United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION
T. Numbers, II, United States Magistrate Judge.
William Morganherring, a state inmate proceeding pro se,
commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This
matter is currently before the court for the screening
required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”). Also before the court is
Morganherring's motion to amend (D.E. 8). For the
following reasons, the court grants Morganherring's
motion to amend but recommends dismissal of
Motion to Amend
moves to amend his complaint to reflect the proper
defendants. Specifically, Morganherring seeks to replace A.M.
Lafleur with Mr. Farmer as a defendant in this action. The
court will allow him to amend his complaint as a matter of
right. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1).
Screening Under the PLRA
PRLA requires courts to review, prior to docketing, actions
filed by prisoners against governmental entities or
officials. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The purpose of this
review is to eliminate those claims that unnecessarily impede
judicial efficiency and the administration of justice. The
court must examine the pleadings, identify cognizable claims,
and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. Id. at § 1915A(b).
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted if it does not “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). The Supreme Court has
explained that “[a] claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
Morganherring's status as a pro se party
relaxes, but does not eliminate, the requirement that his
complaint contain facially plausible claims. The court must
liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's
allegations, but it “cannot ignore a clear failure to
allege facts” that set forth a cognizable claim.
Johnson v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, 867
F.Supp.2d 766, 776 (E.D. N.C. 2011).
on disciplinary infractions, prison officials assigned
Morganherring a restricted housing classification. Compl. at
5, D.E. 1; Pl. Ex. at 1, D.E. 7. Morganherring argues that
his custody classification is unconstitutional. Compl. at 5,
D.E. 1. This claim should be dismissed.
the PLRA states that “[n]o action shall be brought with
respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. §] 1983 .
. ., or any other Federal law, by a prisoner . . . until such
administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see Woodford
v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83-85 (2006); Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). “[T]he
PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits
about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances
or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive
force or some other wrong.” Porter, 534 U.S.
at 532; see Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007).
A prisoner must exhaust administrative remedy procedures
regardless of the types of relief such procedures offer.
See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 740-41 (2001).
“[E]xhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and . . .
unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.”
Jones, 549 U.S. at 211.
“the PLRA does not require a prisoner to allege that he
has exhausted his administrative remedies . . . .”
Anderson v. XYZ Corr. Health Servs., Inc., 407 F.3d
674, 675 (4th Cir. 2005). “Instead, an inmate's
failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative
defense to be pleaded and proven by the defendant.”
Id. at 683. Nonetheless, “[a] court may
sua sponte dismiss a complaint when the alleged
facts in the complaint, taken as true, prove that the inmate
failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.”
Custis v. Davis, 851 F.3d 358, 361 (4th Cir. 2017).
The Fourth Circuit has held that such instances are rare.
Morganherring concedes on the face of his complaint that he
did not exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his
complaint. Compl. at 8, D.E. 1. Moreover, Morganherring's
filings in this action demonstrate that prison officials have
not made administrative remedies unavailable to him. Pl. Ex.
at 1, D.E. 7; see Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850,
1858 (2016) (holding that a prisoner is not required to
exhaust if administrative remedies are
“unavailable.”). Thus, the undersigned finds that
Morganherring's complaint “present[s] the rare,
exceptional instance” where failure to exhaust is
apparent on the complaint's face. Custis, 851
F.3d at 362. Therefore, the district should dismiss
Morganherring's claims for failure to exhaust.
even if Morganherring had exhausted his administrative
remedies, his claim lacks merit. The crux of his complaint is
that prison officials violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of
the Constitution because they both punished him for his
disciplinary infractions and altered his custody
classification. However, double jeopardy does not apply to
prison disciplinary proceedings. Wolff v. McDonnell,
418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974) (“Prison disciplinary
proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the
full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings
does not apply.”); Meeks v. McBride, 81 F.3d
717, 722 (7th Cir. 1996) (“[A] prison disciplinary
proceeding is no bar to a subsequent criminal prosecution for
the same offense”); Martin v. West, No. CV
8:17-2754-MGL-JDA, 2017 WL 6888825, at *2 (D.S.C. Dec. 15,
2017) (“[T]he law is clear that double jeopardy does
not apply to prison disciplinary proceedings”),
report and recommendation adopted, No. CV
8:17-2754-MGL-JDA, 2018 WL 388847 (D.S.C. Jan. 11, 2018)
court construed Morganherring's claim as sounding in due
process instead, a prisoner still has no right to a specific
custody classification. See, e.g., O'Bar v.
Pinion, 953 F.2d 74, 82- 83 (4th Cir. 1991). Rather, the
custody classification of state prisoners within the state
prison system is among the “wide spectrum of
discretionary actions that traditionally have been the
business of prison administrators rather than of the federal
courts.” Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225
(1976). Specifically, the Supreme Court has held, inmates
have “no legitimate statutory or constitutional
entitlement” to any particular custodial classification
even if a new classification would cause that inmate to
suffer a “grievous loss.” Moody v.
Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 88 n. 9 (1976). Moreover,
Morganherring's complaint does not establish that, by
assigning him to restricted housing, prison officials
subjected him to atypical and significant hardships in
relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. See
Incumaa v. Stirling, 791 F.3d 517, 527 (4th Cir. 2015),
as amended (July 7, 2015). Therefore, any potential
due process claim would also fail.
Morganherring filed a document in support of his complaint
describing an unrelated incident involving the alleged
excessive use of force in November 2018. Pl. Ex. at 1, D.E.
10. Morganherring does not formally request leave to amend
his complaint to include this claim. To the extent
Morganherring seeks to pursue this claim, he must file it in
a separate action after exhausting his administrative
remedies. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2); see also George
v. Smith,507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (explaining
that “[u]nrelated claims against different defendants
belong in different suits” to ensure ...