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Strozier v. Hall

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

December 11, 2018

PHIL HALL, Warden; CATHY LEWIS, Deputy Warden of Care and Treatment; FRED GAMMAGE, Deputy Warden of Security; and BARBARA GRANT, Unit Manager, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Ware State Prison (“WSP”) in Waycross, Georgia, filed a complaint concerning events allegedly occurring there and at Telfair State Prison (“TSP”) in Helena, Georgia, and is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiff's complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).


         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1) Phil Hall, Warden; (2) Cathy Lewis, Deputy Warden of Care and Treatment; (3) Fred Gammage, Deputy Warden of Security; and (4) Barbara Grant, Unit Manager. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 1-3.) Taking all of Plaintiff's allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         On August 4, 2016, Plaintiff was strip searched under command of Deputy Warden Gammage in Building H Dorm 1. (Doc. no. 1-1, p. 1.) He was then escorted by Deputy Warden Gammage and other security personnel to the segregation unit and placed in an isolation cell in Building E Dorm 1. (Id.) Plaintiff was never told why he was being subjected to this treatment. (Id.) On August 11, 2016, after seven days in the isolation cell, Sergeant Knight offered Plaintiff a plea bargain for ninety days commissary, visitation, phone restriction, and no disciplinary isolation. (Id.) Plaintiff was not aware of any charges or disciplinary offenses against him. (Id.) Twenty-seven days later, Plaintiff was still in the isolation cell. (Id. at 1-2.) Outside of his presence, his personal papers with contact information of family and friends were searched and lost. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff lost several privileges including: (1) his mail was withheld, (2) he was not allowed to call anyone, (3) he could not attend religious services, which he used to do twice a week, (4) he received a new offender schedule detailing he had lost his good prison job as a diet specialist assistant in the kitchen, (5) he was not allowed to shave or get haircuts, and (6) he was denied the use of an electrical socket to power a fan in his cell, which had no air conditioning. (Id.)

         On August 29, 2016, Plaintiff was visited by Unit Manager Grant and Counselor Ates who together told Plaintiff he was being recommended for the Tier II Program. (Id.) Plaintiff was told he was being recommended for Tier II because of cellphones and drugs. (Id.) He refuted ever having cellphones or drugs and stated there were never any disciplinary processes. (Id. at 3.) Defendant Grant asked Plaintiff if he would sign the form detailing the Tier II Program change and Plaintiff did. (Id.) However, Plaintiff's door sheet only said he had “failed to follow instructions” as the reason for him being in isolation. (Id.) On September 16, 2016, Plaintiff was escorted from his isolation cell to the shower in handcuffs. (Id.) Plaintiff saw Deputy Warden Gammage on the way to the shower and asked him what was going on. (Id.) Deputy Warden Gammage only responded with a taunt about how much different Plaintiff looked after being in the isolation cell. (Id.)

         On October 3, 2016, Plaintiff received a copy of the Georgia Department of Corrections Standard Operating Procedures on Offender Discipline and Involuntary Administrative Segregation. (Id.) Plaintiff then wrote a grievance about his housing situation. (Id.) Warden Hall rejected the grievance because involuntary housing assignment based on administrative segregation was a not an issue for grievance. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff appealed the grievance denial. (Id.) Plaintiff wrote personal letters to all Defendants explaining procedural errors and received no response. (Id.) On November 8, 2016, Plaintiff was again visited by Unit Manager Grant and Counselor Ates who were conducting a disciplinary segregation thirty-day review and recommending Plaintiff for the Tier II Program again. (Id.) Plaintiff asked why he was still in an isolation cell with no disciplinary report, and Unit Manager Grant responded by stating “they didn't need a disciplinary report to do what they wanted.” (Id.) Plaintiff appealed the Tier II recommendation, and the appeal was denied by Warden Hall. (Id. at 4-5.)

         Deputy Warden Lewis came to Plaintiff's cell for inspection. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff asked if she received his letter and why he had not received a hearing in front of the classification committee, of which Deputy Warden Lewis was head, and she responded stating she did not know what was going on. (Id.) On November 17, 2016, Plaintiff was placed in the administrative segregation Tier II Program. (Id.) He began writing each Defendant letters daily about his situation and procedural errors occurring in his case. (Id.) Defendants became angry and upset Plaintiff was informing them of their wrongdoing, and Defendants agreed Plaintiff would be transferred to a disciplinary prison. (Id.) Subsequently, on November 29, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to WSP in retaliation for writing letters to Defendants pointing out their procedural errors. (Id. at 5-6.) Upon transfer to WSP, unknown officials placed information in Plaintiff's administrative file prompting hardships by WSP officials. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff was immediately placed in the segregation unit, and TSP officials placed false gang affiliations on his file. (Id.) Plaintiff is seeking injunctive relief, $300, 000 in compensatory damages against each Defendant, jointly and severally, and $300, 000 in punitive damages against each Defendant, jointly and severally. (Doc. no. 1, p. 5; 1-3, p. 1.)

         B. DISCUSSION

         1. Legal Standard for Screening

         The complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc., 366 Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint is insufficient if it “offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '” or if it “tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). In short, the complaint must provide a “‘plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Finally, the Court affords a liberal construction to a pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the Court has a duty ...

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