United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
who is currently housed at Coffee Correctional Facility in
Nicholls, Georgia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 contesting certain conditions of his confinement.
(Doc. 1.) Plaintiff has also filed a Motion for injunctive
relief. (Doc. 3.) The Court has permitted Plaintiff to
proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 7.) For the reasons
set forth below, I RECOMMEND the Court
DISMISS Plaintiff's access to the
courts, conspiracy, class action, and preliminary injunctive
relief claims against Defendants. Additionally, the Court
should DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in
forma pauperis as to these claims. However, Plaintiff
arguably states a colorable equal protection claim against
Defendants. Accordingly, the Court DIRECTS
the United States Marshal to serve Defendants with a copy of
Plaintiff's Complaint and this Order.
asserts Defendants have enforced and encouraged “an
illegal unwritten policy, custom[, ] and practice of denying
Hispanic prisoners” adequate access to legal materials
because there is only one book in the prison's library
containing both English and Spanish languages. (Doc. 1, p.
8.) Plaintiff maintains Defendants acted purposefully and
maliciously to discriminate and conspire against Plaintiff
and all other Spanish-speaking inmates by denying these
inmates access to the courts. Plaintiff contends he looked
for other inmates who are bilingual to help him file a habeas
corpus action, but he learned that another inmate's
advice was misleading after the Northern District of Georgia
court dismissed Plaintiff's state habeas petition based
on failure to exhaust state court remedies. (Id. at
p. 11.) Plaintiff also contends he was able to reinstate his
state habeas proceedings, yet he had difficulty during the
evidentiary hearing explaining his position to the judge in
response to the respondent's motion for a more definite
statement. (Id. at pp. 11-12.) According to
Plaintiff, the judge has “hinted at dismissing”
his renewed petition due to Plaintiff's “inadequate
filing and in court discussions[.]” (Id. at p.
12.) Plaintiff asserts his lack of access to law books
written in Spanish has “hindered and frustrated”
his efforts to collaterally attack his conviction.
attempts to bring a class action suit on behalf of all
Spanish-speaking inmates. (Id. at pp. 1, 8.) In
addition, he seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction
against Defendants so that they will “cease the
discriminatory actions and denial of adequate access to the
courts[.]” (Id. at p. 15; Doc. 3, p. 15.)
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).
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)).
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)).
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
Equal Protection Claim
equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires
the government to treat similarly situated people alike.
City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S.
432, 439 (1985). To establish such a claim, “a prisoner
must demonstrate that: (1) ‘he is similarly situated
with other prisoners who received' more favorable
treatment; and (2) his discriminatory treatment was based on
some constitutionally protected interest[, ] such as
race.” Jones v. Ray, 279 F.3d 944, 946-47
(11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Damiano v. Fla. Parole &
Prob. Comm'n, 785 F.2d 929, 932-33 (11th Cir.
1986)). “If a suspect classification, such as race, or
a fundamental right is implicated, a court must apply strict
scrutiny to that claim.” Hernandez v. Fla.
Dep't of Corr., 281 F. App'x 862, 867 (11th Cir.
2008) (citing Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499,
506-07 (2005) (holding that strict scrutiny is the
appropriate standard of review for racial classifications
even in the prison context)).
Complaint, Plaintiff contends he asked Defendant Walker to
help him obtain law books, materials, and computers written
in Spanish “like all the [E]nglish speaking inmates
have access to, so he could adequately present his habeas
corpus in court.” (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9.) In response,
Defendant Walker informed Plaintiff that this was not going
to happen based on the policy “from the top to
me” at Coffee Correctional, which does not require the
provision of Spanish language materials. As Plaintiff has
identified he has been treated differently from English
speaking inmates, and Plaintiff's race or nationality has
been implicated, he sets forth a plausible equal protection
claim against Defendants Hall, Dozier, Stone, and
Access to the Courts Claim
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
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 which the inmate was
incarcerated, a habeas petition or a civil rights action.
See id. at 352-57.
Bass v. Singletary, 143 F.3d 1442, 1445 (11th Cir.
1998). “[A]n inmate cannot establish relevant actual
injury simply by establishing that his prison's law
library or legal assistance program is subpar in some
theoretical sense.” Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351.
Instead, the inmate must show that a nonfrivolous, arguable
claim he wished to bring has been lost or rejected due to the
deficiency or that the deficiency is currently preventing his
presentation of such a claim. Sanchez v. Stephens,
689 F. App'x 797, 799 (5th Cir. 2017) (citing
Harbury, 536 U.S. at 415; Lewis, 518 U.S.
at 353 & n.3, 356). “The underlying claim must be
described well enough to apply the frivolity test and to show
that its “‘arguable' nature . . . is more
than hope.” Id. (quoting Harbury, 536
U.S. At 416).
does not allege enough in his Complaint to plausibly satisfy
the actual injury prerequisite to set forth a plausible
access to courts claim. Plaintiff fails to allege that
Defendants' purported unwritten policy in having only one
book in the prison's law library written in Spanish has
prevented him from missing any court-imposed deadlines, and
he does not provide any information as to any specific claims
he was pursuing or whether any such claims were non-frivolous
legal claims. Instead, Plaintiff's allegations reveal
that he was able to file a federal habeas petition, and that
petition was dismissed in part and denied in part based on
Plaintiff's failure to meet certain procedural
requirements applicable to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petitions,
not due to any alleged failure to communicate with the
court. R. & R. and Order, Martinez-Cruz
v. Hall, 1:15-cv-04015-WSD (N.D.Ga. Apr. 6 and June 22,
2016), ECF Nos. 18, 21. In addition, the Court notes
Plaintiff's assertion that he dismissed his first state
habeas application; however, Plaintiff also asserts he moved
to dismiss this application based on the advice of a fellow
inmate. (Doc. 1, p. 11.) In addition, Plaintiff avers he was
able to reinstate his state habeas petition with the help of
another inmate and was able to participate in an evidentiary
hearing, although he “had difficulty explaining his
issues” to the judge in response to a motion the
respondent filed. (Id. at pp. 11-12.) While the
Court is not unsympathetic to ...