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Wright v. Fish

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

May 14, 2019

LEROY C. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, an inmate at Telfair State Prison (“TSP”) in Helena, Georgia, is proceeding in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this case filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiff's amended 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) (per curiam).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) issued on March 22, 2019, the Court recommended Plaintiff's original complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim. (Doc. no. 7.) In response to the Court's R&R, Plaintiff submitted an objection containing a request to amend his complaint in attempt to cure the deficiencies identified by the undersigned. (See doc. no. 11.) The Court granted Plaintiff's request to amend his complaint, and it is the amended complaint the Court now screens. (Doc. no. 13.)

         Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1) Ms. Fish, Food Service Director at TSP; (2) Lieutenant Watts, Officer at TSP; (3) Sergeant Skipper, Officer at TSP; and (4) FNU Bruce, Correctional Officer at TSP. (Doc. no. 13, pp. 1-3.) Plaintiff sues all four Defendants in their individual capacities. (Id. at 2-3.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         On June 9, 10, and 11, 2018, Plaintiff, a Muslim fasting from sunup to sunset in observance of Ramadan, did not receive his meals prior to sunrise as his religious practice required, resulting in Plaintiff experiencing “extreme hunger pains” and losing seven pounds. (Id. at 5, 12.) Defendant Fish was responsible for the timely delivery of food trays on all three days, but she did not make sure the trays arrived at Plaintiff's housing unit in time for Plaintiff to eat prior to sunrise. (Id. at 5, 12.)

         On June 9, Defendants Watts and Skipper served meals at approximately 7:00 a.m., and when Plaintiff stated he could not eat because the sun had risen, Defendants told him to “blame food services, ” forcing Plaintiff to skip eating in favor of following his religious beliefs. (Id. at 12.) On June 10, Defendant Skipper did not arrive with Plaintiff's food until 8:20 a.m., and he would not document the meal arrived after sunrise so that Plaintiff could receive a larger portion of food that night. (Id.) On June 11, Defendant Bruce timely brought a tray of food to Plaintiff's cell, but even though Plaintiff had previously informed Defendant Bruce he was a vegan, the tray had meat on it. (Id. at 13.) Defendant Bruce told

         ORDER Plaintiff he would return with a vegan tray before sunrise, but he never came back with the vegan tray. (Id.)

         Plaintiff states he filed a grievance about his “First Amendment Free Exercise of religion claims, ” grieving (1) Defendants Watts and Skipper deprived him of food on two occasions by bringing the trays after sunrise, and (2) Defendant Bruce never returned with a vegan meal after initially bringing a tray with meat. (Id. at 7.) In response to the grievance, “Defendants were counseled on the importance of delivering religious meals on time.” (Id.) Plaintiff did not file an appeal because “the only time one needs to appeal is if the grievance was rejected/denied.” (Id.) Additionally, Plaintiff's counselor told him he did not need to appeal. (Id. at 8.)

         Plaintiff seeks $70, 000 in damages for Defendants violating his constitutional rights, as well as his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq. (“RLUIPA”), by denying Plaintiff food and causing him mental and emotional distress. (Id. at 5.)


         A. Legal Standard for Screening

         The amended 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 amended 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 to ...

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