United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
undersigned received a letter from pro se plaintiff
Rosevelt Bowens objecting to an entry on the
docket. Doc. 7. Because he seeks judicial relief,
the Court construes his letter as a Motion for
Reconsideration. The Court granted his motion to proceed
in forma pauperis (IFP) and ordered him to return
the required Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA")
forms, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). Doc. 3. He complied with
that directive, docs. 4 & 5, and accordingly the Clerk
"terminated" the deadline for returning the forms,
and made a docket entry recording that event. Bowens thinks
this terminated his lawsuit. It did not. Since Bowens'
action remains pending, and the deadline for his return of
the PLRA forms was properly cancelled, there is no action for
the Court to take. Bowens' Motion for Reconsideration,
therefore, is DENIED as moot.
Bowens has completed his IFP filings, docs. 4-5, the Court
now screens his complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
is a Liberty County Jail inmate. Doc 1 at 3; doc. 7 at 1, 3.
He brings this § 1983 action against the Jail, Liberty
County Sheriff Steve Sikes, and two jail administrators. Doc.
1 at 1, 4. Liberally construing his allegations, Bowens alleges
violations arising out of unsafe or unsanitary conditions,
problems with the jail's grievance procedure, excessive
noise, the condition of the food served at the jail, and lack
of access to legal materials. See Id. at 5, 7-13. He
seeks injunctive relief and compensation for his "pain
and suffering." Id. at 6.
Prison Litigation Reform Act requires federal courts to
screen all civil cases in which a prisoner seeks redress from
a government entity or official. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. The Court must screen out any claims that: (1)
are frivolous; (2) are malicious; (3) fail to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted; or (4) seek monetary relief
from a defendant immune from such relief. Id.
Similarly, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1) allows the Court to
dismiss any prisoner suit brought "with respect to
prison conditions, " for the reasons stated in §
1915A. The Court thus examines Bowens' Complaint to
determine whether he has stated any claim for relief under 42
U.S.C. § 1983.
Claims against Sheriff Sikes
Complaint does not include any specific allegations
concerning Sheriff Sikes, only the general conditions of
Bowens' confinement. See doc. 1. Claims under
§ 1983, however, cannot be based on theories of
vicarious liability or respondeat superior. Polk Cnty. v.
Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981). A § 1983
plaintiff must demonstrate that an individual defendant
participated in the alleged constitutional violation or show
a causal connection between the official's acts or
omissions and the constitutional violation. Brown v.
Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 671 (11th Cir. 1990). In the
absence of any allegations against Sheriff Sikes,
Bowens' claims against him should be DISMISSED.
Claims against Liberty County Jail
County Jail is not an entity subject to suit under §
1983. See Lovelace v. DeKalb Cent Prob., 144
F.App'x 793, 795 (11th Cir. 2005) (county police
department not a legal entity subject to suit); Dean v.
Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992) (sheriff
and police departments not usually considered legal entities
subject to suit); Bembry v. St. Lawrence, 2007 WL
4256984 at * 2 (S.D. Ga. Nov. 30, 2007) ("Chatham County
Jail  is not an entity subject to suit under §
1983"). Bowens' claims against Liberty County Jail,
therefore, should be DISMISSED.
Official Capacity Claims
remaining claims, now against only defendants Hein and Boyd,
do not state clearly whether those defendants are sued in
their official or individual capacities. See doc. 1
at 5, 7-11. To the extent that Bowens intends to sue the
remaining defendants in their official capacities, he cannot
recover money damages. "A state is immune from a suit
for damages in federal court by one of its own citizens,
Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 14-17 . . . (1890),
and this sovereign immunity extends to an official when he
acts as an 'arm of the State, ' Manders v.
Lee, 338 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2003) (en banc) . .
. ." Lake v. Skelton, 840 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th
Cir. 2016). Under Georgia law, county sheriffs and their
deputies are often acting as "arms of the State"
when managing county jails. See Manders, 338 F.3d at
1328 (sheriff acts an as arm of the State when establishing
and implementing use-of-force policy at county jail);
Lake, 840 F.3d at 1344 (finding deputy sheriff
acting as an arm of the State when making determinations
about meals provided to inmates at a county jail). Since
Bowens challenges actions taken in furtherance of state
functions, see supra n. 3, to the extent that he
intended to sue defendants in their official capacities, his
request that the Court "make [defendants] pay me
Ten-thousand dollars for my pain and suffering, " doc. 1
at 6, should be DISMISSED.
reasons explained in detail below, Bowens fails to state any
claim upon which relief might be granted. Accordingly, his
claim for compensatory damages for his "pain and
suffering" fails, even if he intended to sue defendants
of Bowens' remaining conditions-of-confinement claims on
exhaustion grounds is not proper at this stage, even though
it appears that he has not exhausted available administrative
remedies. Exhaustion of administrative remedies is a
pre-condition to suit under § 1983. Ross v.
Blake, U.S., 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856-7 (2016) ("the
PLRA's text suggests no limits on an inmate's
obligation to exhaust" administrative remedies, thus
"a court may not excuse a failure to exhaust").
Generally, failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, but
"[a] complaint may be dismissed for failure to exhaust
if the lack of exhaustion appears on [its] face."
Dollar v. Coweta Cnty. Sheriff Office, 446
F.App'x 248, 251-2 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Bingham
v. Thomas,654 F.3d 1171, 1175 (11th Cir. 2011)). The
exhaustion requirement, however, is limited to
"available" remedies. Ross, 136 S.Ct. at
1858 ("An inmate . . . must exhaust available remedies,
but need not exhaust unavailable ones."). So even where
a Complaint facially shows that administrative remedies were
not exhausted, dismissal is improper if it also alleges that
further remedies were unavailable. See Dollar, 446
F.App'x at 252 (reversing § 1915A dismissal for
failure to exhaust, ...