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Goss v. Morley

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

October 29, 2019

Darrell L. Goss, Plaintiff,
Shontate Morley, Doe 1 a.k.a. Ms. Chi, Doe 2, Doe 3, and Patty Britt-Pooser, Defendants.



         This is a civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff Darrell Goss is a state prisoner representing himself and proceeding in forma pauperis. Under Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review the amended complaint and to submit a recommendation to the United States District Judge. For the following reasons, the undersigned recommends the amended complaint be summarily dismissed, in part.


         Goss alleges that in May 2018, he entered into a common-law marriage with another state prisoner, Sasha Gaskins. (Dkt. No. 12 at 8.) According to Goss, the South Carolina Department of Corrections has a policy permitting inmates who are common-law married to communicate once they prove their relationship to the Department and get its permission to correspond. (Id.) However, Defendant Morley, a mailroom coordinator, has not allowed Goss and Gaskins to correspond because Gaskins is not on the list of relatives with whom Goss has been approved to communicate. (Id. 8-9.) Morley has not given Goss an opportunity to prove his relationship and has thus violated both Department policy and Plaintiff's First Amendment freedoms of speech, association, and religion. (Id. at 10.) Goss further alleges Morley has denied him the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees of due process and equal protection. (Id. at 10-11.)

         Goss makes similar claims against Defendants Doe 1 and Doe 2, classification officials for the Department. He alleges they have ignored and denied his requests to have Gaskins added to his list of people with whom he is permitted to communicate. (Dkt. No. 8 at 11-13.) In so doing, they violated not only Department policy but also the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id.)

         Next, Goss makes claims against Defendant Doe 3, a Department inmate grievance coordinator. He alleges he grieved the denials of his correspondence-related requests but Doe 3 “wrongfully rejected” his grievances. (Dkt. No. 8 at 13.) Goss asserts the denials violated Department policy as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at 13-15.)

         Finally, Goss sues Defendant Britt-Pooser, who works in the Department's “inmate clearing house.” (Dkt. No. 8 at 15.) Goss alleges he submitted a request to the Department's chief grievance officer asking to have the grievances Doe 3 denied “re-open[ed] and/or heard.” (Id.) Britt-Pooser, however, denied the request and prevented the officer from ever receiving it. (Id.) As with the other defendants, Goss alleges she violated Department policies and the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at 15-17.)


         Goss commenced this case in August 2019. (See generally Dkt. No. 1.) When he filed his complaint, he also applied to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkt. No. 2.) The undersigned granted his application and then conducted an initial review of the complaint. (Dkt. No. 7.) Upon review, the undersigned determined the complaint failed to state any claims for which the Court could grant relief. The undersigned therefore issued an order notifying Goss of her determination, explaining the defects, and providing him an opportunity to cure the defects by submitting an amended complaint. (Id.) Goss then timely submitted the amended complaint now under review. (Dkt. No. 12.)


         The granting of in forma pauperis status in a case triggers a district court's duty to “sift out claims that Congress found not to warrant extended judicial treatment.” Nagy v. FMC Butner, 376 F.3d 252, 256 (4th Cir. 2004). The Court must dismiss any cases that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Those same criteria are grounds for dismissing a case filed by a prisoner. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         As to failure to state a claim, a complaint filed in federal court “‘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 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court need not, however, accept as true a complaint's legal conclusions. Id. When “it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations, ” Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), the complaint fails to state a claim.

         Because Goss is pro se, the undersigned has screened the complaint liberally and considered whether it includes any potential grounds for relief. See, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). That does not mean, however, the Court can ignore a clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. Beaud ...

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