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Nutt v. Hall

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

March 19, 2018

WILLIAM NUTT, Plaintiff,
HILTON HALL; MR. TOOLE; and JANE DOES 1-5, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, currently housed at Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, Georgia, submitted a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's case for failure to state a claim, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and to CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.


         On February 16, 2017, a Coffee Correctional Facility tactical squad conducted a shakedown of Plaintiff's dorm. (Doc. 1, p. 5.) This tactical squad comprised of several officers and Defendants Jane Does 1-5. During the shakedown, a strip search was conducted, and Plaintiff was required to strip in front of Defendant Does 1-5. One Defendant Doe filmed Plaintiff “lifting and exposing [his] testicles and penis as well as . . . his anus” to the officers and female Defendant Does. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages for this alleged violation of his constitutional rights. (Id. at p. 7.)


         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. 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, 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, 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).

         The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when reviewing a complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. 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 . . . .”) (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.”).


         I. Eighth Amendment Claim

         A prison official's sexual assault of a prisoner may violate the Eighth Amendment because sexual assault has “no legitimate penological purpose and is simply not part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.” See Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1111 (11th Cir. 2006). Under Eleventh Circuit law, “severe or repetitive sexual abuse of a prisoner by a prison official can violate the Eighth Amendment.” Boxer X, 437 F.3d at 1111. However, “[t]o prove an Eighth Amendment violation based on sexual abuse, a prisoner must show that he suffered an injury that was objectively and sufficiently serious and that the prison official had a subjectively culpable state of mind.” Id.

         In Boxer X, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals “concluded that a female prison guard's solicitation of a male prisoner's manual masturbation, even under the threat of reprisal, does not present more than de minimis injury and affirmed the dismissal of the Eighth Amendment claim.” Id. (internal citation and punctuation omitted). The Eleventh Circuit explained that the plaintiff failed “to satisfy the objective component of the applicable standard in that he has not alleged any injury, let alone an injury of sufficient gravity to establish an Eighth Amendment violation.” Id.; see Allen v. McDonough, No. 4:07-CV-469-RH-GRJ, 2011 WL 4102525, at *5 (N.D. Fla. Aug.17, 2011) (collecting cases in support of the proposition that “one incident of non-violent harassment alone [is] not sufficient to meet the cruel and unusual punishment standard”), adopted by 2011 WL 4103081 (N.D. Fla. Sept. 14, 2011).

         Consequently, Defendant Doe's filming of Plaintiff during the strip search is insufficient to give rise to an Eighth Amendment violation. This holds true even if Plaintiff was required to lift and expose his genitals to other female Defendant Does present during the search. Plaintiff fails to show an injury sufficiently serious to trigger an Eighth Amendment violation. See Moton v. Walker, 545 F. App'x 856, 860 (11th Cir. 2013) (affirming the grant of summary judgment in favor of a prison guard who conducted a visual ...

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