United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
pro se Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
See (Doc. No. 7).
se Plaintiff Brandon Chantel Little has filed a civil
rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for incidents
that allegedly occurred at the Marion Correctional
Institution. He names the following as Defendants in
their official and individual capacities: Department of
Public Safety (“DPS”) Commissioner W. David
Guice, DPS Director George T. Solomon, Security Risk Group
(“SRG”) Captain Michael Long, SRG Sergeant Brad
Taylor, and Marion C.I. Administrator Hubert Corpening.
the Complaint liberally and accepting it as true, Plaintiff
wrote to his cousin around February 22, 2017, about the
Moorish American faith. Defendant Taylor wrote Plaintiff up
for an SRG disciplinary infraction for referring to the
Strawman, Free Moor, and Sovereign Citizens. This violated
Plaintiff's First Amendment rights of free speech and
religion. Plaintiff explained to Sergeant Alley on March 6,
2017, that Plaintiff claims the Moorish American faith, which
is separate from Sovereign Citizen Group. Sergeant Alley told
Plaintiff that the only way to make staff stop violating his
rights to free speech and religion is to file a federal
lawsuit. Plaintiff had a disciplinary hearing on March 10,
2017, for an A-14 violation, which is a gang-related charge,
to which Plaintiff pled guilty although Moorish Americans are
not a gang, but rather, a religion and nationality. Plaintiff
was punished with 30 days of segregation, loss of radio
privileges for 120 days, limited canteen draws for four
months, 40 hours of extra duty, and $10 for the disciplinary
seeks declaratory judgment, compensatory damages, punitive
damages, injunctive relief, and any other relief that the
Court deems appropriate.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma
pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to
determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds
that it is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In its
frivolity review, a court must determine whether the
Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is
founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as
fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). A complaint
should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim
“unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded
allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and
drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in
the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the
plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his
claim entitling him to relief.'” Veney v.
Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231,
244 (4th Cir. 1999)).
pro se complaint must be construed liberally.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see
also Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th
Cir. 2009) (“Liberal construction of the pleadings is
particularly appropriate where … there is a pro
se complaint raising civil rights issues.”).
However, the liberal construction requirement will not permit
a district court to ignore a clear failure to allege facts in
his complaint which set forth a claim that is cognizable
under federal law. Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). A
pro se complaint must still contain sufficient facts
“to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level” and “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); see Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (the Twombly
plausibility standard applies to all federal civil complaints
including those filed under § 1983). This
“plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to
demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli,
588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotation marks omitted). He must articulate facts that, when
accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling
him to relief. Id.
First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech….” U.S. Const. Amend I. The First
Amendment applies to the states through the Fourteenth
Amendment. See Everson v. Bd. of Educ., 330 U.S. 1,
15 (1947). A prison inmate retains those First Amendment
rights that are not inconsistent with his status as a
prisoner or with the legitimate penological objectives of the
corrections system. Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S.
396, 412 (1974), limited by Thornburgh v. Abbott,
490 U.S. 401 (1989); Pittman v. Hutto, 594 F.2d 407,
410 (4th Cir. 1979). When a prison restriction
infringes upon an inmate's First Amendment rights, the
alleged infringement “must be evaluated in the light of
the central objective of prison administration, safeguarding
institutional security.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441
U.S. 520, 547 (1979). To state a free exercise claim under
the First Amendment, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient
to show that he held a sincere religious belief, and that the
official action or regulation substantially burdened his
exercise of that belief. Hernandez v. Comm'r,
490 U.S. 680, 699 (1989).
preliminary matter, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants
Guice, Solomon, Long, and Corpening cannot proceed because he
has made no factual allegations against them whatsoever.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (requiring a short and
plain statement of the claim); Dickson v. Microsoft
Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 201-02 (4th Cir. 2002)
(a pleader must allege facts, directly or indirectly, that
support each element of the claim); Simpson v.
Welch, 900 F.2d 33, 35 (4th Cir. 1990)
(conclusory allegations, unsupported by specific allegations
of material fact are not sufficient). Plaintiff's claims
against these Defendants are therefore insufficient to
Plaintiff's First Amendment claims are frivolous and
self-defeating. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Taylor
violated his First Amendment rights by writing a disciplinary
infraction against him for SRG activity based on a letter
Plaintiff wrote to his cousin. However, Plaintiff admits that
he pled guilty to the disciplinary infraction and was
punished as a result. He does not allege that the
disciplinary action has been overturned.
guilty plea to the disciplinary infraction undermines his
present contention that no SRG activity occurred and that
Taylor violated the First Amendment by charging him.
Plaintiff's present claims would necessarily undermine
the validity of the prison disciplinary proceeding, and
therefore, are not cognizable under §
1983.See generally Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477 (1994) (state prisoner's claim for damages
is not cognizable under § 1983 if “a judgment in
favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity
of his conviction or sentence” unless the prisoner can
demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has previously
been invalidated); Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641
(1997) (claim for declaratory relief and money damages based
on allegations of deceit and bias on the part of ...