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Baldwin v. Landry

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

April 4, 2018

DARRELL BALDWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
RUSSELL LANDRY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION TO DISMISS CASE

          B. JANICE ELLINGTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This civil rights action was filed by Plaintiff Darrell Baldwin, a Texas state prisoner, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), any prisoner action brought under federal law must be dismissed if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c); 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. Plaintiff's action is subject to screening regardless whether he prepays the entire filing fee or proceeds as a pauper. Ruiz v. United States, 160 F.3d 273, 274 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam); Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, 580 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). Plaintiff's pro se complaint must be read indulgently, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and his allegations must be accepted as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible, Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992).

         Applying these standards, it is respectfully recommended that: (1) Plaintiff's due process claim for money damages against Defendants in their official capacities be dismissed with prejudice as barred by the Eleventh Amendment; (2) Plaintiff's due process claim against Defendants be dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim and/or as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)(1); and (3) the dismissal of this case count as a “strike” for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

         I. JURISDICTION.

         The Court has federal question jurisdiction over this civil rights action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         II. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS.

         Plaintiff is a prisoner in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Criminal Institutions Division (TDCJ-CID). Plaintiff's allegations in this case arise in connection with his current assignment to the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas.

         In this civil rights action, Plaintiff sues the following McConnell Unit officers: (1) Sergeant Russell Landry, Jr.; and (2) Major James Thompson, III. (D.E. 1 at p. 3). Plaintiff claims that Defendants caused the loss of certain personal property that belonged to Plaintiff. The undersigned construes Plaintiff's lawsuit as suing Defendants in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff seeks either return of his lost property or proper compensation as well as “$10, 000 for mental stress and strain.” (D.E. 1, pp. 4-5).

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts in his complaint. On September 15, 2017, Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation. While he was in segregation, other inmates were allowed to pack Plaintiff's personal property. According to Plaintiff, his radio, coax cable, and hot pot were either lost or stolen. An unidentified prison official knew that most of Plaintiff's belongings were missing when he brought Plaintiff's personal property to him. Plaintiff informed Major Thompson about what had occurred but was not compensated for his missing personal property.

         On September 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Step 1 grievance (Grievance No. 2016003757) in which he complained about the loss of his radio, coax cable, and hot pot. (D.E. 1-1, pp. 1-2). The reviewing officer rejected Plaintiff's Step 1 grievance, finding that the “[i]nvestigation [had] revealed no documentary evidence to substantiate that [Plaintiff was] in possession of the alleged missing property.” (D.E. 1-1, p. 2). Plaintiff's Step 2 grievance was denied based on the Step 1 response. (D.E. 1, pp. 3-4).

         On March 21, 2018, the undersigned directed Plaintiff to file a more definite statement and explain whether he has pursued any available post-deprivation remedies in state court. (D.E. 6). Plaintiff filed his More Definite Statement on April 2, 2018. (D.E. 9). Therein, he indicated that he had provided the state appellate court with notice to file a tort suit for loss of property. (D.E. 9, p. 1). Plaintiff attached his notice, which reflected that it was mailed to the “Court of Appeal [sic]” at 1135 N. Shoreline Boulevard, Corpus Christi, Texas 78401. (D.E. 9, p. 3).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD.

         “To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 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); see also Biliski v. Harborth, 55 F.3d 160, 162 (5th Cir. 1995). An action may be dismissed for failure to state a claim when the complaint does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “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. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the prisoner and the truth of all pleaded facts must be assumed. Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 740 (5th Cir. 2002).

         A claim is frivolous if it has no arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams,490 U.S. 319 (1989). A claim has no arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, ‚Äúsuch as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which ...


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