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Mays v. T.B. Smith

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

October 28, 2019

JOSEPH RANDOLPH MAYS, Plaintiff,
v.
T.B. SMITH, S. MA'AT, JAMIE HOSKINS, V. WILLIS, J. HALFAST, R. MARTIN, LT. CHRISTOPHER, LT. K. HENDRY, OFFICER V. WILKINS, OFFICER GLASS, OFFICER SLAYDON, OFFICER LASSITER, J. CARAWAY, IAN CONNORS, and JOHN/JANE DOES, Defendants.[1]

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). On February 27, 2019, the court conducted frivolity review of plaintiff's complaint, allowed the action to proceed as to certain claims, and directed plaintiff to file amended complaint particularizing his remaining claims. Plaintiff timely complied with the court's order. The matter now is before the court for frivolity review of plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915, and on plaintiff's motions for leave to file amended complaint, (DE 35), to seal medical records, (DE 36), and for order to provide information to effect proper service, (DE 42).

         COURT'S DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff's Motions

         The court begins with plaintiff's motion to seal medical records submitted as exhibits 26 and 35, (DE 35-4, 35-5), to plaintiff's proposed amended complaint. The court has reviewed the motion under the governing standard and finds the exhibits should be sealed. See Doe v. Pub. Citizen, 749 F.3d 246 (4th Cir. 2014). Accordingly, the court grants plaintiff's motion to seal.

         The court now turns to plaintiff's motion for leave to file amended complaint. The court's February 27, 2019, order directed plaintiff to file amended complaint particularizing his claims, and the instant motion seeks leave to file amended complaint in conformity with the court's order. Accordingly, the court grants plaintiff's motion for leave to file amended complaint.

         Plaintiff also moves for order directing the United States Attorney to provide this court with defendant Lassiter's last known address, in order to effectuate service of the summons and complaint. The United States, which has entered limited notice of appearance as an interested party, responded to plaintiff's motion. The United States represents that defendant Lassiter has authorized the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina to accept service of plaintiff's amended complaint on her behalf. (DE 43). Accordingly, the court denies as moot plaintiff's motion requesting address information for defendant Lassiter.

         B. Frivolity Review

         28 U.S.C. § 1915 provides that courts shall review complaints filed by prisoners seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss such complaints if they are “frivolous” or fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). A complaint may be found frivolous because of either legal or factual deficiencies. First, a complaint is frivolous where “it lacks an arguable basis . . . in law.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Legally frivolous claims are based on an “indisputably meritless legal theory” and include “claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.” Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327). Under this standard, complaints may be dismissed for failure to state a claim cognizable in law, although frivolity is a more lenient standard than that for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328. Second, a complaint may be frivolous where it “lacks an arguable basis . . . in fact.” Id. at 325. Section 1915 permits federal courts “to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992) (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327).

         To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the complaint must 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) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In evaluating whether a claim is stated, “[the] court accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, ” but does not consider “legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, . . . bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement[, ] . . . unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). In other words, the plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to articulate facts that, when accepted as true, plausibly demonstrate that plaintiff is entitled to relief. Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quotations omitted).

         Here, plaintiff's motion for leave to file amended complaint concedes that the counts two, five, and seven of his original complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim for the reasons stated in the court's February 27, 2019, order. (DE 35 at 1). Accordingly, the court dismisses such claims with prejudice.

         As to the remaining claims, the court previously concluded the majority of counts one, three, and six survive frivolity review. (DE 12 at 4-7, 8-9, 13-14). Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint, however, seeks leave to amend these counts to include additional claims against defendants.

         With respect to count one, plaintiff requests leave to amend to include the following allegation:

Defendants Smith, Glass, Slaydon, Christopher, Hendry, Leslie, Wilkins, Willis, Halfast, Martin, and Dickerson violated the plaintiff's First Amendment right to be free from retaliation by failing to immediately report the retaliation against and the wrongful detention of the plaintiff, by defendants Ma'at and Hoskins, in violation of ...

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