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Taylor v. Flournoy

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

October 16, 2017

RICK TAYLOR, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN V. FLOURNOY, Respondent.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner Rick Taylor (“Taylor”), who is incarcerated at Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed a Response. (Doc. 9.) For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS as moot Taylor's Petition, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Taylor in forma pauperis status on appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         In his Petition, Taylor challenges a sanction that he received as a result of a hearing before a Discipline Hearing Officer (“DHO”). (Doc. 1.) At the hearing, the DHO determined that Taylor committed the prohibited act of assault without serious injury, in violation of Code 224 of the Bureau of Prisons' (“BOP”) discipline regulations. Taylor alleges that he was actually innocent of the charge, that there was no evidence to support a finding that he assaulted the victim as alleged, that he was denied the right to due process, and that he was discriminated against racially. (Id. at p. 3.) Specifically, he contends that he was not allowed to present the other inmates' disciplinary hearing records, which would have revealed a pattern of similar false allegations. (Id. at p. 7.) Taylor requests that this Court order that the incident report be expunged and that his lost 27 days of good conduct time be restored. (Id. at p. 8.)

         Respondent filed a response to Taylor's Petition and states that the issue is now moot, because the BOP has granted Taylor the relief he sought. (Doc. 9.) Specifically, Respondent states that BOP staff conducted a review of Taylor's claims in response to his Petition, and that, as a result of that review, the BOP expunged the incident report and restored Taylor's good conduct time. (Id. at pp. 3-4.) Respondent offers exhibits in support of this assertion, including the Affidavit of Vincent Shaw, Senior Litigation Counsel in the Southeast Regional Office of the BOP, as well as Taylor's Inmate Discipline Data dated January 5, 2017. (Doc. 9-1, pp. 1-3, 18.) Taylor did not file a Reply (or any other pleading) following Respondent's Response.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether Taylor's Petition is Moot

         Article III of the Constitution “extends the jurisdiction of federal courts to only “‘Cases' and ‘Controversies.'” Strickland v. Alexander, 772 F.3d 876, 882 (11th Cir. 2014). This “case-or-controversy restriction imposes” what is “generally referred to as ‘justiciability' limitations.” Id. There are “three strands of justiciability doctrine-standing, ripeness, and mootness-that go to the heart of the Article III case or controversy requirement.” Harrell v. The Fla. Bar, 608 F.3d 1241, 1247 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). With regard to the mootness strand, the United States Supreme Court has made clear that “a federal court has no authority ‘to give opinions upon moot questions or abstract propositions, or to declare principles or rules of law which cannot affect the matter in issue in the case before it.'” Church of Scientology of Cal. v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12 (1992) (internal citation omitted).

         Accordingly, “[a]n issue is moot when it no longer presents a live controversy with respect to which the court can give meaningful relief.” Friends of Everglades v. S. Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist., 570 F.3d 1210, 1216 (11th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Questions of justiciability are not answered “simply by looking to the state of affairs at the time the suit was filed. Rather, the Supreme Court has made clear that the controversy ‘must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.'” Christian Coal. of Fla., Inc. v. United States, 662 F.3d 1182, 1189-90 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401 (1975)).

         In his Petition, Taylor only requested that the incident report be expunged and that his good conduct time be restored. As noted above, Taylor has since been granted this relief. Thus, there is no longer a “live controversy” over which the Court can give meaningful relief. Friends of Everglades, 570 F.3d at 1216. Accordingly, the Court should DISMISS as moot Taylor's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.

         II. Leave to Appeal in Forma Pauperis

         The Court should also deny Taylor leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Though Taylor has, of course, not yet filed a notice of appeal, it would be appropriate to address these issues in the Court's order of dismissal. Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (trial court may certify that appeal of party proceeding in forma pauperis is not taken in good faith “before or after the notice of appeal is filed”).

         An appeal cannot be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that the appeal is not taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3). Good faith in this context must be judged by an objective standard. Busch v. Cty. of Volusia, 189 F.R.D. 687, 691 (M.D. Fla. 1999). A party does not proceed in good faith when he seeks to advance a frivolous claim or argument. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). A claim or argument is frivolous when it appears the factual allegations are clearly baseless or the legal theories are indisputably meritless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Carroll v. Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). Stated another way, an in forma pauperis action is frivolous, and thus, not brought in good faith, if it is “without arguable merit either in law or fact.” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Brown v. United States, Nos. 407CV085, 403CR001, 2009 WL 307872, at *1-2 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 9, 2009).

         Given the above analysis of Taylor's Petition and Respondent's Response, there are no non-frivolous issues to raise on appeal, and an appeal would not be taken in good faith. Thus, ...


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