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Jackson v. Bishop

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

October 20, 2017

JUNE BISHOP, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Miguel Jackson, a prisoner at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia, filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Compl., ECF No. 1. He also moved for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee or security therefor pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Mot. & Aff. For Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 3. Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis was previously granted. Order Granting Mot. for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 8. At that time, Plaintiff was ordered to pay an initial partial filing fee. Id. Plaintiff has now paid the initial partial filing fee, and thus, his complaint is ripe for review.

         Upon review, Plaintiff's deliberate indifference to safety claims against Defendants June Bishop and Michael Cannon will be allowed to proceed, as will Plaintiff's due process claim against a John Doe security threat group officer. However, it is RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's deliberate indifference to safety claim be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE as to Defendant William Powell and that Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order be DENIED.

         I. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         The district courts may authorize the commencement of a civil action without prepayment of the normally required filing fee if the plaintiff shows that he is indigent and financially unable to pay the filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. §1915(b). As noted above, Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) was previously granted, and he has paid an initial partial filing fee. Plaintiff is still obligated to pay the remainder of the full $350.00 filing fee, in installments, as provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         The CLERK shall therefore forward a copy of this ORDER to the business manager of the facility in which Plaintiff is detained so that withdrawals from his account may commence as payment towards the filing fee. The district court's filing fee is not refundable, regardless of the outcome of the case, and must therefore be paid in full even if Plaintiff's complaint (or any part thereof) is dismissed prior to service.

         A. Directions to Plaintiff's Custodian

         Because Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed IFP, it is hereby ORDERED that 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 $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full. In accordance with the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 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 entire $350.00 has been collected, notwithstanding the dismissal of Plaintiff's lawsuit or the granting of judgment against him prior to collection of the full filing fee.

         B. Plaintiff's Obligations Upon Release

         Pursuant to provisions of the PLRA, 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. Thus, Plaintiff shall continue to remit monthly payments as required by the PLRA. 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. Motion for Appointment of Counsel

         Plaintiff has moved for the appointment of counsel, asserting that, because of his lack of legal knowledge, denial of counsel may effectively deny him access to the courts, which he contends is particularly inappropriate here because this case could amount to a matter of life and death. Mot. for Appointment of Counsel 1, ECF No. 4. Plaintiff also asserts that a trial in this case is likely to involve conflicting testimony and expert testimony, and thus, that counsel would be better able to present evidence and cross examine witnesses. Id. at 2. Further, Plaintiff expects that more defendants will need to be named in this case, and that, as an inmate, he will be denied access to evidence, which he believes an attorney will be able to access. Id. at 2-3. Finally, Plaintiff notes that he has extremely limited access to legal materials and that the issues in this case are “complex and will require significant research and investigation.” Id.

         There is no constitutional right to appointment of counsel in a civil action. See Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312, 1320 (11th Cir. 1999). Instead, appointment of counsel in such a case is a privilege that is justified only by exceptional circumstances. Lopez v. Reyes, 692 F.2d 15, 17 (5th Cir. 1982). In deciding whether legal counsel should be provided, the court considers, among other factors, the merits of the plaintiff's claims and the complexity of the issues presented. Holt v. Ford, 682 F.2d 850, 853 (11th Cir. 1989).

         In this case, the facts underlying Plaintiff's claims are not particularly complicated or unusual. Moreover, the law governing Plaintiff's claims is neither novel nor complex. Accordingly, there are no exceptional circumstances that would require the appointment of counsel in this case. See Lopez, 692 F.2d at 17; see also Wright v. Langford, 562 F. App'x 769, 777 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (explaining that counsel should only be appointed in a civil case “in exceptional circumstances”). Plaintiff's motion for the appointment of counsel is, therefore, DENIED.

         III. Preliminary Screening

         A. Standard of 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 preliminary screening, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. See Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006); Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1159-60 (11th Cir. 2003).

         Pro se pleadings, like the one in this case, are “held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys, ” and a pro se complaint 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. See § 1915A(b); § 1915(e).

         A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d 1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court may dismiss claims that are based on “indisputably meritless legal” theories and “claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not include “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)). The factual allegations in a complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and cannot “merely create[] a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (second alteration in original). In other words, the complaint must allege enough facts “to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” supporting a claim. Id. at 556. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         To state a claim for relief under §1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) an act or omission deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a statute of the United States; and (2) the act or omission was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Hale v. Tallapoosa Cty., 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th Cir. 1995). If a litigant cannot satisfy these requirements or fails to provide factual allegations in support of ...

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