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Dozier v. Corrections Corporation of America

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 3, 2014

Cornelius Dozier, IV, Plaintiff,
v.
Corrections Corporation of America, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On October 21, 2013, Plaintiff Cornelius Dozier, IV, who is confined in the Florence Correctional Center (the "FCC"), a Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA") facility in Florence, Arizona, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. On November 4, 2013, the Court denied the Application to Proceed because it was incomplete and gave Plaintiff 30 days to either pay the filing and administrative fees or file a complete Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. On December 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complete Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and an Amended Complaint. Thereafter, on December 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint. Because Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint prior to screening, the Court treated it as the operative Complaint and treated the original Complaint (Doc. 1) and the Amended Complaint (Doc. 8) as nonexistent.

In a January 8, 2014 Order, the Court dismissed the Second Amended Complaint because Plaintiff had failed to state a claim. The Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file a third amended complaint that cured the deficiencies identified in the Order.

On January 27, 2014, Plaintiff filed his Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 14). On February 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Request for an Order authorizing service by the United States Marshal in this case (Doc. 15). The Court will dismiss the Third Amended Complaint with leave to amend and deny the Request for an Order.

I. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citation omitted).

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (citation omitted). A claim is plausible "when 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). "Determining 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." Id. at 679 (citation omitted). Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)). If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Here, Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in his Third Amended Complaint, but it appears that the Third Amended Complaint could be cured by allegations of other facts. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint will be dismissed without prejudice and Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to amend.

II. Third Amended Complaint

In his Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges three counts against Defendants Corrections Corporation of America and Joseph Roemmich, lead investigator at the Florence Correctional Center. In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. In Count Two, Plaintiff alleges that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated. In Count Three, Plaintiff alleges that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated.

Plaintiff's claims in Counts One through Three are all based on the following facts, as alleged by Plaintiff. On June 12, 2013, Plaintiff sent two letters to his parents, who live in North Carolina. In August, his parents told him that both letters had been opened. At the end of August, Plaintiff sent in a Prisoner Information Request inquiring as to whether he had been flagged as a security threat. On September 4, 2013, Defendant Roemmich responded that "outgoing mail, like incoming mail, is subject to review." On September 4, 2013, Plaintiff resubmitted the Prisoner Information Request because he found the response to be unsatisfactory.

On September 6, 2013, Plaintiff sent a letter to David Michael Cantor, a defense attorney. That letter was returned to Plaintiff with a sticky note from Defendant Roemmich informing Plaintiff that Mr. Cantor had moved offices and informing Plaintiff of the address to Mr. Cantor's new office. On September 8, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an informal resolution stating that someone was tampering with his outgoing mail. On September 12, 2013, Plaintiff mailed a letter marked as legal mail to Mr. Cantor's new address. The September 12, 2013 letter was opened, photocopied, and sent to Tracy Vanbuskirk, the prosecutor in Plaintiff's criminal case.

"Corrections Corporation of America's failure to properly train its staff in the proper procedure for handling legal content resulted in the damages inflicted from the invasion of ...


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