United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
HT Smith, a prisoner confined at the Baldwin State Prison in
Hardwick, Georgia, has filed a pro se civil action seeking
relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1). For the
following reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff's
Complaint must be DISMISSED without prejudice. Plaintiff will
be permitted to proceed in forma pauperis in this action for
purposes of dismissal only.
Standard of Review
accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), the district courts are obligated to
conduct a preliminary screening of every complaint filed by a
prisoner who seeks redress from a government entity,
official, or employee. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a). Screening is also required under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e) when the plaintiff is proceeding IFP. Both statutes
apply in this case, and the standard of review is the same.
When conducting preliminary screening, the Court must accept
all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Boxer X
v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006);
Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1159-60 (11th Cir.
2003). Pro se pleadings, like the one in this case,
are “held to a less stringent standard than pleadings
drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally
construed.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). Still, the Court must dismiss a prisoner complaint
if it “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).
is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in
law or in fact.” Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d
1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The Court may dismiss claims that are based on
“indisputably meritless legal” theories and
“claims whose factual contentions are clearly
baseless.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not
include “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)). The factual allegations in a complaint
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level” and cannot “merely create a
suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (first alteration in
original). In other words, the complaint must allege
enough facts “to raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence” supporting a claim.
Id. at 556. “Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that (1) an act or omission deprived him of a right,
privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a
statute of the United States; and (2) the act or omission was
committed by a person acting under color of state law.
Hale v. Tallapoosa Cnty., 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th
Cir. 1995). If a litigant cannot satisfy these requirements
or fails to provide factual allegations in support of his
claim or claims, the complaint is subject to dismissal.
See Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1282-84 (11th
Factual Allegations and Plaintiff's
claims arise from his confinement at the Baldwin State
Prison. Plaintiff alleges that on September 22nd, he informed
officers at the prison that his sister had passed away.
Compl. 5, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff states that he then told
Sergeant Ingram and Lieutenant Preseol-neither of whom are
named as Defendants in this case-that he was going to kill
himself. Id. Ingram and Preseol took no action, but
instead “laughed in [Plaintiff's] face” and
locked his tray flap. Id. Plaintiff states that he
filed a grievance and an appeal regarding this issue, but was
“wrote . . . up” and “put in the
hold” by unnamed parties as a result. Id. at
4. Plaintiff filed this Complaint on September 25, 2017.
Id. at 6.
U.S.C. § 1997e(a) provides, “No action shall be
brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983
of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner
confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility
until such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted.” This provision generally requires that a
prisoner file an administrative grievance and then appeal any
denial of relief through all levels of review that comprise
the grievance process before filing suit in federal court.
Brown v. Sikes, 212 F.3d 1205, 1207 (11th Cir.
2000); see also Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93
(2006). The exhaustion of available administrative remedies
is a mandatory requirement and cannot be waived even when the
grievance process is futile or inadequate. See Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002); Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007); Alexander v.
Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1325-26 (11th Cir. 1998). Although
failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, dismissal of a
complaint is warranted under the screening process set out in
28 U.S.C. § 1915A when it appears clear “on the
face of the complaint” that the plaintiff failed to
exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to filing
suit in federal court and thereby cannot state a claim for
relief. See Bingham v. Thomas, 654 F.3d 1171, 1175
(11th Cir. 2011) (per curiam).
stated above, it is plain on the face of the Complaint that
Plaintiff filed the present action in federal court on the
third day after the incident giving rise to this lawsuit, and
he provides no factual detail regarding to whom he complained
and whether his grievance or appeal was granted or denied.
Thus, even if it is presumed that Plaintiff filed the
grievance on the same day of the incident, it is apparent
that Plaintiff failed to allow jail officials sufficient time
and opportunity to both respond to his grievance and to
address his appeal prior to filing this lawsuit. See,
e.g., Anderson v. Donald, 261 F. App'x 254, 256
(11th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (Georgia inmate failed to
exhaust administrative remedies where he failed to appeal
grievable claims after presenting to the appropriate party);
see also Woodford, 548 U.S. at 95 (holding that
“[t]he benefits of exhaustion can be realized only if
the prison grievance system is given a fair opportunity to
consider the grievance”); Clark v. Owens,
Civil No. 5:15-CV-0202-MTT-MSH, 2015 WL 10044277, at *3 (M.D.
Ga. Dec. 23, 2015) (noting that Georgia Department of
Corrections Standard Operating Procedures requires prisoner
to file appeal of original grievance to Central Office where
commissioner has 100 days to deliver decision on appeal);
Brand v. Hamilton, No. 3:10cv377/LAC/MD, 2010 WL
4973358, at *3 (N.D. Fla. Oct. 27, 2010) (“Clearly, the
two days between the event complained of and the signing of
the complaint would not have been sufficient time to pursue
and exhaust administrative remedies available to [the
prisoner].”). Plaintiff has thus failed to state a
viable claim for relief. See Jones, 549 U.S. at 215.
the Court were to assume that Plaintiff had properly
exhausted his claims, however, Plaintiff's
sparsely-worded Complaint, as drafted, still fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff makes no
factual allegations in the body of his Complaint against
either of the named Defendants, Taylor or
Peterson. Plaintiff's claims could be dismissed
on this ground alone. Douglas v. Yates, 535 F.3d
1316, 1321-22 (11th Cir. 2008) (dismissal of defendants
appropriate where plaintiff failed to allege facts
associating defendants with a particular constitutional
violation). Even if the Court were to assume that Plaintiff
believes either named Defendant should be liable for the
conduct of Ingram or Preseol, Plaintiff has still failed to
state a claim. It is well-settled in the Eleventh Circuit
that supervisory officials are not liable under § 1983
for the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates on the
basis of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.
See, e.g., Cottone v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1360
(11th Cir. 2003). Rather, supervisors can only be held liable
under § 1983 if they personally participated in
allegedly unconstitutional conduct or if there is a causal
connection between their actions and the alleged
constitutional violation. See, e.g., Hendrix v.
Tucker, 535 F. App'x 803, 805 (11th Cir. 2013) (per
curiam). A causal connection can be established if
(1) a history of widespread abuse puts the responsible
supervisor on notice of the need to correct the alleged
deprivation and he fail[ed] to do so; (2) the
supervisor's improper custom or policy le[d] to
deliberate indifference to constitutional rights; or (3)
facts support an inference that the supervisor directed the
subordinates to act unlawfully or knew that the subordinates
would act unlawfully and failed to stop them from doing so.
“The standard by which a supervisor is held liable in
her individual capacity for the actions of a subordinate is
extremely rigorous.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). Plaintiff alleges no facts suggesting that
either Defendant Taylor or Defendant Peterson personally
participated in any conduct violating Plaintiff's
constitutional rights, that a history of widespread abuse or
improper custom or policy existed, or that Defendants
directed their subordinates to act unlawfully or that they