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Thompson v. Georgia Deparment of Corrections

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

June 13, 2018

JAMES AARON THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; CORECIVIC, INC.; WARDEN ROBERT ADAMS, JR.; and COMMISSIONER GREGORY DOZIER, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, who is currently housed at Long Unit in Ludowici, Georgia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting certain events which allegedly occurred at Jenkins Correctional Facility in Millen, Georgia. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff attempts to bring this cause of action on behalf of three (3) other inmates. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice the claims of the three (3) other inmates listed on the Complaint form. I also RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint based on his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.[1]

         PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff contends he was told on June 13, 2017, that he could “not offer congregational prayer[]” and that this had been the policy since December 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 5.) Plaintiff states he received a copy of this policy bearing Defendant Robert Adams' signature. According to Plaintiff, he is a practicing Muslim who must perform the congregational prayer five (5) times a day and must face east. (Id.) Plaintiff contends “their” resolution is to allow Muslim adherents to pray parallel to their bunks, which prevents him from facing east during his prayers and from praying in congregation, as the Quran prescribes. (Id.) Plaintiff avers that, if he prays parallel to his bunk, it will prevent his cellmate from accessing his bunk, which is a violation of the policy that religious practices should not impose on another inmate.

         Additionally, Plaintiff alleges fourteen (14) Muslim inmates were caught praying in congregation across three (3) dormitories. Plaintiff contends he and the other inmates were taken to the segregation unit and placed on pending investigation status for seven (7) days. (Id.) Plaintiff maintains the Georgia Department of Corrections is responsible for “oppressing” his right to religious exercise through this policy against congregational prayer, and CoreCivic, Inc. is responsible for this “oppression” because it enforces this policy. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and requests that the Georgia Department of Corrections terminate this policy immediately. (Id. at p. 6.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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.”).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff's Efforts to Bring Suit on Behalf of Other Inmates

         Plaintiff attempts to file a single action on behalf of three (3) other inmates, ostensibly to circumvent or pro-rate payment of the filing fee. The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (“PLRA”) provides that a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis must pay the full filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that the language of the PLRA requires each prisoner to pay the full amount of the filing fee or face dismissal of his case. Hubbard v. Haley, 262 F.3d 1194, 1197-98 (11th Cir. 2001). Further, “[a]n individual unquestionably has the right to litigate his own claims in federal court, before both the district and appellate courts . . . . The right to litigate for oneself, however, does not create a coordinate right to litigate for others.” Walker v. Brown, No. CV 112-105, 2012 WL 4049438, at *1 (S.D. Ga. Aug.14, 2012) (citing Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975) (holding that a pro se prisoner may not litigate the interests of other prisoners in class action)), report and recommendation adopted by 2012 WL 4052038 (S.D. Ga. Sept.13, 2012); see also Wallace v. Smith, 145 Fed.Appx. 300, 302 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (same).

         As Plaintiff Thompson moved to proceed in forma pauperis and was granted that status, the Court should DISMISS without prejudice the claims of the other three (3) inmates listed on the Complaint form. The Court considers Plaintiff ...


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