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Wright v. Georgia Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

April 25, 2018




         Presently pending before the Court are Defendants Harper and Hollis' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 25) and Defendant Utley's motion to set aside the default entered against him (ECF No. 55). Also pending are Plaintiff's various discovery motions (ECF Nos. 31, 32, 59), motions for appointment of counsel (ECF Nos. 33, 62), motions regarding Defendant Utley's default (ECF Nos. 48, 52, 56), motion for an extension of time (ECF No. 34), motion to amend the complaint (ECF No. 40), motion to declare a Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) unconstitutional (ECF No. 63), and motion to return the case to Judge Royal (ECF No. 71). For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motions for an extension of time and to amend as provided in the attached amendment are granted. His motions for appointment of counsel, discovery motions, motion to declare the SOP unconstitutional, and motion to return the case to United States District Judge Royal are denied. Because Defendant Utley's motion to set aside his default is granted, Plaintiff's motion for default judgment is denied. It is recommended that Defendants Harper and Hollis' motion to dismiss be granted for Plaintiff's failure to exhaust.


         Plaintiff states that on October 30, 2014, he was attacked by a fellow inmate at Dooly State Prison. Compl. 10, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges he “was blindsided with a blow to [his] face while trying to leave [his] cell and avoid trouble” and that he “was knocked-out” by the blow. Id. Plaintiff notified prison officials, who took photos of the injuries, confirmed Plaintiff was attacked by another inmate, and placed Plaintiff in “‘the hole' . . . where prisoners are sent to be punished” with no other treatment. Id. The next day, Plaintiff was transported to the Taylor Regional Trauma Center by Defendants Harper and Hollis, [1] two prison guards. Suppl. Compl. 2, ECF No. 13. At the hospital, x-rays revealed Plaintiff suffered a badly fractured jaw. Compl. 10. Although the emergency room doctor stated that Plaintiff “needed immediate treatment, ” Defendants Harper and Hollis refused and stated that “Atlanta” would not pay for Plaintiff's care. Id.; see also Suppl. Compl. 2. Defendants Harper and Hollis returned Plaintiff to Dooly State Prison and placed him back in the hole until November 4, 2014; Plaintiff received little to no medical attention until he was transferred to Augusta State Medical Prison on that date. Suppl. Compl. 2; Compl. 10.

         On November 5, 2014, Plaintiff had surgery to remove several teeth and implant a metal plate in his jaw. Compl. 10. Plaintiff was transferred back to Dooly State Prison in February 2015, and received no additional treatment for the next eleven months, until his aunt called the governor. Id. Plaintiff then saw several medical professionals who referred Plaintiff to the prison dentist for further treatment consisting of a custom mouth guard and medication to relax the nerves in Plaintiff's jaw. Plaintiff alleges that “[n]o dental treatment was done, ” until April 25, 2017, when Plaintiff received surgery to remove two teeth at the Augusta State Medical Prison. Id.; see also Suppl. Compl. 2.

         After a preliminary review of Plaintiff's Complaint and Supplemental Complaint, Plaintiff's claims for deliberate indifference against Defendants Harper, Hollis, and the Dooly State Prison dentist, Dr. Utley, were allowed to proceed. Order & R. 6-8, Jun. 29, 2017, ECF No. 14. Service was ordered on each of the defendants at that same time. Id. at 14-18. Defendants Harper and Hollis timely executed waivers of service (ECF No. 23, 24) and filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 25).[2] Dr. Utley, however, was not personally served until October 3, 2017 (ECF No. 39).

         On December 4, 2017, the Court received Plaintiff's application for a clerk's entry of default against Defendant Utley (ECF No. 53). The clerk properly entered default against Defendant Utley that same day. Defendant Utley moved to set aside the entry of default on December 18, 2017 (ECF No. 55). The Court received Plaintiff's motion for default judgment against Defendant Utley (ECF No. 56) that same day.


         I. Plaintiff's Motions

         A. Motion to Appoint Counsel

         Plaintiff requests that he be appointed counsel. (ECF Nos. 33, 62.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), the district court “may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel.” There is, however, “no absolute constitutional right to the appointment of counsel” in a § 1983 lawsuit. Poole v. Lambert, 819 F.2d 1025, 1028 (11th Cir. 1987). Appointment of counsel is a privilege that is justified only by exceptional circumstances. Lopez v. Reyes, 692 F.2d 15, 17 (5th Cir. 1982). In deciding whether legal counsel should be provided, the court considers, among other factors, the merits of Plaintiff's claim and the complexity of the issues presented. Holt v. Ford, 682 F.2d 850, 853 (11th Cir. 1989). Here, Plaintiff fails to present any extraordinary circumstances which justify the appointment of counsel in this case-he has filed pleadings, motions, and responses to Defendants' motions. Plaintiff's request for court-appointed counsel is accordingly denied.

         B. Motions for Discovery

         Defendants Harper and Hollis filed a motion to stay discovery (ECF No. 26) along with their motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. The motion to stay was granted by Text-only Order on September 5, 2017. (ECF No. 28.) Plaintiff thereafter filed three motions for discovery-a motion containing “document demands” (ECF No. 31), a motion for medical and dental records (ECF No. 32), and a motion for Plaintiff's medical records to be submitted to the Court in support of his motion for default judgment (ECF No. 59). Since discovery is stayed, these motions are denied. Plaintiff may seek discovery at a later date.

         Plaintiff is reminded that discovery should not be filed with the Court, but instead sent directly to opposing counsel. Additionally, Plaintiff is able to obtain his own medical records through procedures established by the GDOC. Finally, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 37(a)(1) and Local Civil Rule 37, Plaintiff is notified that he must confer in good faith with the Defendants concerning any discovery issue prior to filing any motions with this Court attempting to compel discovery.

         C.Motion to ...

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