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Clayton v. Williams

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

May 12, 2017

STANLEY WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting certain conditions of his confinement. (Doc. 1.) The Court ordered Plaintiff to amend his Complaint and resubmit an application to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 8.) Plaintiff subsequently filed an Amended Complaint and a new Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Docs. 9, 10.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motions for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, (docs. 5, 10). In addition, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint WITHOUT PREJUDICE, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.


         In his original Complaint, Plaintiff named 37 Defendants and alleged a litany of unrelated claims. Plaintiff complained that (1) he did not have a sanitary toilet; (2) prison staff failed to protect him against other inmate assaults; (3) prison staff exhibited deliberate indifference to his medical needs; (4) prison staff retaliated against him and; (5) prison staff used excessive force against him. In the Court's January 24, 2017, Order, the Court advised Plaintiff that “his claims appear to be unrelated to each other, and [the] Court [would] not permit him to pursue unrelated claims in a single cause of action.” (Doc. 8, p. 6.) The Court directed Plaintiff to submit a new Complaint in compliance with its Order within fourteen (14) days. (Id. at p. 5.) In response, Plaintiff filed two Amended Complaints, (docs. 9, 11), against two separate groups of Defendants. However, each of these Amended Complaints still asserts multiple, unrelated claims, including: equal protection claims; cruel and unusual punishment claims regarding insufficient drinking water and sanitary toilets; deliberate indifference claims regarding Plaintiff's protection from other inmates; and retaliation claims. Furthermore, the majority of Plaintiff's Amended Complaints simply repeats his prior, unrelated allegations.


         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, 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).

         The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. 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.”).


         I. Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim and Failure to Follow this Court's Orders

         This Court issued an Order directing Plaintiff to amend his Complaint and provided specific instructions as to how Plaintiff could amend to state a plausible claim. (Doc. 8.) Specifically, the Court instructed Plaintiff to “include which claim or related claims (or, alternatively, which claims against which Defendants) Plaintiff wishe[d] to pursue in this action, ” and that he could file separate complaints for his other claims. (Id. at p. 6.) However, Plaintiff ignored the Court's instructions and instead submitted another “shotgun pleading” in which he asserts nearly all the claims he asserted in the original Complaint. Furthermore, with Plaintiff's stream-of-consciousness allegations, repetitive paragraphs, and illegible handwriting, it is difficult for the Court to decipher what claims against which Defendants Plaintiff is attempting to raise.

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, (docs. 9, 11), is still a “shotgun pleading” that is unclear as to which facts are “material to the particular cause of action asserted.” Beckwith v. Bellsouth Telecomms. Inc., 146 F. App'x 368, 372 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Strategic Income Fund, L.L.C. v. Spear, 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 n.9 (11th Cir. 2002)). Despite the Court specifically reminding Plaintiff that he cannot “join unrelated claims and various defendants unless the claims ‘arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action[, ]'” Plaintiff has failed to follow this directive and attempts to do the very same. (Doc. 10, p. 5 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a).) Plaintiff's Complaint, ...

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