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Terrell-Bey v. Crank

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 4, 2015

BROOKS TERRELL-BEY, Plaintiff,
v.
K. CRANK, Trust Fund Accountant; and GOMEZ, Unit Manager, Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING CASE

LEWIS T. BABCOCK, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff, Brooks Terrell-Bey, is a federal inmate currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum ("ADX") in Florence, Colorado. Acting pro se, he initiated this action by filing a Prisoner Complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), against two ADX employees challenging the conditions of his confinement.

A. Mandatory Review Provisions and Standards of Review

In the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), Congress adopted major changes affecting federal actions brought by prisoners in an effort to curb the increasing number of frivolous and harassing law suits brought by persons in custody. Pertinent to the case at bar is the authority granted to federal courts for sua sponte screening and dismissal of prisoner claims.

Specifically, Congress significantly amended Title 28 of the United States Code, section 1915, which establishes the criteria for allowing an action to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), i.e., without prepayment of costs. Section 1915(e) (as amended) requires the federal courts to review complaints filed by persons that are proceeding in forma pauperis and to dismiss, at any time, any action that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In addition, Congress enacted a new statutory provision at 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, entitled "Screening, " which requires the court to review complaints filed by prisoners seeking redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). If the complaint is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, " or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief, " the court must dismiss the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

Further, the PLRA substantially amended the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e. In this regard, the PLRA amended section 1997e(c) to require the court "on its own motion or on the motion of a party" to dismiss any action brought by a prisoner with respect to prison conditions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the action is "frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1).[1]

Plaintiff is considered a "prisoner" as that term is defined under the PLRA, see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(h); 1915A(c), and he has been granted leave to proceed IFP in this action (ECF No. 7). Moreover, his Complaint concerns prison conditions and Defendants are employees of a governmental entity. Thus, his Complaint must be reviewed under the authority set forth above.

In reviewing complaints under these statutory provisions, a viable complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 556 (2007) (rejecting the traditional standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The question to be resolved is: whether, taking the factual allegations of the complaint, which are not contradicted by the exhibits and matters of which judicial notice may be had, and taking all reasonable inferences to be drawn from those uncontradicted factual allegations of the complaint, are the "factual allegations... enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true even if doubtful in fact[.]" Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, a legally frivolous claim is one in which the plaintiff asserts the violation of a legal interest that clearly does not exist or asserts facts that do not support an arguable claim. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989). See Conkleton v. Raemisch, Civil No. No. 14-1271, ___ Fed.App'x ___, 2015 WL 794901 (10th Cir. Feb. 26, 2015) (upholding in part District Court's dismissal as frivolous of prisoner civil rights complaint); Ross v. Romero, 191 Fed.App'x 682 (10th Cir. 2006) (affirming district court's sua sponte dismissal of prisoner's civil rights complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b).

The Court must construe the Complaint liberally because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). If a complaint reasonably can be read "to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, [a court] should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements." Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. However, a court should not act as a pro se litigant's advocate. See id. Sua sponte dismissal is proper when it is patently obvious that plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged. Andrews v. Heaton, 483 F.3d 1070, 1074 (10th Cir. 2007); Curley v. Perry, 246 F.3d 1278, 1281-82 (10th Cir. 2001) (internal quotations omitted); McKinney v. State of Okla., Dept. of Human Servs., Shawnee, OK, 925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991); Huxall v. First State Bank, 842 F.2d 249, 249 n. 2 (10th Cir. 1988).

B. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff makes two claims in this action. First, he complains that prison authorities have prevented him from opening an individual savings account in an outside financial institution. Second, he complains that prison authorities have misappropriated his funds by taking twenty (20) percent of his monthly income for each of his five different civil actions for which he is required to pay fees under 28 U.S.C. § 19195(b). Plaintiff asserts that these actions have violated his rights as protected by the Due Process Clause. For the reasons stated below, the Complaint and the action will be dismissed pursuant to the screening authority set forth above. The pertinent grounds which will result in the dismissal of all claims against all Defendants are addressed below.

C. Liability under Bivens

Plaintiff seeks to assert liability against Defendants pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). In Bivens, the Supreme Court recognized for the first time an implied private action for damages against federal officers alleged to have violated a citizen's constitutional rights. Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 66 (2001). Specifically, the Court "held that a victim of a Fourth Amendment violation by federal officers may bring suit against the officers in federal ...


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