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Clarkson v. McLaughlin

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

August 18, 2017

Warden GREGORY MCLAUGHLIN, et al., Defendants.



         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 Nicholas Clarkson, an inmate confined at Telfair State Prison, filed the above-captioned proceeding seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1. At the time of filing, Plaintiff also moved to proceed without prepayment of the district court's filing fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. ECF No. 2. Plaintiff was granted in form pauperis status on April 14, 2017, and ordered to pay an initial partial filing fee. ECF No. 6. Plaintiff has now paid the fee and filed a recast complaint as ordered, however, upon preliminary review, Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice 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 remaining portion of the filing fee ($308.00) 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 remaining $3.08.00 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. Background and Discussion

         The events underlying this complaint began in 2014 at Autry State Prison when Plaintiff was informed by a classification committee that his institutional file indicated that he was a member of the “westside gangster crips.” ECF No. 7 at 7. Plaintiff attempted, without success, to contest the accusation to the committee and then filed a grievance. In response, Plaintiff was told that he was validated as a westside gangster crip in 2009 while confined in Valdosta State Prison. ECF No. 7 at 8. His appeal was denied for procedural reasons.

         Plaintiff attempted to resolve the issue by speaking to the Deputy Warden of Care and Treatment at Autry State Prison. He was referred to Sargent Bell, who appears to have offered Plaintiff a procedural method of renouncing his alleged gang membership. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff contends he was unable to complete the process because he would have to (1) affirm that he was in a gang and (2) name high ranking gang members. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff then brought the issue to Deputy Warden of Security Terrell who advised Plaintiff being labeled a gang member, or a Security Threat Group, “greatly impacts security” level assignment of an inmate. ECF No. 7 at 10. Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to Macon State ...

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