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Talley v. Dallas County Jail

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

March 9, 2018

CHELSEA LEE TALLEY (Former Dallas Cty. Jail Bookin No. 17008180), Plaintiff,
v.
DALLAS COUNTY JAIL, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, filed by Plaintiff Chelsea Lee Talley, then an inmate at the Dallas County jail, has been referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order of reference from Chief Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn. The undersigned enters these findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation that, for the reasons explained below, the Court should summarily dismiss this action with prejudice.

         Legal Standards and Analysis

         A district court is required to screen a civil action brought by a prisoner - whether he is incarcerated or instead detained prior to trial - seeking relief from a governmental entity or employee. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(a), (c). On initial screening, the Court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, that

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

Id. § 1915A(b). Analogously, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), also applicable here, a district court may summarily dismiss any complaint filed in forma pauperis - not limited to complaints filed by prisoners seeking relief from a governmental entity or employee - for the same reasons.

         An action is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); see also Brewster v. Dretke, 587 F.3d 764, 767 (5th Cir. 2009) (“A claim may be dismissed as frivolous if it does not have an arguable basis in fact or law.”). And a complaint is without an arguable basis in law if it is grounded upon an untenable, discredited, or indisputably meritless legal theory, including alleged violations of a legal interest that clearly does not exist. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 326-27; Berry v. Brady, 192 F.3d 504, 507 (5th Cir. 1999).

         Dismissal for failure to state a claim “turns on the sufficiency of the ‘factual allegations' in the complaint, ” Smith v. Bank of Am., N.A., 615 F. App'x 830, 833 (5th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (quoting Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 574 U.S., 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014) (per curiam); emphasis added by Smith), and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted, ” Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 346. Indeed, to survive dismissal under the framework of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), a plaintiff need only “plead facts sufficient to show” that the claims asserted have “substantive plausibility” by stating “simply, concisely, and directly events” that he contends entitle him to relief. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 347 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)-(3), (d)(1), (e)); see Harold H. Huggins Realty, Inc. v. FNC, Inc., 634 F.3d 787, 796 (5th Cir. 2011) (“A claim for relief is implausible on its face when ‘the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.'” (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679)). The rationale that factual plausibility (as opposed to legal labeling) controls the failure-to-state-a-claim analysis has even more force in this case, as the Court “must construe the pleadings of pro se litigants liberally.” Andrade v. Gonzales, 459 F.3d 538, 543 (5th Cir. 2006).

         While a district court generally affords a pro se complainant an opportunity to amend before dismissing for failure to state a claim, see Gregory v. McKennon, 430 F. App'x 306, 308 (5th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (citing Bazrowx v. Scott, 136 F.3d 1053, 1054 (5th Cir. 1998)), a court also may dismiss a prisoner's civil rights complaint as frivolous based on the complaint and exhibits alone, see Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1120 (5th Cir. 1986); see also Tinsley v. C.I.R., 958 F.Supp. 277, 279 (N.D. Tex. 1997) (“District courts are vested with especially broad discretion in making the determination of whether an IFP [in forma pauperis] proceeding is frivolous.” (quoting Green, 788 F.2d at 1119)).

         The sum of Talley's complaint is that her constitutional rights were violated while she was incarcerated because her grievances - numbering in excess of 25 - were either ignored or destroyed in what she believes was “a form of retaliation/discrimination.” Dkt. No. 3 at 3. She requests “punitive damages and reimbursement for pain and suffering” and that the officers allegedly involved be disciplined. Id.

         Taking first Talley's request for injunctive relief, her release from Dallas County custody, see Dkt. No. 9, moots that claim, “and the possibility of his [reincarceration] is too speculative to warrant relief, ” Coleman v. Lincoln Parish Det. Ctr., 858 F.3d 307, 309 (5th Cir. 2017) (per curiam) (citing, respectively, Cooper v. Sheriff, Lubbock Cty., 929 F.2d 1078, 1084 (5th Cir. 1991); Herman v. Holiday, 238 F.3d 660, 665 (5th Cir. 2001)); see also Wallace v. Texas Tech Univ., 80 F.3d 1042, 1047 n.3 (5th Cir. 1996) (“Jurisdiction over a plaintiff's claims for future relief is appropriate only if a reasonable likelihood exists that the plaintiff will again be subjected to the allegedly unconstitutional actions.”).

         As to damages for the alleged handling of her grievances while in custody, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that inmates do not have a constitutionally-protected interest in having grievances resolved to their satisfaction. See Geiger v. Jowers, 404 F.3d 371, 373-74 (5th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (“As he relies on a legally nonexistent interest, any alleged due process violation arising from the alleged failure to investigate his grievances is indisputably meritless.”); see also Mahogany v. Miller, 252 F. App'x 593, 595 (5th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (holding that the plaintiff had no actionable 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim based on prison officials' failure to process his grievances because he had no protected liberty interest in the processing of grievances); Lijadu v. I.N.S., Civ. A. No. 06-0518, 2007 WL 837285, at *3 (W.D. La. Feb. 21, 2007) (“[D]etainees do not have a constitutionally protected right to a grievance procedure - much less one that complies with their own personal preferences.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).

         A prison system is not required to establish grievance procedures, and the failure of a jail or prison to establish or adhere to a grievance procedure does not rise to the level of an actionable constitutional claim. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(b) (“The failure of a State to adopt or adhere to an administrative grievance procedure shall not constitute the basis for an action under section 1997a or 1997c of this title.”); see also Bradford v. Kuykendall, No. 6:04-cv-565, 2005 WL 1521016, at *5 (E.D. Tex. June 24, 2005) (citing Geiger, ...


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