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Jones v. Schwarz

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Panama City Division

April 9, 2018

KEVIN JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM J. SCHWARZ, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELIZABETH M. TIMOTHY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Kevin Jones (“Jones”), an inmate of the Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”), is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action. Presently before the court is Jones' Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11).

         The case was referred to the undersigned for the issuance of all preliminary orders and any recommendations to the district court regarding dispositive matters. See N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2(C); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), (C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). After careful consideration of all issues raised by Jones, it is the opinion of the undersigned that this action should be dismissed, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Jones names William J. Schwarz, a captain at Gulf Correctional Institution Annex, as the sole Defendant in this case (ECF No. 11 at 1-2). Jones alleges that a Page 2 of 9 major disturbance occurred at Gulf C.I. on September 9, 2016 (ECF No. 1 at 5-6; ECF No. 11 at 5-6).[1] Jones alleges Defendant Captain Schwarz issued a disciplinary report (“DR”) charging him with participating in the disturbance (id.). Jones alleges Captain Schwarz stated in the DR that he reviewed a videotape from a camera in Jones' dormitory, and Schwarz identified him as an inmate walking around the dormitory waving his hand in the air, yelling at staff, blocking the doorway to his cell, refusing all orders to return to his assigned bunk, and joining other inmates in the disturbance (id.). Jones alleges the notice of the charge was “insufficient” (id.). He alleges he attended a disciplinary hearing on the charge on September 22, 2016 (id.). Jones alleges the disciplinary team “failed to have compulsory process” for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and failed to review evidence that would acquit him of the charge, specifically, video footage from the camera in wing 2 of Q-dormitory, where Jones was housed at the time of the disturbance (id.). Jones alleges he was convicted of the disciplinary charge and sentenced to sixty (60) days in disciplinary confinement and forfeiture of thirty (30) days of gain time (id.). Jones alleges he appealed the disciplinary decision, but the warden's office denied the appeal (id.). Jones alleges he appealed the response to the FDOC's Central Office, and on December 15, 2016, the Central Office notified him that his appeal was “approved for further inquiry” (id.; see also ECF No. 11, Exhibit A). Jones alleges Captain Schwarz prepared the false DR to defame him and with “malicious intent to injure and cause harm” (id.). Jones additionally alleges he was “situated with other prisoners who received favorable treatment, ” and Schwarz “acted with the intent to discriminate” against him (ECF No. 11 at 6).

         Jones claims that Defendant Schwarz violated his equal protection rights, his due process rights, and his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments (ECF No. 11 at 7). As relief, Jones requests that the DR be removed from his inmate record (id.).

         II. DISCUSSION

         The court is statutorily required to review the Amended Complaint to determine whether this 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)(B). To survive dismissal at the screening phase, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A claim is plausible on its face where “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). Plausibility means “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. (quotation and citation omitted).

         The determination of whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted). The pleader is not entitled to relief “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. at 678 (quotation and citation omitted). And “bare assertions” that “amount to nothing more than a formulaic recitation of the elements” of a claim “are conclusory and not entitled to be assumed true.” Id. at 681 (quotation and citation omitted). Stated succinctly:

Pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. In civil rights cases, “[m]ore than mere conclusory notice pleading is required . . . . A complaint will be dismissed as insufficient where the allegations it contains are vague and conclusory.” Gonzalez v. Reno, 325 F.3d 1228, 1235 (11th Cir. 2003) (quotation marks and alteration omitted).

         A. Federal Claims

         Jones claims that Captain Schwarz's writing a false DR violated his due process and equal protection rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments (ECF No. 11 at 6, 7). Jones also claims that Schwarz's conduct constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment (id. at 6, 7).

         The court previously advised Jones that the Supreme Court has held that a prisoner in state custody may not use a § 1983 action to challenge “the fact or duration of his confinement.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973); see also Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 554, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974); Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994); Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646-48, 117 S.Ct. 1584, 137 L.Ed.2d 906 (1997) (prisoner's claim for injunctive relief and monetary damages for use of wrongful procedures in disciplinary proceedings, which resulted in sentence of placement in isolation for ten days, placement in segregation for twenty days, and deprivation of thirty ...


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