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Smith v. Hoff

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

August 9, 2017

NATHAN SMITH, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, who was confined at the McIntosh County Detention Center in Darien, Georgia, submitted a Complaint in the above-captioned action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (Doc. 1.) Along with his Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 2.) Plaintiff also filed an additional Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 5.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motions to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Docs. 2, 5.) Additionally, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS this action for failure to state a claim, DISMISS as moot all other pending Motions, (docs. 7, 9, 10), and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case. I further RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.


         In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts he is near the completion date of his federal sentence. Plaintiff asserts he has a violent history and an extensive criminal record. (Doc. 1, p. 1.) Plaintiff maintains he was sent to the Dismas Charities, Inc., which is a halfway house, for treatment of his mental health issues, but these issues were not addressed “due to a systematic neglect[.]” (Id.) Plaintiff describes the duties of Defendant Hoff, the Social Services Coordinator, and provides that the remaining Defendants are responsible for overseeing her duties. (Id.) Plaintiff requests an emergency protective order directing Defendants to obtain adequate mental health services for Plaintiff prior to his release from custody in March 2017. (Id. at p. 2.) Additionally, Plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 4, p. 5.)


         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 and 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, 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 which 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, 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.”). The requisite review of Plaintiff's Complaint raises several doctrines of law, which the Court discusses as follows.


         I. Dismissal of Putative Class Action and Representative Claims

         Proceeding as a pro se litigant, Plaintiff will not be able to represent his fellow inmates in a class action, given that “[i]t is plain error to permit [an] imprisoned litigant who is unassisted by counsel to represent his fellow inmates in a class action.” Wallace v. Smith, 145 F. App'x 300, 302 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (quoting Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975)); see also Massimo v. Henderson, 468 F.2d 1209, 1210 (5th Cir. 1972) (affirming dismissal of the portion of petitioner's complaint seeking relief on behalf of fellow inmates). As the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has aptly observed,

An individual unquestionably has the right to litigate his own claims in federal court, before both the district and appellate courts. . . . The right to litigate for oneself, however, does not create a coordinate right to litigate for others. See Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975) (holding that a pro se prisoner may not litigate the interests of other prisoners in class action). The reasoning behind this rule is two-fold: it protects the rights of those before the court, see id. (“the competence of a layman [litigating for] himself [is] clearly too limited to allow him to risk the rights of others”), and jealously guards the judiciary's authority to govern those who practice in its courtrooms, see Collinsgru v. Palmyra Bd. of Educ., 161 F.3d 225, 231 (3d Cir. 1998) (“Requiring a minimum level of competence protects not only the [client] but also his or her adversaries and the court from poorly drafted, inarticulate, and vexatious claims.”).

Myers v. Loudoun Cty. Pub. Sch., 418 F.3d 395, 400 (4th Cir. 2005). Simply put, incarcerated pro se litigants may not bring a class action on behalf of other prisoners.[2] See Fymbo v. State Fire & Cas. Co., 213 F.3d 1320, 1321 (10th Cir. 2002) (holding that a pro se litigant “cannot adequately represent [a] putative class”); Walker v. Brown, No. CV 112-105, 2012 WL 4049438, at *1-2 (S.D. Ga. Aug. 14, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, No. CV 112-105, 2012 WL 4052038 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 13, 2012). Consequently, the Court should DISMISS Plaintiff's class action claims and DISMISS Marques Smoak and Nickaus Hudson as Plaintiffs in this case.

         II. Dismissal of Official Capacity Claims for ...

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