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Gholston v. Humphrey

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

September 2, 2014

DEANTE GHOLSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CARL HUMPHREY, Defendant.

ORDER AND RECOMMENDATION

STEPHEN HYLES, Magistrate Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (ECF No. 86.) Also pending are Plaintiff's motions for a temporary restraining order (TRO) (ECF No. 8) and appointment of counsel (ECF No. 155).[1] For the reasons explained below, it is recommended that Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted, and Plaintiff's motions for TRO and appointment of counsel be denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an inmate currently confined at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison (GD&CP) in Jackson, Georgia, filed the instant lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging constitutional civil rights violations against Warden Carl Humphrey.[2] (Compl. 1, ECF No. 1-1.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process in Plaintiff's placement in the Special Management Unit (SMU) of the prison, and his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in the conditions of his confinement at the SMU. ( Id. at 1-2.)

Plaintiff asserts the following as cruel and unusual conditions in the SMU: placement of inmates in a "strip cell" for "days at a time" ( Id. at 4); deprivation of food for a day ( Id. at 5); limitation of showers to three times per week ( Id. ); denial of physical exercise ( Id. at 4); poor lighting in cells at night ( Id. at 5); metal strips on cell doors to prevent communication between inmates ( Id. at 6); limited and "scrutinized" visitation ( Id. at 5); lack of educational programs ( Id. at 5, 7); handcuffing of inmates when transported ( Id. at 6); and use of handcuffs as "brass knuckles" against inmates ( Id. at 5). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant has violated his due process rights by classifying him in the SMU without proper notice and explanation of the reasons therefor. ( Id. at 6.)

Defendant Humphrey moves to dismiss the Complaint for a number of reasons. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 86.) As to the claim for violation of Plaintiff's due process rights, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Complaint does not state a claim in that it fails to show he has a liberty interest in not being held in the SMU. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 8-10, ECF No. 86-1.) As to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims, Defendant argues that Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust all but two of his claims prior to filing this suit, as required by the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). ( Id. at 3.) Finally, as to the remaining Eighth Amendment claims, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ( Id. at 16, 18.) The motion is now ripe for review, as are Plaintiff's motions for appointment of counsel and for a temporary restraining order.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss

A. Standard of Review

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all facts set forth in the plaintiff's complaint and limit its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits attached thereto. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007); Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009). "To survive a motion to dismiss, 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 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The complaint must include sufficient factual allegations "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. "[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]" Id. Although the complaint must contain factual allegations that "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the plaintiff's claims, id. at 556, "Rule 12(b)(6) does not permit dismissal of a well-pleaded complaint simply because it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable.'" Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

B. Eighth Amendment Conditions of Confinement Claims

1. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Defendant moves to dismiss much of Plaintiff's Complaint claiming that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this action. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 3.) Plaintiff's response to the motion to dismiss does not respond to this argument. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 131.) As explained below, the Court agrees that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to all of his Eighth Amendment claims except those for lack of educational programs and lack of exercise. Consequently, all other claims regarding the conditions of his confinement in the SMU should be dismissed.

Title 42, United States Code section 1997e(a) provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title... by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." "[W]hen a state provides a grievance procedure for its prisoners, as Georgia does here, an inmate alleging harm suffered from prison conditions must file a grievance and exhaust the remedies available under that procedure before pursuing a § 1983 lawsuit." Johnson v. Meadows, 418 F.3d 1152, 1156 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The argument that a plaintiff has failed to satisfy section 1997e(a) is properly raised in a motion to dismiss. Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1375 (11th Cir. 2008) ("[E]xhaustion should be decided on a ...


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