United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action while confined in
Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Georgia, to contest
certain events allegedly occurring in Coffee County, Georgia.
Doc. 1. Plaintiff seeks damages for Defendants' August
22, 2015 search of his room and his subsequent arrest and
pre-trial detention. For the reasons which follow, I
RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS
with prejudice Plaintiff's claims for false arrest and
false imprisonment. However, Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment
unreasonable search claim against Defendants shall proceed.
Consequently, a copy of Plaintiff's Complaint, doc. 1,
and a copy of this Order shall be served upon Defendant
Harper and Defendant Merritt by the United States Marshal
without prepayment of cost.
August 22, 2015, Defendant Harper and Defendant Merritt went
to Plaintiff's residence to assist with an eviction
against the lessee, Anna Railey. Doc. 1 at 5-6, 9-10. Railey
had sublet two rooms, one to Plaintiff and one to another
resident. Id. When Defendants arrived, Plaintiff and
the other resident learned of the pending eviction action
against them for the first time. Id.
point, Defendant Merritt entered Plaintiff's bedroom
without Plaintiff's consent and began to question
Plaintiff about possible contraband in his bedroom.
Id. at 7-8, 11. Soon after, Defendant Harper entered
Plaintiff's room (also without Plaintiff's consent)
and noticed illegal items in plain view, including a small
amount of marijuana. Id. Defendants then searched
the room and discovered a box of methamphetamine under the
was arrested and charged with offenses arising from the
search. Id. On January 13, 2017, the Superior Court
of Coffee County found the search unconstitutional and
granted Plaintiff's motion to suppress. Id. at
9-16. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of this search, he
was arrested and remained incarcerated until he could afford
a bond. Id. at 7. He requests, as relief, $200, 000
in compensatory damages and expungement of all records
related to the case. Id. at 8.
is bringing 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, malicious, or if it 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, 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 pleadings 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 §
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.
a complaint fails to state a claim under §
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)).
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 . . .
.”) (emphasis omitted) (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
Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Claims
the pleadings liberally, the Court finds that Plaintiff
asserts three § 1983 claims: (1) unreasonable search;
(2) false arrest; and (3) false imprisonment. Doc. 1 at 5-8.
The Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the
people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures[.]”
U.S. Const. amend. IV. A plaintiff can allege a colorable
§ 1983 claim for unreasonable search in violation of the
Fourth Amendment violation by claiming that officers searched