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Booker v. Ervin

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

July 12, 2017

JARVIS DEMON BOOKER, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER ERVIN; SGT. WILLIAMS; and SGT. BLAKELY, Defendants.

          ORDER and MAGISTRATE JUDGES'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, who is currently housed at Valdosta State Prison in Valdosta, Georgia, submitted a Complaint in the above-captioned action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contesting conditions of his confinement. (Doc. 1.) The Court has conducted the requisite frivolity review of this Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's allegations arguably state colorable claims for relief against Defendants. The court DIRECTS the United States Marshal to serve Defendants with a copy of Plaintiff's Complaint and this Order. However, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's monetary damages claims against Defendants in their official capacities.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff alleges that, on or about August 31, 2015, Defendant Ervin approached Plaintiff's cell where Plaintiff's arm was “resting” outside the tray box attached to the cell door. (Doc. 1, p. 5.) Plaintiff then contends he requested Defendant Ervin call medical for issues related to Plaintiff's asthma. (Id.) Defendant Ervin then grabbed Plaintiff's exposed arm and began “twisting and slamming [Plaintiff's] arm and shoulder into the tray box.” (Id. at pp. 5-6.) Plaintiff contends that his shirt was caught on the box, preventing him from retracting his arm. (Id. at p. 6.) While Plaintiff's arm was caught, Defendant Ervin repeatedly kicked the tray box door into Plaintiff's upper arm area. (Id.) Once Plaintiff was able to remove his arm, he “immediately noticed bruising and blood on [his] arm and hand.” (Id.) Plaintiff contends that he again requested medical attention, but Defendant Ervin refused. (Id.)

         Later that same day, Plaintiff contends he informed Defendant Williams of the incident with Defendant Ervin and requested medical attention. (Id. at pp. 7-8.) Defendant Williams refused and instead told Plaintiff that she would “look at the camera.” (Id. at p. 8.) The following day, Plaintiff claims he reported the incident to Defendant Blakely, to which Defendant Blakely responded, “I already know.” (Id.) Plaintiff again requested medical attention, but his request was denied. (Id. at p. 9.)

         A few days later, during a medical appointment for his asthma, Plaintiff showed his injuries to the doctor. (Id.) After examination, the doctor determined that a bone in Plaintiff's shoulder rotator cuff was chipped and required medication, surgery, and physical therapy. (Id. at pp. 9-10.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 F. App'x 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “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)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys.”) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Claims Against Defendants in Their Official Capacities

         Plaintiff cannot sustain a Section 1983 claim for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities. States are immune from private suits pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment and traditional principles of state sovereignty. Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 712- 13 (1999). Section 1983 does not abrogate the well-established immunities of a state from suit without its consent. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 67 (1989). Because a lawsuit against a state officer in his official capacity is “no different from a suit against the [s]tate itself, ” such a defendant is immune from suit under Section 1983. Id. at 71. Here, the State of Georgia would be the real party in interest in a suit against Defendants in their official capacities as employees of the Georgia Department of Corrections. Accordingly, the Eleventh Amendment immunizes these actors from suit in their official capacities. See Free v. Granger, 887 F.2d 1552, 1557 (11th Cir. 1989).

         Consequently, the Court should DISMISS Plaintiff's monetary claims against Defendants ...


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