Clayton v. Williams et al
ORDER re 1 Complaint. The Court DIRECTS the Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint within fourteen (14) days of the date of this Order (Amended Pleadings due by 7/25/2017.) Signed by Magistrate Judge R. Stan Baker on 7/11/2017. (ca)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
EARNEST BARNARD CLAYTON,
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 6:17-cv-70
STANLEY WILLIAMS, et al.,
Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia,
submitted a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting certain conditions of his
confinement. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court DEFERS frivolity review on
Plaintiff’s Complaint and DIRECTS Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint within fourteen
(14) days of the date of this Order.
In his Complaint, Plaintiff appears to make a number of allegations against fifty-three
(53) Defendants. However, it is unclear exactly what claims Plaintiff seeks to pursue throughout
his thirty-three paged Complaint and against which Defendants. His handwriting is illegible and
he appears to relay multiple, unrelated events which began as early as 2015.
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, 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).
The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure when reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. 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.”).
Plaintiff’s Complaint appears to include a litany of unrelated claims and rarely states
which Defendants are associated with which claims. The Eleventh Circuit has routinely and
explicitly condemned “shotgun pleadings,” Davis v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consol., 516 F.3d
955, 979 n.54 (11th Cir. 2008), which it has described as pleadings that make it “virtually
impossible to know which allegations of fact are intended to support which claim(s) for relief.”
Strategic Income Fund, LLC v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 n.9 (11th
Cir. 2002). A district court is not required to “sift through the facts presented and decide for
itself which were material to the particular cause of action asserted.” Beckwith v. Bellsouth
Telecomms. Inc., 146 F. App’x 368, 372 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Strategic Income Fund, 305
F.3d at 1295 n.9). Additionally, a plaintiff may not join unrelated claims and various defendants
unless the claims “arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or
occurrences; and any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a).
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Complaint in its current form fails to state a viable claim and is
due to be dismissed. However, the Court will provide Plaintiff the opportunity to amend his
Complaint and DIRECTS Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint within fourteen (14) days
from the date of this Order.
The Court further DIRECTS Plaintiff to:
draft his Amended Complaint on the complaint form provided by the Clerk of
clearly caption it as an amendment to the original complaint and place the civil
action number of this case on the first page of the form;
add no more than ten pages to the form;
write legibly and only on one side of each page;
provide the name of each intended defendant,
provide only factual allegations concerning events where the rights of Plaintiff
himself were violated or Plaintiff himself was injured, including the date and
location of each alleged violation;
only assert claims that arose from the same transaction or occurrence or series of
related transactions or occurrences;
clearly identify each defendant responsible for each alleged violation;
omit all legal argument or conclusions;
provide complete information on the administrative relief Plaintiff has pursued,
including whether he has filed any grievance on the claims he asserts in this
action, the outcome of any grievance, and whether Plaintiff filed any appeal
regarding any grievance; and
provide detailed information on all prisoner civil actions Plaintiff has filed.
The Court DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to forward the appropriate 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint
form to Plaintiff, together with a copy of this Order.
For the above-stated reasons, the Court DEFERS frivolity review on Plaintiff’s
Complaint and DIRECTS Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint within fourteen (14) days of
the date of this Order. Should Plaintiff fail to abide by this directive, the Court will dismiss this
case for failure to prosecute and failure to follow a court order.
SO ORDERED, this 11th day of July, 2017.
R. STAN BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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