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Johnson v. Stanley

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

May 11, 2018

DENNIS JAMES JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SHAUN STANLEY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HON. LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Presently before the Court are the Magistrate Judge's April 17, 2018 Report and Recommendation, dkt. no. 9, to which Plaintiff did not file Objections, and Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, dkt. no. 10. For the reasons set forth below, after an independent and de novo review of the record, including Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the undersigned concurs with the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. Accordingly, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, as supplemented herein, as the opinion of the Court.

         The Court DISMISSES Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, DENIES Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal, and DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and to CLOSE this case.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution in Estill, South Carolina, filed a cause of action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), to contest certain events that occurred while he was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia. Dkt. No. 1. In short, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated his constitutional due process rights by not properly filing Plaintiff s accident compensation claim, by not adhering to certain Federal Bureau of Prisons regulations regarding the investigation and reporting of prison work detail accidents, and by destroying evidence of Plaintiff's accident. Id. at pp. 4-6. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, Magistrate Judge R. Stan Baker conducted the requisite frivolity review of Plaintiff's Complaint. Dkt. No. 9. In the resulting Report and Recommendation, Judge Baker recommended that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's procedural due process claims due to a lack of standing and ripeness. Id. at pp. 6-15. Judge Baker also dismissed as moot Plaintiff's Motion for Court Filings. Id. at p. 1; Dkt. No. 7.

         Plaintiff then filed an Amended Complaint in response to Judge Baker's Report and Recommendation but did not file Objections. Dkt. no. 10. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff realleges the facts and claims from his original complaint and adds an additional due process claim against Defendant regarding Plaintiff's presumed right to an immediately payable "lump-sum award" stemming from the injuries he sustained in a prison workplace accident. Id. at pp. 10-11. Compare Dkt. No. 1, pp. 4-5 (Plaintiff's original claims), with Dkt. No. 10, pp. 8-10 (Plaintiff's original claims reasserted).

         In essence, to remedy the original Complaint's standing and ripeness deficiencies identified by Judge Baker, Plaintiff attempts to show that Defendant's alleged due process violations caused him an injury in fact, not because Defendant's misconduct precludes Plaintiff from accident compensation upon release from prison, dkt no. 1, pp. 4-6, but because Defendant's misconduct caused Plaintiff to be forever precluded from the "monetary lump-sum award" to which he was "entitled, " dkt. no. 10, p. 10. To that end, Plaintiff argues Defendant's due process violations caused Plaintiff to forfeit his purported rights under the Inmate Accident Compensation Program ("IACP"), 28 C.F.R. § 301.101-319, and the Federal Employees' Compensation Act ("FECA"), 5 U.S.C. § 8101-107, to an award of $1, 984, 010.00. Id. at pp. 10-11.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff brings 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 and 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 or 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).

         When reviewing a complaint brought in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 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 Fed.Appx. 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to A 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.").

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff s ...


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