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Lodge v. Leblanc

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 24, 2019

LEROY ANTOINE LODGE
v.
JAMES M. LEBLANC, SECRETARY DOC, ET AL.

         SECTION “E” (4)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN WELLS ROBY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct a hearing, including an evidentiary hearing, if necessary, and to submit proposed findings and recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), § 1915, and § 1915A, and as applicable, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1) and (2). On March 18, 2019, the Court conducted a hearing pursuant to Spears v. McCotter, [1] and its progeny, with the plaintiff participating by telephone.[2] Upon review of the record, the Court has determined that this motion can be disposed of without an evidentiary hearing.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. The Complaint

         The plaintiff, Leroy Antoine Lodge (“Lodge”), is an inmate housed in the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana.[3] Lodge filed this pro se and in forma pauperis complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Louisiana Department of Corrections (“DOC”) Secretary James M. LeBlanc, Chief Orbon Tinson, Sr. of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office, Director Byron Williams, Jr., of the Plaquemines Parish Detention Center (“PPDC”) Reentry Program, and Assistant Director Keenum Dufauchard. Lodge alleged in the complaint that he was denied adequate access to a law library and access to the courts while housed in the Plaquemines Parish Detention Center awaiting placement in the Reentry Program at that facility. Lodge sought compensatory damages and unspecified injunctive and declaratory relief.

         B. Spears Hearing Testimony

         Lodge testified that he was convicted in Orleans Parish for his failure to register as a sex offender and on July 14, 2017, was sentenced to two years in prison in DOC custody. On November 20, 2017, after a brief stay in the River Correctional Center in Ferriday, Louisiana, he was transferred to PPDC. On January 8, 2018, he was presented with paperwork to sign for his enrollment in a reentry program, which he learned was the reason for his transfer to PPDC. The program would allow him to earn extra credits towards his early release.

         Lodge further testified that he signed the documents with the words “under duress” next to his signature, because he did not understand why he had to sign forms requesting a social security card and driver's license or identification card when he already had both. He claims that he was told by Dufauchard that he could not sign the forms that way. He stated that Dufauchard told him he either had to sign the application forms without that phrase or sign the form stating that he did not want to participate in the program. Lodge stated that he wanted to participate but refused to sign the forms without “under duress” without a full explanation from the prison officials. He believes this was the reason he was rejected from the program although he claims he was not told the reason. He eventually was transferred back into a DOC facility.

         Lodge asserted that he was denied due process because he was rejected from the program and when his related grievance complaints were not addressed by the PPDC officials. He further stated that he sued Secretary LeBlanc because he is in charge of the DOC's statewide reentry program process.

         Lodge named Tinson as a defendant because he was the chief and could have made Williams and Dufauchard accept him into the program. Lodge claims that about one week before he was rejected from the program, he spoke with Tinson and was assured that he would have a chance to be in the program. Lodge claims that after he was rejected, Tinson did nothing to help him even though he had control over Williams and Dufauchard.

         Lodge also named Williams as the director over the reentry program although he did not indicate having had any interactions with Williams. Instead, his direct contact was with Dufauchard, the assistant director, who instructed him to either sign the document properly or he would not be allowed into the program.

         II. Standards for Frivolousness Review

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c), the Court is required to sua sponte dismiss cases filed by prisoners proceeding in forma pauperis upon a determination that they are frivolous. The Court has broad discretion in determining the frivolous nature of the complaint. See Cay v. Estelle, 789 F.2d 318, 325 (5th Cir. 1986), modified on other grounds, Booker v. Koonce, 2 F.3d 114 (5th Cir. 1993). However, the Court may not sua sponte dismiss an action merely because of questionable legal theories or unlikely factual allegations in the complaint.

         Under this statute, a claim is frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 213 (5th Cir. 1998). “A [claim] lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.” Harper v. Showers, 174 F.3d 716, 718 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 882, 889 (5th Cir. 1998)). It lacks an arguable factual basis only if the facts alleged are “clearly baseless, ” a category encompassing fanciful, fantastic, and delusional allegations. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992) (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28). Therefore, the Court must determine whether the plaintiff's claims are based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or clearly baseless factual allegations. Reeves v. Collins, 27 F.3d 174, 176 (5th Cir. 1994); Jackson v. Vannoy, 49 F.3d 175, 176-77 (5th Cir. 1995); Moore v. Mabus, 976 F.2d 268, 269 (5th Cir. 1992).

         III. ...


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