CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:15-cv-33
ORDER and MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Plaintiff, an inmate at the D. Ray James Correctional Institution in Folkston, Georgia ("D. Ray James"), filed this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff also filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 5.) The Court has conducted an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons which follow, Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis is DENIED, and his Complaint should be DISMISSED. Additionally, Plaintiff should be DENIED leave to appeal in forma pauperis.
The facts set forth below are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint are accepted as true, as they must be at this stage.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide him necessary medical care during his imprisonment at D. Ray James. (Doc. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff contends that he is losing sight in his left eye and has had numerous surgeries for this condition. (Id. at pp. 3-4.) He contends that prison officials have denied his necessary medical treatment for this condition by cancelling follow up appointments with Plaintiff's ophthalmologist. In addition to his Complaint, Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 5.)
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 and 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 or 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).
When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 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 F. App'x 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.") (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 without counsel.").
I. Dismissal of Bivens Claim Against Private Employees
The United States Supreme Court has held that a federal prisoner cannot bring a Bivens claim against employees of a privately operated federal prison when state law authorizes adequate alternative damages actions. Minneci v. Pollard, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 617 (Jan. 10, 2012). The Court stated that "in the case of a privately employed defendant, state tort law provides an 'alternative, existing process' capable of protecting the constitutional interests at stake." Id. at ___, 132 S. Ct. at 623 (quoting Wilkie v. Robbins, 551 U.S. 537, 559 (2007)) (declining to extend Bivens liability to allow a landowner to pursue a private action against employees of the Bureau of Land Development).
It should be noted that in the Eleventh Circuit such a claim has been foreclosed since 2008. See Alba v. Montford, 517 F.3d 1249 (11th Cir. 2008) (declining to extend Bivens to cover a claim for deliberate indifference to medical needs against Corrections Corporation of America, a private facility under contract with the Bureau of Prisons, and its employees).
D. Ray James Correctional Facility is a private entity that operates under a contract with the Bureau of Prisons. The employees of D. Ray James, including Defendants, are employees of The GEO Group, Inc., a private entity. Like the plaintiffs in Minneci and Alba, so long as Plaintiff has adequate state law remedies available to him, he may not maintain a cause of action pursuant to Bivens against The GEO Group, Inc., or its employees (such as Defendants) because The GEO Group, Inc., and its employees are private parties. Thus, Plaintiff's remedy, if any, against Defendants lies in state court. Consequently, Plaintiff cannot bring a Bivens action against the named Defendants. As such, the Court DENIES his Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis before this Court, and I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS this case.
The Court offers no opinion as to the efficacy of such a pursuit.
II. Leave to Appeal In Forma Pauperis
The Court should also deny Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Though Plaintiff has, of course, not yet filed a notice of appeal, it would be appropriate to address these issues in the Court's order of dismissal. Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (trial court may certify that appeal is not take in good faith "before or after the notice of appeal is filed").
A certificate of appealablity is not required in this Section 1983 action. --------
An appeal cannot be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that the appeal is not taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3). Good faith in this context must be judged by an objective standard. Busch v. Cty. of Volusia, 189 F.R.D. 687, 691 (M.D. Fla. 1999). A party does not proceed in good faith when he seeks to advance a frivolous claim or argument. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). A claim or argument is frivolous when it appears the factual allegations are clearly baseless or the legal theories are indisputably meritless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Carroll v. Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). Or, stated another way, an in forma pauperis action is frivolous and, thus, not brought in good faith, if it is "without arguable merit either in law or fact." Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Brown v. United States, Nos. 407CV085, 403CR001, 2009 WL 307872, at *1-2 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 9, 2009).
Based on the above analysis of Plaintiff's action, there are no non-frivolous issues to raise on appeal, and an appeal would not be taken in good faith. Thus, in forma pauperis status on appeal should be DENIED.
For the numerous reasons set forth above, I RECOMMEND that this action be DISMISSED and that Plaintiff be DENIED leave to appeal in forma pauperis. The Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis before this Court.
Any party seeking to object to this Report and Recommendation is ORDERED to file specific written objections within fourteen (14) days of the date on which this Report and Recommendation is entered. Any objections asserting that the Magistrate Judge failed to address any contention raised in the Complaint must also be included. Failure to do so will bar any later challenge or review of the factual findings or legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). A copy of the objections must be served upon all other parties to the action.
The filing of objections is not a proper vehicle through which to make new allegations or present additional evidence. Furthermore, it is not necessary for a party to repeat legal arguments in objections.
Upon receipt of Objections meeting the specificity requirement set out above, a United States District Judge will make a de novo determination of those portions of the report, proposed findings, or recommendation to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. Objections not meeting the specificity requirement set out above will not be considered by a District Judge. A party may not appeal a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation directly to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Appeals may be made only from a final judgment entered by or at the direction of a District Judge. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to serve a copy of this Report and Recommendation upon the Plaintiff.
SO ORDERED and REPORTED and RECOMMENDED, this 9th day of December, 2015.
R. STAN BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA