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Geyser v. Brown

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

July 24, 2019




         Plaintiff, incarcerated at Gwinnett County Department of Corrections, commenced the above-captioned case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, regarding events alleged to have occurred in Columbia County, Georgia. He 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) (per curiam).


         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1) Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown, Jr.; (2) Department of Community Services (DCS) Officer Edward M. McClung, Jr.; and (3) Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 1, 4.) Taking all of Plaintiff's allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         Plaintiff pleaded guilty in the Superior Court of Columbia County to two counts of Theft by Taking and two counts of Criminal Attempt to Commit Theft by Taking. (Id., Ex. A.) On December 16, 2008, Judge Brown sentenced Plaintiff to a ten-year term of probation, with credit for time served from July 30, 2008. (Id.) Based on a Petition for Modification/Revocation of Probation signed by Judge Brown on August 22, 2018, Officer McClung and five other DCS officers arrested Plaintiff on a probation violation warrant after Plaintiff's probation term expired. (Doc. no. 1, p. 5 and Ex. B.) The petition alleged Plaintiff had committed deposit account fraud on three occasions in April and May of 2018. (Id., Ex. B.) Judge Brown revoked Plaintiff's ten-year probation term in full on November 19, 2018. (Id.) Although Plaintiff is now at Gwinnett County Department of Corrections, Sheriff Whittle confined Plaintiff at some point during the probation revocation proceedings. (Id. at 5.)

         Plaintiff seeks a declaration his arrest for a probation violation after his term of probation expired violated his constitutional rights. In addition to nominal damages, Plaintiff seeks $3, 887, 520, from Defendants, jointly and severally.

         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) (per curiam) (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 to re-write the complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).

         2. Plaintiff's Claims Are Barred Under Heck v. Humphrey

         Plaintiff's claims are barred under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the Supreme Court held, “[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence” has been reversed, expunged, declared invalid, or called into question by the issuance of a federal writ of habeas corpus. Id. at 486-87. The Heck “favorable termination” rule has been applied to complaints alleging problems with revocation proceedings such as those alleged by Plaintiff. See Reilly v. Herrera, 622 Fed.Appx. 832, 834-35 (11th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of § 1983 complaint brought against probation officers and others alleging conspiracy to fabricate violation of conditions of supervised release because if true, “then the arrest would be unlawful and the revocation ...

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