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Scott v. Findlay

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

November 5, 2019

JOHN BROWN FINDLAY, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated this action by filing a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF Doc. 1) and motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF Doc. 2). The Court finds that Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis should be granted under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. However, for the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that Plaintiff's case be dismissed for failure to state a claim for relief.[1] The named Defendants are not state actors and, therefore, relief cannot be sought against them under § 1983.

         I. The Complaint

         Plaintiff's complaint names two (2) Defendants: Chaplain John Brown Findlay and the Waterfront Rescue Mission (“Waterfront”).[2] ECF Doc. 1 at 3-4. The crux of Plaintiff's complaint is that he was issued a trespass warning by Defendant Findlay and told not to return to Waterfront, the shelter at which he had been staying. Id. at 7. As relief, he seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. Id. at 9. The complaint sets forth the following factual allegations, the truth of which are accepted for purposes of this order and report and recommendation.

         On October 4, 2019, a program worker at Waterfront told Plaintiff “we are not allowed to have plastic, see throw [sic] bags in the morring [sic] times. Nor are we allowed to bring in a cup.” Id. at 5. After speaking with another employee, the program worker “ran to tell [Defendant Findlay].” Plaintiff and the other employee “explained what was going on.” Id. at 6. After everything was cleared up, the program worker “staired [sic] at [Plaintiff] walk” and “steal [sic] wanted to talk.” Id. Plaintiff said, “I do not care if you want to fight. Just stop talking to me.” Id.

         At that point, Defendant Findlay “ran out his office [and] said ‘that is it. You're out of here.'” Id. Plaintiff asked Defendant Findlay what he did wrong, and Defendant Findlay said, “You threatened him.” Id. Plaintiff responded, “No I did not” and repeated what he had said to the program worker. Id. Defendant Findlay said, “I don't care, get out.” Id. Plaintiff asked if he could come back that night, and Defendant Findlay said, “Yes if you learn how to act.” Id. As he was walking out the door, Plaintiff said, “[T]his is bull shit” and Defendant Findlay said, “[T]hat [sic] it don't come back tonight.” Id. Plaintiff asked Defendant Findlay why he could not come back that night, and Defendant Findlay said, “[B]ecause your [sic] cursing.” Id. at 7.

         Defendant then left the Waterfront property and called the police to file a complaint. Id. The officer that arrived, “Mrs or Mr. P Kamali[, ]” refused to let Plaintiff file a complaint. Id. Instead, “[h]e responded without any body camera, lack of security” and went to speak to Defendant Findlay. Id. The officer asked Defendant Findlay if he wanted to issue Plaintiff a trespass warning, and Defendant Findlay said “yes” and did so. Id.

         As a result of his trespass warning, Plaintiff alleges he is now being deprived a myriad of benefits Waterfront offers, including but not limited to, “soap, toothpaste, blank [sic], sheets, towel, wash rag, clean [and] safe place to sleep, air condition [sic], clean air, mailing address, 3 meal a day, place to wash [his] body, hot showers, safe place to store [his] belongings, towlet [sic] [and] sink wash my hands [and] brush my teeth… computer usage, phone… [and] assistance to other problem that [he] may… have[, ]” such as medical care and spiritual assistance. Id. at 7-8.

         Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. at 9. As relief, Defendant seeks, among other things, at least $2, 200, 000 in damages, permission to return to Waterfront, and Defendant Findlay's termination of employment. Id.

         II. Legal Standard

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must dismiss his complaint if it determines it is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se allegations in a liberal fashion. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Dismissals for failure to state a claim are governed by the same standard as Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1485 (11th Cir. 1997).

         To survive dismissal, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its fact.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To state a plausible claim for relief, plaintiffs must go beyond merely pleading the sheer possibility of unlawful activity by a defendant; plaintiffs must offer factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id.

         III. Discussion

         A claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires Plaintiff to show, inter alia, that the alleged misconduct was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled on other grounds; Daniel v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Griffin v. City of Opa-Locka, 261 F.3d 1295, 1303 (11th Cir. 2001). Private parties may be considered state actors acting under color of state law only if one of the following three tests is met: “(1) the State has coerced or at least significantly encouraged the action alleged to violate the Constitution (‘State compulsion test'); (2) the private parties performed a public function that was traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the State (‘public function test); or (3) the State had so far insinuated itself into a position of interdependence with the [private ...

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