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Henderson v. Leverett

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

January 8, 2018




         Plaintiff, currently detained at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center (“the Jail”) in Augusta, Georgia, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this case filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiff's complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 F. App'x 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names the following as Defendants: (1) Robert Leverett, a Major at the Jail; (2) FNU Griffen, a Lieutenant at the Jail; (3) FNU Mitchell, a Sergeant at the Jail; (4) FNU Ruffin, an Officer at the Jail; and (5) FNU Poston, an Officer at the Jail. (See doc. no. 1, pp. 1-4.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         Plaintiff alleges the events giving rise to his complaint occurred in the Jail on August 28, 2017, though Plaintiff does not disclose whether he was detained pre- or post-conviction at that time. (Id. at 4-5.) At approximately 9:00 p.m. on August 28th, inmates on the second floor above Plaintiff began to flood their cells, and the water eventually flooded Plaintiff's cell as well. (Id. at 5.) Defendant Griffen came through a corridor next to Plaintiff's cell, yelling he was about to make an example of Plaintiff. (Id. at 5.) Defendant Griffen then entered Plaintiff's cell, put him in a choke hold, and Defendants Ruffin, Poston, and Mitchell started punching Plaintiff in the face, chest, and stomach. (Id.) Once the beating concluded, Defendants left Plaintiff handcuffed and shackled in his cell.[1]

         Plaintiff filed a grievance against the officers for coming into his cell on August 28th, but it was denied. (Id. at 6.) He then wrote a grievance appeal to Defendant Leverett about the choke hold and punching, but the appeal was not addressed because Plaintiff “was still alive and breathing.” (Id. at 7.)

         Plaintiff seeks a declaration his rights were violated, as well as an order from the Court directing Defendants to leave him alone. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff also seeks compensatory and punitive damages against all five Defendants. (Id.)


         A. Legal Standard for Screening

         The complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc., 366 F. App'x 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint is insufficient if it “offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '” or if it “tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). In short, the complaint must provide a “‘plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Finally, the Court affords a liberal construction to a pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the Court has a duty to re-write the complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).

         B. Plaintiff Fails to State a Valid Claim against Defendant Leverett.

         Defendant Leverett cannot be held liable for the acts of Defendants Griffen, Mitchell, Ruffin, and Poston merely in light of his supervisory position as a Major at the Jail. “Supervisory officials are not liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates on the basis of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.” Hartley v. Parnell, 193 F.3d 1263, 1269 (11th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Rosa v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 522 F. App'x 710, 714 (11th Cir. 2013). Likewise, supervisors and employers cannot be sued under § 1983 simply on a theory of respondeat superior. See Kruger v. Jenne, 164 F.Supp.2d 1330, 1333-34 (S.D. Fla. 2000) (citing Po ...

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