CASTELLANO v. THE GEO GROUP INC et al
ORDER Dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint without prejudice. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE C ASHLEY ROYAL on 1/24/17. (lap)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
The GEO GROUP INC, et al,
ORDER TO DISMISS
The above captioned case is currently before the Court for preliminary screening of
the amended complaint filed by Joseph Christopher Castellano as required by the Prisoner
Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. 1915A(a). Having now conducted a preliminary review
of Plaintiff’s claims, the Court finds that his complaint fails to state any viable claim for
relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Authority & Standard for Preliminary Review s
Federal law requires that every complaint filed by either (1) a prisoner seeking
redress from a government entity, official, or employee, or (2) a person who is proceeding
before the court in forma pauperis, be screened by the district court for frivolity prior to
service. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) (requiring the screening of prisoner cases) & 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e) (regarding in forma pauperis proceedings). When performing this review, the
district court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Brown v.
Johnson, 387 F.3d 1344, 1347 (11th Cir. 2004). Pro se pleadings are also “held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys,” and the plaintiff’s claims must be
“liberally construed.” Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir.
1998). See also Ford v. Hunter, 534 F. App’x 821, 825 (11th Cir. 2013) (“where the facts
to state a claim are clearly present in a pro se complaint, even if the cause of action is
mislabeled, a pro se plaintiff has indeed stated a claim”).
The Court, however, is not required to create a claim where there is none. See id.
Just the opposite: Federal law requires that a pro se complaint, or any part thereof, be
dismissed, prior to service, if it is apparent on the face of the complaint that the plaintiff’s
the allegations, when taken as true, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted –
i.e., that the plaintiff is not entitled to relief based on the facts alleged. See § 1915(e); §
Thus, to survive the preliminary review, the complaint must include
“enough factual matter” to – not only “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim
is and the grounds upon which it rests” – but to also create “a reasonable expectation” that
discovery will reveal evidence to prove the claim(s). Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). The plaintiff’s claims cannot be speculative or based solely
suspicions; they must be supported by fact. Id. The use legal “labels and conclusions” or
“a formulaic recitation of the elements” of a cause of action – unsupported by allegations of
discoverable facts – is not enough to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663
(2009) (“naked assertions do not suffice”).
With these standards in mind, the Court now turns to Plaintiff’s claims.
The present action arises out of events occurring while Plaintiff was confined at the
Riverbend Correctional Facility (“Riverbend”). On February 15, 2016, Plaintiff was
approached and advised that he would be “stabbed or jumped” by a group of “Mexicans” if
he did not begin paying them money. Plaintiff advised Defendant Sergeant Reeves of this
general threat on the same day it occurred. Reeves, however, “refused and prevented”
Plaintiff from “going into protective custody” until another sergeant intervened “several
minutes later” and checked Plaintiff into “segregation.”
While in segregation, Plaintiff continued to ask prison officials to complete and
submit the paperwork necessary for him to be placed in “protective custody.” Plaintiff
states that he continued to fear for his life and repeatedly informed prison officials of his
concerns in conversations and written statements, but became only more distressed,
frustrated, and angry because he was not being “listened to.”
After a few days in
segregation, an officer tried to force Plaintiff to return to general population and, when
Plaintiff refused, issued him a disciplinary report for refusing housing – which required
Plaintiff to appear in “D.R. Court.” It was not until March 19, 2016, that Plaintiff’s “PC
paperwork” was finally completed.
Fortunately, Plaintiff was never attacked or injured by another prisoner. He has
now, however, filed the present action against Sergeant Reeves, Riverbend Correctional
Facility, and the corporate operator of the prison (the Geo Group, Inc.) under § 1983.
Plaintiff claims that Defendants were “negligent” and acted with “deliberate indifference
to his safety.” He also feels that his “due process rights” were violated when he was
issued a disciplinary report (“DR”) for refusing to return to general population. Plaintiff
seeks to recover money damages from both Riverbend and the GEO Group, and he
requests that Sergeant Reeves be reprimanded and disciplined for his actions.
As is required on preliminary review, the Court accepts all of these facts as true.
Plaintiff’s factual allegations, however, still fail to state any viable claim against
Sergeant Reeve’s initial refusal to take Plaintiff to segregation is not
in-and-of itself unconstitutional. Another official intervened, only “minutes” later, and
provided Plaintiff protection in the segregation unit. Plaintiff thus suffered no injury as a
result of Reeve’s momentary refusal. Furthermore, the remedy Plaintiff now seeks – that
Reeves be reprimanded and disciplined by his employer – is not something that the district
court can provide. See Newman v. Ala., 559 F.2d 283, 288 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 438
U.S. 915 (1978) (“district court does not have authority to … fire state employees.”).
Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Riverbend and the GEO Group fail as a matter
of law. A correctional facility is not an entity capable of being sued under §1983. See Ga.
Insurers Insolvency Pool v. Elbert Cnty., 258 Ga. 317, 318, 368 S.E.2d 500 (1988); Stevens
v. Gay, 864 F.2d 113, 114–15 (11th Cir. 1989). Private contractors who provide prison
services likewise cannot be held liable under § 1983 unless the constitutional deprivation
occurred as a direct result of its official policies or customs. See Flakes v. Donald, No.
CV507-97, 2008 WL 3925177, at *1 (S.D. Ga. May 15, 2008); Monell v. Dep't of Social
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); and Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127, 1129-30 (11th Cir.
1992). Plaintiff has not alleged any facts to show that the Geo Group maintained a policy
or custom that resulted in a denial of his constitutional rights. Salas v. Tillman, 162 F.
App’x 918, 922 (11th Cir. 2006) (conclusory allegation that the defendant failed to
properly train or supervise staff insufficient to state a claim).
What is more, Plaintiff’s allegations – even if amended to name an appropriate
defendant for a due process claim – fail to describe any denial of due process. Prisoners
do not have a constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being wrongly accused of
misconduct. Freeman v. Rideout, 808 F.2d 949, 951 (2nd Cir. 1986). “[T]he Constitution
requires only that Plaintiff be afforded due process at [an] institutional hearing,” when a
disciplinary report is made, which represents his opportunity to expose any such falsities or
inaccuracies. Freeman, 808 F.2d at 952; see also Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94
S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974).” Owens v. Leavins, No. 5:05-CV-228, 2006 WL
2640275, at *6 (N. D. Fla. Sept. 13, 2006). Plaintiff’s Complaint contains no allegations
to show that he was not provided a fair hearing before the “D.R. Court” or that it resulted in
punitive sanction sufficient to trigger due process protections. See generally Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 476 (1995).
The Court therefore finds that Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted; and his complaint is hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE,1pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b) and 1915(e).
1 In the State of Georgia, § 1983 claims have a two-year statute of limitations. See Owens v.
SO ORDERED this 24th day of January, 2017
S/ C. Ashley Royal
C. ASHLEY ROYAL, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 236 (1989) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261 (1985)); O.C.G.A. §
9-3-33 (1982). The events giving rise to Plaintiff’s claims occurred in February and March of
2016. The statute of limitation will not immediately bar Plaintiff from re-filing.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?