United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
GRADY R. WILLIAMS, JR., Plaintiff,
GEO GROUP and Warden FREDRICK HEAD, Defendants.
ORDER & RECOMMENDATION
STEPHEN HYLES, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff GRADY R. WILLIAMS, JR., an inmate at Riverbend Correctional Facility ("RCF"), has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1) and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") (ECF No. 2). In compliance with this Court's prior Order (ECF No. 5), Plaintiff has submitted a copy of his trust fund account statement (ECF No. 6). As said statement reflects that Plaintiff has no spendable money in his account, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to proceed IFP and waives the initial partial filing fee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff is nevertheless obligated to pay the Court's $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.
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 section 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 in support of 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 section 1983 complaint because the plaintiffs factual allegations were insufficient to support the 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 section 1915A "shall" be dismissed on preliminary review).
Plaintiff, a Rastafarian, who took a "Nazerite vow to maintain his facial hair, " alleges that the Defendants required him to shave against his religious beliefs. According to Plaintiff, he keeps his facial hair at a reasonable length and groomed, and this practice does not pose a risk to prison security or hygiene. Alleging violations of his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., the First Amendment, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause, Plaintiff sues RCJ Warden Fredrick J. Head and the GEO Group,  a private corporation that operates RCJ for the Georgia Department of Corrections. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.
A. Dismissed Claims
1. Equal Protection
Plaintiff has failed to allege a colorable equal protection claim. Plaintiff merely asserts that the Defendants "fail[ed] to provide Plaintiff with equal protection under the law, by  making special rules without reason" (ECF No. 1, p. 8). To state a valid equal protection claim, a Plaintiff must allege that "(1) he is similarly situated to other prisoners who received more favorable treatment; and (2) the state engaged in invidious discrimination against him based on race, religion, national origin, or some other constitutionally protected basis." Sweet v. Secretary, Dept. of Corrections, 467 F.3d 1311, 1318-19 (11th Cir. 2006) ( citing Jones v. Ray, 279 F.3d 944, 946-47 (11th Cir. 2001)). There is no suggestion in his complaint that Plaintiff was treated differently from other similarly situated inmates. Indeed, it appears that Plaintiff complains about treatment that is the same as all other inmates. It is therefore RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's equal protection claim be DISMISSED.
2. Due Process
As to his due process claim, Plaintiff summarily alleges that "Defendants' actions created a liberty interest to the Plaintiff, in violation of the Due Process Clause." In Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995), the Supreme Court found that a prisoner can be deprived of his liberty so as to be entitled to due process under the Constitution in only two instances: (1) when the punishment "will inevitably affect the duration of his sentence" or (2) if the punishment ...