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Pierce v. State

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division

April 11, 2017

CASEY DANIEL PIERCE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF GEORGIA; MARTY C. ALLEN; and TONYA JOHNSON, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia, submitted a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contesting certain conditions of his confinement. (Doc. 1.) The Court has conducted an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Tonya Johnson confiscated and lost Plaintiff's property after his assignment to the Tier II Segregation Unit. (Doc. 1, p. 5.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Marty C. Allen then ignored Plaintiff's grievances pertaining to the loss of his property. (Id.) As a result, Plaintiff maintains Defendants violated his procedural due process rights by failing to inventory and return inmate property as required by prison policy and for failing to properly address his grievances. (Id.) Plaintiff requests that Defendants return his property, that he be awarded damages, and that he be placed in transitional housing. (Id. at p. 6.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 F. App'x 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “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)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys.”) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Dismissal of Claims Relating to Loss of Property

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant Johnson misplaced his personal property and failed to return it to him. (Doc. 1, p. 5.) Plaintiff's claims implicate his right to procedural due process. A Section 1983 action alleging a procedural due process clause violation requires proof of three elements: “(1) a deprivation of a constitutionally-protected liberty or property interest; (2) state action; and (3) constitutionally inadequate process.” Doe v. Fla. Bar, 630 F.3d 1336, 1342 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Cryder v. Oxendine, 24 F.3d 175, 177 (11th Cir. 1994)). As to the third element, it is recognized that “[d]ue process is a flexible concept that varies with the particular situation.” Cryder, 24 F.3d at 177.

         Moreover, determining whether due process is satisfied requires consideration of three distinct factors:

First, the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally, the government's interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and ...

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