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Rowland v. Jesup

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

July 1, 2014

STEVE JESUP, Sheriff; J. R. O'ROURKE, Sgt.; and Officer HOWARD, Defendants.


JAMES E. GRAHAM, District Judge.

Plaintiff, who is currently housed at Johnson State Prison in Wrightsville, Georgia, filed a cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting certain conditions of his confinement while he was housed in the McIntosh County Jail in Darien, Georgia. A detainee proceeding in a civil action against officers or employees of government entities must comply with the mandates of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 & 1915A. in determining compliance, the court shall be guided by the longstanding principle that pro se pleadings are entitled to liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Walker v. Duaaer , 860 F.2d 1010, 1011 (11th Cir. 1988).

28 U.S.C. § 1915A requires a district court to screen the complaint for cognizable claims before or as soon as possible after docketing. The court must dismiss the complaint or any portion of the complaint that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 191 5A(b)(1) and (2).

In Mitchell v. Farcass , 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997), the Eleventh Circuit interpreted the language contained in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), which is nearly identical to that contained in the screening provisions at § 191 5A(b). As the language of § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) closely tracks the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court held that the same standards for determining whether to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) should be applied to prisoner complaints filed pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Mitchell , 112 F.3d at 1490. While the court in Mitchell interpreted § 1915(e), its interpretation guides this court in applying the identical language of § 1915A.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant O'Rourke placed him in a restraint chair in full restraints. Plaintiff asserts that when he called Defendant O'Rourke a name, Defendant O'Rourke tasered him, and the taser prongs struck Plaintiff in the stomach and left him unconscious. Plaintiff contends that Officer Howard was present during this incident and asked Plaintiff after he regained consciousness if he was okay. Plaintiff alleges that he told Officer Howard that he needed medical attention, but Officer Howard left Plaintiff in the restraint chair. Plaintiff also names Sheriff Jesup as a Defendant.

A plaintiff must set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief." FED. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). In order to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must satisfy two elements. First, a plaintiff must allege that an act or omission deprived him "of some right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Hale v. Tallapoosa Cnty. , 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th Cir. 1995). Second, a plaintiff must allege that the act or omission was committed by "a person acting under color of state law." Id . Plaintiff makes no factual allegations against Sheriff Jesup, and his claims against Sheriff Jesup should be dismissed.

It appears that Plaintiff wishes to hold Sheriff Jesup liable based on his supervisory position. In section 1983 actions, liability must be based on something more than a theory of respondeat superior. Bryant v. Jones , 575 F.3d 1281, 1299 (11th Cir. 2009); Braddy v. Fla. Dep't of Labor & Employment Sec. , 133 F.3d 797, 801 (11th Cir. 1998). A supervisor may be liable only through personal participation in the alleged constitutional violation or when there is a causal connection between the supervisor's conduct and the alleged violations. Id. at 802. "To state a claim against a supervisory defendant, the plaintiff must allege (1) the supervisor's personal involvement in the violation of his constitutional rights, (2) the existence of a custom or policy that resulted in deliberate indifference to the plaintiffs constitutional rights, (3) facts supporting an inference that the supervisor directed the unlawful action or knowingly failed to prevent it, or (4) a history of widespread abuse that put the supervisor on notice of an alleged deprivation that he then failed to correct." Barr v. Gee , 437 F.App'x 865, 875 (11th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff has failed to make this basic showing, and his claims against Defendant Jesup should be dismissed for this reason, as well.

However, it is a well-settled principle that "the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.. constitutes cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Whitley v. Albers , 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986) (quoting Ingraham v. Wright , 430 U.S. 651, 670 (1977) (internal quotes omitted)).[1] It is not necessary that a correctional officer actually participate in the use of excessive force in order to be held liable under section 1983. Rather, "an officer who is present at the scene and who fails to take reasonable steps to protect [a] victim of" the "use of excessive force can be held liable for his nonfeasance." See Skrtich v. Thornton , 280 F.3d 1295, 1301 (11th Cir. 2002) (citing Fundiller v. City of Cooper , 777 F.2d 1436, 1442 (11th Cir. 1985)).

Further, the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment imposes a constitutional duty upon prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of prison inmates. This duty to safeguard also embodies the principle expressed by the Court in Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976), forbidding prison officials from demonstrating deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of inmates. Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994).

These allegations, when read in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff, arguably state colorable claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A against Defendant O'Rourke for an alleged excessive use of force. These allegations also state a colorable claim for relief against Officer Howard for his alleged nonfeasance and failure to obtain medical attention for Plaintiff. The Clerk of Court is directed to add "Officer Howard" as a named Defendant upon the docket of this case.

A copy of Plaintiff's Complaint and a copy of this Order shall be served upon Defendants O'Rourke and Howard by the United States Marshal without prepayment of cost. If either Defendant elects to file a Waiver of Reply, then he must file either a dispositive motion or an answer to the complaint within thirty (30) days of the filing of said Waiver of Reply.


Since the Plaintiff is authorized to proceed in forma pauperis, service must be effected by the United States Marshal. FED. R. Civ. P. 4(c)(3). In most cases, the marshal will first mail a copy of the complaint to Defendants by first-class mail and request that the Defendants waive formal service of summons. FED. R. Civ. P. 4(d); Local Rule 4.7. Individual and corporate defendants have a duty to avoid unnecessary costs of serving the summons, and any such defendant who fails to comply with the request for waiver must bear the costs of personal service unless good cause can be shown for the failure to return the waiver. FED. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(2). Generally, a defendant who timely returns the waiver is not required to answer the complaint until sixty (60) days after the date that the marshal sent the request for waiver. FED. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(3).

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants are hereby granted leave of court to take the deposition of the Plaintiff upon oral examination. FED. R. Civ. P. 30(a). Defendants shall ensure that the Plaintiff's deposition and any other depositions in the case are taken ...

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