Ballard v. Jones et al
ORDER dismissing Plaintiff's 1 Complaint for failure to state a claim. The Clerk is directed to close this case, and Plaintiff is denied leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. Signed by Magistrate Judge Benjamin W. Cheesbro on 11/14/2023. (gmh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
RASHAD MARQUISE BALLARD,
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 5:23-cv-19
MS. JONES, CHAPLAIN FLYNN,
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS, and CHAPLAIN HARRIS,
Plaintiff filed this action, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 1. This matter
is before the Court for a frivolity screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons stated
below, I DISMISS Plaintiff’s Complaint in its entirety, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE
this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Plaintiff leave to proceed
in forma pauperis on appeal. 1
PLAINTIFF’S CLAIMS 2
Plaintiff is a convicted and sentenced state prisoner at Ware State Prison in Waycross,
Georgia. Doc. 1. Plaintiff claims someone in the prison kitchen refused to “respect [his]
religious way of eating no meat, eggs, nor fish” on December 21, 2022. Id. at 4. Someone
placed two pieces of meat on his tray that day. Id. Plaintiff continues to be served meat. Id.
Plaintiff has consented to the undersigned’s plenary review. Doc. 5.
All allegations set forth here are taken from Plaintiff’s Complaint. Doc. 1. During frivolity
review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, “[t]he complaint’s factual allegations must be accepted as true.”
Waldman v. Conway, 871 F.3d 1283, 1289 (11th Cir. 2017).
Plaintiff also describes being stabbed, held in lock down, and denied water at an unspecified
time. Id. at 5.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A federal court is required to conduct an initial screening of all complaints filed by
prisoners and plaintiffs proceeding in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(a), 1915(a). During
the initial screening, the court must identify any cognizable claims in the complaint. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b). Additionally, the court must dismiss the complaint (or any portion of the
complaint) 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. Id. 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). However, Plaintiff’s unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural
rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).
A claim is frivolous under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) if it is “without arguable merit either in law or
fact.” Moore v. Bargstedt, 203 F. App’x 321, 323 (11th Cir. 2006). In order to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, a complaint must contain “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)). To state a claim, a
complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
Failure to State a Claim
Plaintiff names Ms. Jones, Chaplain Flynn, Chaplain Harris, and the Georgia Department
of Corrections as Defendants but makes no factual allegations against them. Plaintiff does not
explain the involvement of Ms. Jones, Chaplain Flynn, or Chaplain Harris. Plaintiff mentions
“Ms. Irons” and “Officer York” in different parts of his Complaint, but it is not clear if these are
defendants or how they are involved. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held a district
court properly dismisses a defendant where a plaintiff fails to state any allegations that associate
the defendant with the purported constitutional violation. Douglas v. Yates, 535 F.3d 1316,
1321–22 (11th Cir. 2008) (“While we do not require technical niceties in pleading, we must
demand that the complaint state with some minimal particularity how overt acts of the defendant
caused a legal wrong.”). Plaintiff fails to explain how the named Defendants were involved in
any violations of his constitutional rights. See generally, Doc. 1. Plaintiff does not name these
Defendants anywhere besides the caption of the case, and he does not explain their involvement
in any purported violations of his constitutional rights.
To the extent Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendants liable for the acts of their subordinates
without alleging any personal involvement, his claim also fails. “It is well established in this
circuit that supervisory officials are not liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional acts of their
subordinates on the basis of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.” Hartley v. Parnell, 193
F.3d 1263, 1269 (11th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). To hold a supervisory official or an
employer liable, Plaintiff must demonstrate either (1) the supervisor actually participated in the
alleged constitutional violation, or (2) there is a causal connection between the actions of the
supervisor and the alleged constitutional violation. Id. (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted) (citing Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 671 (11th Cir. 1990)). As noted above,
Plaintiff has not alleged Defendants participated in the events forming the basis of any of
Plaintiff’s claims. Moreover, Plaintiff has not proffered any reason to support the conclusion
Defendants violated any of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights.
Similarly, Plaintiff fails to allege a “causal connection” between Defendants and the
asserted constitutional violations. See Zatler v. Wainwright, 802 F.2d 397, 401 (11th Cir. 1986)
(requiring an affirmative causal connection between a defendant and an alleged constitutional
violation). The “causal connection” can be established “when a history of widespread abuse puts
the responsible supervisor [or employer] on notice of the need to correct the alleged deprivation,
and he fails to do so,” Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 671 (11th Cir. 1990), or when “the
supervisor’s [or employer’s] improper custom or policy . . . result[s] in deliberate indifference to
constitutional rights.” Hartley, 193 F.3d at 1269 (quoting Rivas v. Freeman, 940 F.2d 1491,
1495 (11th Cir. 1991)). A causal connection may also be shown when the facts support “an
inference that the supervisor [or employer] directed the subordinates to act unlawfully or knew
that the subordinates would act unlawfully and failed to stop them from doing so.” Cottone v.
Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1360 (11th Cir. 2003), abrogated in part on other grounds by Randall v.
Scott, 610 F.3d 701 (11th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff has not made the necessary showing with respect
to Defendants. Accordingly, I DISMISS Plaintiff’s Complaint for failure to state a claim.
Leave to Appeal in Forma Pauperis
The Court also denies Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Though Plaintiff has
not yet filed a notice of appeal, it is proper to address these issues in the Court’s order of
dismissal. See Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (noting trial court may certify appeal of party proceeding
in forma pauperis is not taken in good faith “before or after the notice of appeal is filed”).
An appeal cannot be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies 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. County 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). Thus, a claim is frivolous and not brought in good
faith if it is “‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.’” Moore v. Bargstedt, 203 F. App’x
321, 323 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001));
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 claims, there are no non-frivolous issues to
raise on appeal, and an appeal on these claims would not be taken in good faith. Thus, I DENY
Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.
For the reasons set forth above, I DISMISS Plaintiff’s Complaint in its entirety,
DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of
dismissal, and DENY Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.
SO ORDERED, this 14th day of November, 2023.
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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