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Johnson v. Hall

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

October 13, 2017

ETHAN IAN JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN HILTON HALL; JAMES BLANCHARD, JR.; and HOMER BRYSON, Defendants.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EM'S UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

         On July 10, 2017, Plaintiff, an inmate at Coffee Correctional Facility (CCF) in Nicholls, Georgia, submitted a pleading on a form used to file a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Clerk of Court opened the case as a civil rights action in the Way cross Division of the Southern District of Georgia. Johnson v. Hall, CV 517-086, doc. no. 1 (S.D. Ga. July 10, 2017). Upon review of the pleading, United States Magistrate Judge R. Stan Baker concluded that although Plaintiff sought monetary damages from Defendants, he also sought immediate release from prison based on a conviction obtained in Columbia County, Georgia. Li, doc. no. 5, p. 1. Thus, Judge Baker determined the case was more appropriately characterized as a habeas corpus petition and transferred the case to the Augusta Division, the location where the challenged conviction was obtained. Li Upon transfer, the Clerk of Court again docketed the case as a civil rights complaint. Johnson v. Hall CV 117-082, doc. nos. 6, 7 (S.D. Ga. July 19, 2017).

         Upon review of the transferred proceedings, the Court concluded the case could not move forward without first obtaining clarifying information from Plaintiff. In particular, the Court provided Plaintiff with the warning required by Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 382-83 (2003), and directed Plaintiff to notify the Court whether he contested the recharacterization of his pleading submitted on a § 1983 form, wished to withdraw the pleading, or wished to assert any other federal habeas corpus claims he believes he has. (See doc. no. 8.) The Clerk of Court also provided a blank habeas corpus form. (See doc. no. 8-1.) Plaintiff responded that he did not seek his immediate release and expungement of his record, but preferred to proceed with a civil rights complaint. (See doc. no. 9.)

         The Court then granted Plaintiff permission to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") with his civil rights case and ordered him to file an amended complaint, which he did. (See doc. nos. 10, 13.) Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiffs amended complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).

         I. SCREENING OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1) Hilton Hall, Warden of CCF; (2) Honorable James Blanchard, Jr., Superior Court Judge, and (3) Homer Bryson, Commissioner of Georgia Department of Corrections. (See doc, no. 13, pp. 1-3.) Plaintiff sues all Defendants in their official capacity. QA at 2-3.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         Plaintiff has been incarcerated since May of 2010. (Id. at 4.) He provides no details of his crime of conviction or sentence, but Plaintiff asserts he is "illegally incarcerated due to a null sentence imposed by Judge Bla[n]chard, upheld by Commissioner Bryson, and Warden Hall."[1] (Li at 5.) Plaintiff also contends his constitutional rights were violated at CCF when he was "illegally striped search [sic] in the presen[ce] of approximately 20 officers, and 20 inmates on 16 Feb. 2017 [while] three women officers were in visual presen[ce] seated at the tables in the day room." (Id.) Plaintiff seeks $80, 000, 000 from Commissioner Bryson, $8, 000, 000 from Warden Hall, and $8, 000, 000 from Judge Blanchard. (Id.)

         B. DISCUSSION

         1.Legal Standard for Screening

         The amended complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). "Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(h) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)." Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc., 366 Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490(1 lth Cir. 1997)).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl.Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint is insufficient if it "offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '" or if it "tenders 'naked assertions' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). In short, the complaint must provide a '"plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to 'sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Finally, the court affords a liberal construction to a, pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the court has a duty to re-write the amended complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).

         2. Plaintiff Fails to State a Claim against ...


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