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Richardson v. Conley

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

May 4, 2017

Warden T J CONLEY, et al., Defendants.



         This case is currently before the Court for preliminary screening as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff Walter C. Richardson, an inmate confined at Central State Prison, filed the above-captioned proceeding seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At the time of filing, Plaintiff also moved to proceed without prepayment of the district court's filing fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which was granted on August 25, 2016. ECF No. 9. As discussed below, however, upon preliminary review, Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim.

         I. Motion to Proceed In Form Pauperis

         Although Plaintiff is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis in this action, Plaintiff is still obligated to pay the full balance of the filing fee, in installments, as set for in § 1915(b) and explained below. It is thus requested that the CLERK forward a copy of this ORDER to the business manager of the facility in which Plaintiff is incarcerated so that withdrawals from his account may commence as payment towards the filing fee.

         A. Directions to Plaintiff's Custodian

         It is hereby ORDERED the warden of the institution wherein Plaintiff is incarcerated, or the Sheriff of any county wherein he is held in custody, and any successor custodians, each month cause to be remitted to the Clerk of this court twenty percent (20%) of the preceding month's income credited to Plaintiff's account at said institution until the $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full. In accordance with provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Plaintiff's custodian is hereby authorized to forward payments from the prisoner's account to the Clerk of Court each month until the filing fee is paid in full, provided the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. It is further ORDERED that collection of monthly payments from Plaintiff's trust fund account shall continue until the entire $350.00 has been collected, notwithstanding the dismissal of Plaintiff's lawsuit or the granting of judgment against him prior to the collection of the full filing fee.

         A. Plaintiff's Obligations Upon Release

         Pursuant to provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, in the event Plaintiff is hereafter released from the custody of the State of Georgia or any county thereof, he shall remain obligated to pay any balance due on the filing fee in this proceeding until said amount has been paid in full; Plaintiff shall continue to remit monthly payments as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Collection from Plaintiff of any balance due on the filing fee by any means permitted by law is hereby authorized in the event Plaintiff is released from custody and fails to remit payments. Plaintiff's complaint is subject to dismissal if he has the ability to make monthly payments and fails to do so.

         II. Motion to Appoint Counsel

         Before addressing the merits of Plaintiff's claims, the Court must consider Plaintiff's request for counsel. “Although plaintiffs in civil cases have no constitutional right to counsel, district judges may appoint counsel for indigent plaintiffs under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1).” Maldonado v. Unnamed Defendant, 648 F. App'x 939, 956 (11th Cir. 2016) (citing Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312, 1320 (11th Cir. 1999)). Appointment is only appropriate in exceptional circumstances, and “[t]he fact a plaintiff would be helped by the assistance of an attorney does not, in itself, require appointment of counsel.” Id. (citing Bass, 170 F.3d at 1320). In deciding whether legal counsel should be provided, the Court considers, among other factors, the merits of a plaintiff's claim and the complexity of the issues presented. Holt v. Ford, 862 F.2d 850, 853 (11th Cir. 1989).

         In this case, Plaintiff filed a § 1983 complaint on the standard complaint form designed for pro se litigants. The PLRA requires that the Court now review Plaintiff's complaint form to determine whether he can possibly state a viable claim against the named defendants. This process is routine in pro se prisoner actions and not an “exceptional circumstance” justifying the appointment of counsel. The facts and legal issues involved in this case are fairly straightforward; and the Court has not imposed any procedural requirements which would limit Plaintiff's ability to present his case to the court. See Kilgo v. Ricks, 983 F.2d 189, 193-94 (11th Cir. 1993). Therefore, as the Court sees no immediate need for the appointment of counsel in this case, Plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 12) is DENIED.

         III. Preliminary Review of Plaintiff's Complaint

         A. Standard for Preliminary Review

         Under the PLRA, the district courts are obligated to conduct a preliminary screening of every complaint filed by a prisoner who seeks redress from a government entity, official, or employee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Screening is also required, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), when the plaintiff is proceeding IFP. Both statutes apply in this case, and the standard of review is the same. When conducting a preliminary review, the district court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and make all inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Brown v. Johnson, 387 F.3d 1344, 1347 (11th Cir. 2004). Pro se pleadings are also “held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys, ” and a pro se compliant is thus “liberally construed.” Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). The district court, however, cannot allow a plaintiff to litigate frivolous, conclusory, or speculative claims. As part of the preliminary screening, the court shall dismiss a complaint, or any part ...

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