistrate Judge.
Pro se Plaintiff Winston Hayles, an inmate at Baldwin State Prison, has filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint (ECF No. 1) and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2). Based on his submissions, the Court finds Plaintiff is unable to prepay the filing fee. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS his motion to proceed in forma pauperis and waives the initial partial filing fee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff is nevertheless obligated to pay the $350.00 filing fee, as is discussed below. The Clerk of Court is directed to send a copy of this Order to the business manager at Plaintiff's place of incarceration. Upon review of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, it is recommended that all claims and defendants be dismissed except Plaintiff's claim against Defendants Hall and Ward for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), a federal court is required to conduct an initial screening of a prisoner complaint which "seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." Section 1915A(b) requires a federal court to dismiss a prisoner complaint that is: (1) "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."
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 fails to state a claim when it does not include "enough factual matter (taken as true)" to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests[.]" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007) (noting that "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " and that the complaint "must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action") (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining that "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice").
In making the above determinations, all factual allegations in the complaint must be viewed as true. Brown v. Johnson, 387 F.3d 1344, 1347 (11th Cir. 2004). Moreover, "[p]ro se pleadings are 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).
In order 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 County, 50 F.3d 1579, 1581 (11th Cir. 1995). If a litigant cannot satisfy these requirements, or fails to provide factual allegations to support his claim or claims, then the complaint is subject to dismissal. See Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1282-84 (11th Cir. 2003) (affirming the district court's dismissal of a § 1983 complaint because the plaintiffs factual allegations were insufficient to support the alleged constitutional violation). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (dictating that a complaint, or any portion thereof, that does not pass the standard in section 1915A "shall" be dismissed on preliminary review).
A. Alleged retaliation by Defendants Hall and Ward
Plaintiff claims that he has been targeted for abuse and harassment because he filed grievances and a previous 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action naming various prison officials. Compl. 3. Specifically, he alleges that on January 8, 2015 while he was in line waiting for food, Lieutenants Hall and Ward started harassing him, handcuffed him, and had him placed in administrative segregation for 14 days.
In order to state First Amendment retaliation claim, Plaintiff must show: (1) his speech was constitutionally protected; (2) the Defendants' retaliatory conduct adversely affected his protected speech; and (3) there is a causal connection between the retaliatory actions and the adverse effect on the speech. Douglas v. Yates, 535 F.3d 1316, 1321 (11th Cir. 2008). Plaintiff's grievances and civil actions are protected speech under the First Amendment. Id. ; Wright v. Newsome, 795 F.2d 964, 968 (11th Cir. 1986). Plaintiff alleges that Hall and Ward had no reason, other than retaliation, to harass him and place him in administrative segregation for 14 days. Taking Plaintiff's allegations as true, Plaintiff has alleged a sufficient factual basis to allow this claim to go forward against Defendants Hall and Ward.
B. Alleged violation of Plaintiff's due process rights
Plaintiff also complains that his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment were infringed when he was transferred to administrative or disciplinary segregation for 14 days without notice of the charges against him and without a hearing. He states that while in segregation for 14 days, he did not have access to the courts, religious services, vocational, educational, recreational, or rehabilitative programs, and his exercise was restricted.
The threshold inquiry is whether the injury Plaintiff claims "is within the scope of the Due Process Clause." Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312, 1318 (11th Cir. 1999). The Due Process Clause prohibits a state from depriving "any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. XIV. Plaintiff was "not deprived of life or property; [he is] therefore entitled to due process only if [he was] deprived of liberty' within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment." Bass, 170 F.3d at 1318. According to the Supreme Court, "there are two circumstances in which a prisoner can be further deprived of his liberty such that due process is required." Id. One is when the change in a prisoner's confinement is so severe it exceeds the sentence imposed by the court. Id. (citing Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 480, 492-93 (11th Cir. 1999)). Certainly segregated confinement for 14 days and the temporary loss of certain privileges does not amount to such a change, and Plaintiff does not allege that it does. "The second is when the state has consistently given a certain benefit to prisoners... and the deprivation of that benefit imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.'" Id. (citing Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484). Plaintiff states the legal ...