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Jones v. Chapman

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

May 21, 2018




         Plaintiff, formerly an inmate at Ware State Prison in Waycross, Georgia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting certain conditions of his confinement. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's conditions of confinement claim and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis as to this claim. However, Plaintiff arguably states a colorable deliberate indifference to safety claim against Defendant Chapman. Accordingly, the Court DIRECTS the United States Marshal to serve a copy of Plaintiff's Complaint and this Order upon Defendant.


         Plaintiff alleges he was assaulted by a Bloods gang member on December 19, 2016, and was placed in solitary confinement because he refused to go back into the dormitory after the assault. (Doc. 1, p. 3.) Plaintiff asserts he wrote administrative personnel the following day, explained what happened, and requested that he be transferred or placed on protective custody. On January 23, 2017, Plaintiff contends Defendant Chapman came to his cell and told him to pack his things because Plaintiff “was going back to the compound.” (Id.) Plaintiff states Defendant Chapman knew a Bloods gang member had assaulted Plaintiff, and Plaintiff was told not to come back to the compound or he would be killed because a Bloods gang member's cousin was killed “on [his] case.” (Id.) Plaintiff avers he told Defendant Chapman he feared for his life if he was going to be placed back on the compound and asked whether Defendant Chapman would ask for Plaintiff to be transferred to another prison or be placed on protective custody. Defendant Chapman told Plaintiff he would entertain neither of those requests. Instead, Plaintiff contends Defendant Chapman told him he would write a disciplinary report against Plaintiff, and he could either go back on the compound or to the Tier II program. (Id.)

         Plaintiff asserts he received a disciplinary report for failure to follow instructions based on his refusal to go back to the compound, and he filed a grievance, to which he has failed to receive a response. (Id. at pp. 3-4.) As a result of the disciplinary report, Plaintiff asserts he received forty-five (45) days' store, phone, and package restrictions. (Id. at p. 4.) He maintains he is being threatened with placement in Tier II for trying to remain safe, even though the Tier II program is supposed to be an offender management process, not punitive in nature.

         Plaintiff states he was confined to his cell for twenty-four (24) hours a day since December 19, 2016, without any recreation time. Plaintiff also states the only time he was removed from his cell was to shower three times a week, and he was not been given any contact visits or phone calls. Plaintiff contends he has been diagnosed with mental health issues, and the conditions he was forced to live with exacerbate his mental health conditions. (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 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 ‘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. Plaintiff's Claims Against Defendant Chapman

         Plaintiff's contentions that Defendant Chapman was deliberately indifferent to a risk to Plaintiff's safety implicate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. That proscription imposes a constitutional duty upon prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of prison inmates. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1099-100 (11th Cir. 2014). While “[p]rison officials have a duty . . . to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners[, i]t is not, however, every injury suffered by one prisoner at the hands of another that translates into a constitutional liability. . . .” Purcell ex rel. Estate of Morgan v. Toombs County, 400 F.3d 1313, 1319 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994)).

         To show an Eighth Amendment violation, a plaintiff must “allege facts sufficient to show ‘(1) a substantial risk of serious harm; (2) the defendants' deliberate indifference to that risk; and (3) causation.'” Lane v. Philbin, 835 F.3d 1302, 1307 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Hale, 50 F.3d at 1582). The Court assesses the first element-a substantial risk of serious harm-under an objective standard. Caldwell, 748 F.3d at 1099. The objective component requires a plaintiff to show that the condition he complains of is sufficiently serious to violate the Eighth Amendment. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992); Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1289-90 (11th Cir. 2004).

         The second element-defendant's deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm-has three components: “(1) subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm; (2) disregard of that risk; (3) by conduct that is more than mere negligence.” Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1245 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing McElligott v. Foley, 182 F.3d 1248, 1255 (11th Cir. 1999)).[1] The “subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm” component requires a defendant ...

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