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Savoy v. Leblanc

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 16, 2019




         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have fourteen (14) days after being served with the attached Report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions, and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge which have been accepted by the District Court.



         The pro se plaintiff, an inmate confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (“LSP”), Angola, Louisiana, filed this proceeding pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against numerous defendants, complaining that his constitutional rights were violated during treatment provided when the plaintiff choked on food. He prays for monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A, this Court is authorized to dismiss an action or claim brought by a prisoner who is proceeding in forma pauperis or is asserting a claim against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity if satisfied that the action or claim is frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. An action or claim is properly dismissed as frivolous if the claim lacks an arguable basis either in fact or in law. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992), citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hicks v. Garner, 69 F.3d 22, 24-25 (5th Cir. 1995).

         A claim is factually frivolous if the alleged facts are “clearly baseless, a category encompassing allegations that are ‘fanciful,' ‘fantastic,' and ‘delusional.'” Id. at 32-33. A claim has no arguable basis in law if it is based upon an indisputably meritless legal theory, “such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.” Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir. 1998). The law accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim which is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the factual allegations. Denton v. Hernandez, supra, 504 U.S. at 32.

         Pleaded facts which are merely improbable or strange, however, are not frivolous for purposes of § 1915. Id. at 33; Ancar v. Sara Plasma, Inc., 964 F.2d 465, 468 (5th Cir. 1992). A § 1915 dismissal may be made any time, before or after service or process and before or after an answer is filed, if the court determines that the action “is frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1999 (5th Cir. 1986).

         The plaintiff alleges the following in his Complaint: On November 5, 2017, the plaintiff was eating in his cell when he began to choke and subsequently passed out. Treatment provided at LSP resulted in damage to the plaintiff's vocal chords and thyroid. The petitioner filed several grievances regarding the care provided which were rejected. One grievance was finally accepted and was denied at the First and Second Steps.

         The plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim cognizable in this Court. First, § 1983 does not provide a federal forum for a litigant who seeks monetary damages against either a state or its officials acting in their official capacities, specifically because these officials are not seen to be “persons” within the meaning of § 1983. Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). In addition, in Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991), the United States Supreme Court addressed the distinction between official capacity and individual capacity lawsuits and made clear that a suit against a state official in an official capacity for monetary damages is treated as a suit against the state and is therefore barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at 25. Accordingly, the plaintiff's § 1983 claims asserted against the defendants in their official capacities for monetary damages are subject to dismissal. In contrast, the plaintiff's claim for monetary damages and declaratory and injunctive relief asserted against the defendants in their individual capacities remain viable because such claims are not treated as a suit against the state. Of course, the plaintiff must prove a deprivation of a constitutional right to obtain any relief.

         Turning to the plaintiff's claims regarding a violation of his due process rights in connection with his administrative proceedings, an inmate does not have a constitutional right to have his prison disciplinary or administrative proceedings properly investigated, handled, or favorably resolved. Mahogany v. Miller, 252 Fed.Appx. 593, 595 (5th Cir. 2007), and there is no procedural due process right inherent in such a claim. As stated by the United States Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit in Geiger v. Jowers, 404 F.3d 371 (5th Cir. 2005) (in the context of the handling of an administrative grievance):

Insofar as [the plaintiff] seeks relief regarding an alleged violation of his due process rights resulting from the prison grievance procedures, the district court did not err in dismissing his claim as frivolous…[The plaintiff] does not have a federally protected liberty interest in having these grievances resolved to his satisfaction. As he relies on legally nonexistent interest, any alleged due process violation arising from the alleged failure to investigate his grievances is indisputably meritless. Id. at 373-74.

         Further, the failure of prison officials to follow prison rules or regulations does not amount to a violation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights. Jackson v. Cain, 864 F.3d 1235, 1252 (5th Cir. 1989). Nor does this Court sit as some form of an appellate court to review errors made by state tribunals that do not affect an inmate's constitutional rights. See, e.g., Coleman v. Director, TDCJ-CID, 2009 WL 56947, *2 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 7, 2009) (noting, in the context of an inmate's habeas corpus proceeding arising out of a prison ...

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