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Daniels v. Upton

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

July 25, 2017




         Plaintiff, an inmate at Georgia State Prison (“GSP”) in Reidsville, Georgia, filed this cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND that the Court GRANT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, (doc. 34), DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint, DISMISS AS MOOT all other pending Motions, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. I further RECOMMEND that the Court DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         On March 13, 2014, prison officials at GSP assigned Plaintiff to the Tier II administrative segregation unit while the Inmate Affairs Unit and the Georgia Department of Corrections investigated an assault that occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Smith State Prison in Glennville, Georgia. (Doc. 1, p. 2.) Plaintiff states that, although he does not qualify for Tier II placement under GSP's program criteria, Defendants are continuing to hold him in Tier II as punishment for being assaulted at Smith State Prison. (Id. at p. 3.)

         Plaintiff contends that, during his segregation, he has had all his personal property taken away, lost all his privileges, and lost nearly thirty pounds. (Doc. 4, p. 2.) Plaintiff claims that conditions in Tier II are “unacceptably bad.” (Doc. 1, p. 6.) Specifically, he complains of, inter alia, poor cell sanitation, inmates throwing feces, dusty ventilation, insects, excessive noise, poor showers, “poorly ran recreation, ” and dirty food trays. (Id.)

         On August 25, 2016, the Court conducted the requisite frivolity review and allowed only Plaintiff's due process claims to proceed. (Docs. 12, 15.) On January 18, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, (doc. 34), to which Plaintiff filed Objections, (doc. 38). On May 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed additional Objections, (doc. 56), Defendants filed a Reply, (doc. 59), and Plaintiff filed a Response, (doc. 62).


         Under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must “accept[ ] the allegations in the complaint as true and constru[e] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Belanger v. Salvation Army, 556 F.3d 1153, 1155 (11th Cir. 2009). “A complaint must state a facially plausible claim for relief, and ‘[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” does not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. (internal punctuation and citation omitted). While a court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true, this tenet “is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are insufficient. Id.


         The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects against State deprivations of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV. “The most familiar office of that Clause is to provide a guarantee of fair procedure in connection with any deprivation of life, liberty, or property by a State.” Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 125 (1992). This is known as the procedural due process component of the Clause. However, the meaning of “liberty” under the Due Process Clause has been expanded to include certain implied, “fundamental rights” that “cannot be limited at all, except by provisions that are narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.” Kerry v. Din___, U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 2128, 2133 (June 15, 2015) (quotations and citations omitted). This guarantee is known as the substantive component of the Due Process Clause.[2]

         I. Procedural Due Process

         A Section 1983 action alleging a procedural due process violation requires proof of three elements: “deprivation of a constitutionally-protected liberty or property interest; state action; and constitutionally-inadequate process.” Cryder v. Oxendine, 24 F.3d 175, 177 (11th Cir. 1994). Plaintiff does not allege that his due process right to property has been threatened by his placement in Tier II segregation. Accordingly, the appropriate due process analysis requires a look into Plaintiff's liberty interests.

         Historically, the liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause included the right “generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 673 (1977) (citations omitted); see also Kerry, __ U.S. at___, 135 S.Ct. at 2132-33. However, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has identified two situations in which a prisoner-already deprived of liberty in the traditional sense-can be further deprived of liberty such that procedural due process protections are required: (1) when there is a “change in the prisoner's conditions of confinement so severe that it essentially exceeds the sentence imposed by the court[ ]”; and (2) when the State has consistently given a benefit to prisoners, usually through a statute or administrative policy, and the deprivation of that benefit “imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Kirby v. Siegelman, 195 F.3d 1285, 1291 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995)). Under the first scenario, the liberty interest arises from the Due Process Clause itself and “exists apart from the state; in the second, the liberty interest is created by the state.” Id. (citing Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312, 1318 (11th Cir. 1999)); see also Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484 ...

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