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Erazo v. Macon Bibb County Juvenile Court

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

May 8, 2017

HARENS ERAZO, Plaintiff,
v.
MACON-BIBB COUNTY JUVENILE COURT et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          C. ASHLEY ROYAL, SENIOR JUDGE.

         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 Harens Erazo, an inmate confined at Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton, Florida, filed the above-captioned proceeding seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff was granted in forma pauperis status on March 2, 2016, and has now paid the initial partial filing fee. 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. 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 thereof, prior to service, if it is apparent that the plaintiff's claims are frivolous or if his allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted - i.e., that the plaintiff is not entitled to relief based on the facts alleged. See § 1915A(b); § 1915(e).

         B. Plaintiff's Claim

         This action arises out of the termination of Plaintiff's parental rights in a Juvenile Court of Macon-Bibb County case initiated by petition of the legal custodian of Plaintiff's daughter on July 10, 2013. Plaintiff, incarcerated in Milton, Florida, received the petition and summons from the Juvenile Court of Macon-Bibb County on August 14, 2015. The summons stated that the hearing on the petition to terminate Plaintiff's parental rights was to be held on August 19, 2015. ECF No. 1-4 at 9. On August 17, Plaintiff filed a motion for continuance, and the hearing was continued until September 30, 2015. ECF No. 1 at 6. On September 30, 2015, Plaintiff received a call from “Judge Matthews with the Juvenile Court of Bibb County, ” and Plaintiff alleges he was “informed” that his parental rights were being terminated following a hearing. Id. at 6. Plaintiff complains that he has not yet received a written order terminating his parental rights, and was unaware that “he would be participating in a telephonic hearing.” Id.

         Following the hearing, Plaintiff sent a series of letters to the Juvenile Court of Macon-Bibb County and filed a motion for rehearing. In the letters, Plaintiff requested information and assistance with filing an appeal, but he states he never received a response from the court. Id. Plaintiff filed the instant complaint asserting that the procedures employed by the Juvenile Court of Macon-Bibb County in terminating his ...


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