United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
WELLS ROBY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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,
its progeny, with the plaintiff participating by
telephone. Upon review of the record, the Court has
determined that this motion can be disposed of without an
Factual and Procedural Background
plaintiff, Leroy Antoine Lodge (“Lodge”), is an
inmate housed in the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield,
Louisiana. 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.
Spears Hearing Testimony
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Standards for Frivolousness Review
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.
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.