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Bingham v. Taylor

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

June 1, 2015

WARDEN CEDRIC TAYLOR et al. Defendants.


MARC T. TREADWELL, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff RANDALL BINGHAM, who is presently incarcerated at Baldwin State Prison in Hardwick, Georgia, has filed a complaint and amended complaint seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff also seeks to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

I. Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis

The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 3) and, based on his submissions, finds that Plaintiff is presently unable to pre-pay any portion of the filing fee. The Court thus GRANTS Plaintiff's motion and waives the initial partial payment required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

Plaintiff is nevertheless obligated to pay the full filing fee, using the installment payment plan described in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). The prison account custodian shall cause to be remitted to the Clerk of this Court monthly payments of 20% of the preceding month's income credited to Plaintiff's account (to the extent the account balance exceeds $10) until the $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full. The Clerk of Court is directed to send a copy of this Order to the business manager at Plaintiff's place of incarceration.

II. Preliminary Screening

Because Plaintiff is a prisoner "seeking redress from a governmental entity or [an] officer or employee of a governmental entity, " the Court is required to conduct a preliminary screening of his Complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Having now done so, the Court finds that each of Plaintiff's claims fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and that Plaintiff's Complaint must be DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

A. Standard of Review

When conducting preliminary screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006). Pro se pleadings, like the one in this case, are "held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Still, the Court must dismiss a prisoner 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 claim is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d 1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court may dismiss claims that are based on "indisputably meritless legal" theories and "claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not include "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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual allegations in a complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and cannot "merely create[] a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (first alteration in original). In other words, the complaint must allege enough facts "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" supporting a claim. Id. at 556. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

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, 1582 (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).

B. Factual Allegations

This action arises out of Plaintiff's transfer to and confinement in Baldwin State Prison ("BSP"). According to the Complaint (ECF No. 1) and Amended Complaint (ECF No. 7), while confined in Valdosta State Prison ("VSP"), Plaintiff was denied access to the law library by Warden Marty Allen, who "got mad at [Plaintiff]" and gave a lock to another inmate named Charles Jackson who used the lock to assault Plaintiff. When Plaintiff swore out an arrest warrant regarding this assault, Warden Allen placed Plaintiff in protective custody, ordered a prison transfer, and denied Plaintiff medical attention for the injuries he suffered as a result of the assault.[1] Plaintiff was classified as minimum security in VSP. (ECF No. 1 at 3.)

When Plaintiff arrived at BSP, Plaintiff alleges that Lillia Warren raised his security level to medium and denied Plaintiff protective custody to protect him from attacks by other inmates who were friends of inmate Jackson. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff further alleges that Wardens Taylor, Jordan, and Humphries and Unit Manager Smith likewise denied his requests for protective custody. ( Id. at 4.) When Plaintiff refused his housing assignment because he feared being attacked, Plaintiff alleges Defendants punished him by placing him in segregation and denying him the use of a "property kart" to transfer his belongings to the segregation unit, which caused Plaintiff to injure his back. (ECF No. 1-1 at 1.) Plaintiff also contends he was denied access to the prison's grievance procedures, law library, and medical treatment and has been denied outgoing mail, phone, shower, food, and yard call privileges in retaliation for his actions, which included "placeing [sic] Warden Allen on the witness stand in Lowndes County and for prior civil rights litigation." (ECF No. 1-1 at 2.) Plaintiff further alleges that he had to refuse an operation at Augusta Medical Prison because Charles Jackson was waiting at the prison to assault him. After refusing the operation, Plaintiff was transferred back to BSP. (ECF No. 1 at 4.)

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff clarifies that he actually "volunteered himself to be placed into segregation" at BSP in order to protect himself from other inmates because "Warden Taylor says he does not offer any protective custody." (ECF No. 7 at 2.) Plaintiff also states in his Amended Complaint that Defendants Taylor, Smith, and Jordan threatened to put someone in Plaintiff's segregation cell that would "make" him return to general population if he did not do so voluntarily. ( Id. ) Plaintiff reiterates his claims that he has been denied access to the law library and states that he is being retaliated against by being "transferred from prison to prison to hamper [his] civil actions" and by being subjected to retaliatory "shake downs" and confiscation of his legal materials. ( Id. ) Plaintiff also submits that Defendants Taylor and Smith confiscated his soft gym shoes, even though he had a "soft shoe medical profile, " as retaliation for filing various civil actions. ( Id. at 3.) Finally, Plaintiff requests that a table and chair be placed in his segregation cell so that he may sit while performing legal work. ( Id. )

C. Plaintiff's Claims

Construing Plaintiff's Complaint liberally, as is required at this stage, the Court finds that Plaintiff, who appears to be seeking injunctive relief only at this time, ...

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