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Braziel v. Sgt. McCloud

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

February 5, 2018

SGT. MCCLOUD; and OFFICER HARDEN, [1] Defendants.



         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia, submitted a Complaint, as amended, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 4.) For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.


         Plaintiff is on the Tier II program and as a result, all his property-including legal work-is removed to the property room. (Id. at p. 4.) On March 15, 2016, Defendant McCloud logged Plaintiff's property out of the room and gave it to Plaintiff even though it “was not suppose[d] to be out [of the] property room.” (Id.) That same night, Plaintiff was moved to the “self-harm room” without his property. (Id.) This property was never logged back into the property room, and Plaintiff has been unable to recover his legal materials since that date. (Id. at p. 5.) Plaintiff claims that, because he did not have access to his legal work, he could not “get [his] case back into court . . . .” (Id.)


         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, 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 or 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, malicious, or 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).

         The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. 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 . . . .”) (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.”).


         I. Access to the Courts Claim

         Plaintiff appears to allege that Defendants frustrated his ability to access the courts by losing his legal materials. (Doc. 4, pp. 4-5.) “Access to the courts is clearly a constitutional right, grounded in the First Amendment, the Article IV Privileges and Immunities Clause, the Fifth Amendment, and/or the Fourteenth Amendment.” Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1282 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 n.12 (2002)). However, to bring an access-to-courts claim, an inmate must establish that he suffered an actual injury. In interpreting the actual injury requirement, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated:

The actual injury which the inmate must demonstrate is an injury to the right asserted, i.e. the right of access. Thus, the . . . official's actions which allegedly infringed on an inmate's right of access to the courts must have frustrated or impeded the inmate's efforts to pursue a nonfrivolous legal claim. See Lewis [v. Casey, 518 U.S. [343, 352-54 (1996)]. Further, the legal claim must be an appeal from a conviction for ...

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