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Goodwin v. Coley

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

April 22, 2019

Marlon Goodwin, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolee Coley, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER & MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          Robert T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Marlon Goodwin, a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. D.E. 1. The court directed Goodwin to particularize his claims. D.E. 12. After reviewing his particularized complaint, the court allows Goodwin to proceed with his claims alleging sexual assault, excessive force, and failure to protect. But the district court should dismiss Goodwin's remaining claims.

         I. Screening Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act

         The PLRA 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. § 1915A(b).

         A 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. Goodwin'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).

         Goodwin's claim arises out of 42 U.S.C. §1983, which creates civil liability for any person acting under the color of state law who deprives a plaintiff of “any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United States. Thus, in order to state a claim under § 1983, “a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Philips v. Pitt Cnty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).

         In his original complaint, Goodwin alleged Eighth Amendment and ADA claims, arguing that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to and refused to accommodate his serious medical need of myasthenia gravis. He also described a sexual assault. The court directed Goodwin to particularize his claims because they did not comply with Rules 8 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Order and M&R at 2-3, D.E. 12.

         In his particularized complaint, Goodwin apparently abandons his deliberate indifference and ADA claims, and instead focuses on the alleged sexual assault. Goodwin alleges defendant Lateet Wilson sexually assaulted and used excessive force against him on April 28, 2017. Am. Compl. at 5-10, D.E. 13. He also contends that Correctional Officer Tigert and Lieutenant Wheeler failed to protect him from Wilson. Id. at 6. These claims are enough to survive frivolity review, and Goodwin may proceed with his excessive force and sexual assault claims against Wilson, and his failure to protect claims against Tigert and Wheeler.

         As a result of the April 28, 2017 altercations with Wilson, prison officials charged and convicted Goodwin of various disciplinary infractions. Id. at 10-13. Goodwin contends prison officials denied him due process during these disciplinary convictions. Id. But a plaintiff cannot recover monetary damages or obtain injunctive relief for alleged constitutional violations when the recovery would imply the invalidity of an underlying conviction unless he can “prove that the conviction . . . has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994); see Mobley v. Tompkins, 473 Fed.Appx. 337, 337 (4th Cir. 2012).

         A finding that officials deprived Goodwin of due process protections during a disciplinary proceeding “would necessarily imply the invalidity of the resulting disciplinary conviction and penalties.” Mukuria v. Mullins, No. 7:15-CV-451, 2015 WL 6958343, at *2 (W.D. Va. Nov. 10, 2015). Without any allegations about the status of any purported convictions or penalties, Goodwin's § 1983 due process claim is barred under Heck. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005); see, e.g., Bernard v. Branker, No. 5:10-CT-3164-D, 2011 WL 2748660, at *5 (E.D. N.C. July 14, 2011) (summarily dismissing § 1983 disciplinary conviction claim under § 1915A as Heck barred). As a result, Goodwin's due process claim should be dismissed without prejudice.

         Goodwin also alleges that a John Doe defendant violated his constitutional rights during the grievance process. Am. Compl. at 13, D.E. 13. But there is no constitutional right to a grievance process. Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994). Thus, Godwin's claim against the John Doe defendant about the grievance process, should be dismissed as frivolous.

         II. Conclusion

         As discussed above, Goodwin may proceed with his excessive force and sexual assault claims against Wilson, and his failure to protect claims against Tigert and Wheeler. The clerk of court shall proceed in accordance with standing order 14-SO-02 which governs service of process in state prisoner civil rights cases. If it becomes necessary, the court directs the United States Marshal Service to make service pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d). The clerk of court shall also proceed in accordance with standing order 17-SO-03 governing appointment of North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Inc. to assist in discovery.

         It is recommended that the district court dismiss Goodwin's due process and grievance related claims without prejudice. The deliberate indifference and ADA claims raised in the original complaint, but not in Goodwin's amended complaint, should also be dismissed without prejudice. Likewise, all ...


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