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Patchen v. Evans

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

June 23, 2017




         Plaintiffs, pretrial detainees at the Appling County Detention Center in Baxley, Georgia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting their arrests by Defendants. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, (doc. 2). Additionally, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiffs' Complaint WITHOUT PREJUDICE and DENY Plaintiffs leave to appeal in forma pauperis.


         Plaintiffs attempt to bring this suit contesting their arrests by Defendants. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs aver that Defendants arrested and searched them on February 23, 2017, without probable cause. (Id. at p. 16.) Plaintiffs request as relief that they be given bond and allowed to read the search warrants related to their arrests. (Id.)


         Plaintiffs seek to bring this action in forma pauperis and pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 her assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that she 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, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or 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, Plaintiffs' 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. Claims of Multiple Plaintiffs in One Action

         The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has considered the issue of whether “the Prison Litigation Reform Act [“PLRA”] permits multi-plaintiff in forma pauperis [“IFP”] civil actions.” Hubbard v. Haley, 262 F.3d 1194, 1196 (11th Cir. 2001). In Hubbard, the Court of Appeals noted that “the intent of Congress in promulgating the PLRA was to curtail abusive prisoner tort, civil rights and conditions of confinement litigation.” Id. (citing Anderson v. Singletary, 111 F.3d 801, 805 (11th Cir. 1997)). After interpreting the PLRA, the Eleventh Circuit upheld a district court's dismissal of a multiple-prisoner/plaintiff lawsuit wherein the plaintiffs sought to proceed in forma pauperis together. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that “the PLRA clearly and unambiguously requires that ‘if a prisoner brings a civil action or files an appeal [IFP], the prisoner shall be required to pay the full amount of the filing fee.'” Id. at 1197 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)). Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the following procedure:

The district court never reached the merits of the case, but instead dismissed the case, finding that each plaintiff had to file a separate complaint and pay a separate filing fee. To facilitate its ruling, the district court indicated that it would open a new suit with a separate number in each of the plaintiff's names and consider the original complaint to be their complaints. The majority of the 18 plaintiffs had already filed separate petitions to proceed IFP. The court directed each of the remaining plaintiffs to file his own form complaint and petition to proceed IFP. The court then dismissed the original multi-plaintiff complaint without prejudice.

Id. Ultimately, the Eleventh Circuit determined that “the plain language of the PLRA requires that each prisoner proceeding IFP pay the full ...

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