United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
E. SELF, III, JUDGE
purposes of this motion [Doc. 6], the Court assumes the
following undisputed facts to be true. On May 11, 2016,
Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Georgia Department of
Juvenile Justice Sumter Youth Development Campus
(“SYDC”) in Americus, Georgia. [Doc. 1 at ¶
7]. Plaintiff claims that while he was eating lunch in the
SYDC cafeteria, Defendant, an SYDC corrections officer,
aggressively approached him, handcuffed him, and escorted him
out of the cafeteria. [Id. at ¶¶ 57, 58].
Once they were outside the building, Defendant allegedly
threw Plaintiff on the ground and lifted Plaintiff's arms
behind his back, breaking Plaintiff's arm. [Id.
at ¶ 59]. Plaintiff suffered a spiral fracture of his
arm and scarring to his face, and underwent surgery to repair
his arm. [Id. at ¶¶ 61, 62]. The Georgia
Department of Juvenile Justice investigated the incident and
determined that “there is sufficient evidence to
support an allegation of Inappropriate Use of Physical
Intervention against Captain Jacob Stephens.” [Doc. 1-1
at 8-9]. As a result of the investigation findings, SYDC
fired Defendant. [Doc. 1-2 at 2].
August 31, 2017, Plaintiff sent a letter titled
“Anti-Litem Notice” [sic] to Jessie Milledge, the
Director of SYDC. [Doc. 9-1]. In the letter, Plaintiff's
counsel informed Mr. Milledge of potential claims
“against the State of Georgia, Georgia Department of
Juvenile Justice/Sumter Youth Development Campus, Captain
Jacob Stephens and others unknown at this time, ”
citing O.C.G.A. § 50-21-26. [Id. at 2]. After
enumerating the facts of Plaintiff's incident with
Defendant, Plaintiff's letter contains a
“Liability” section that states “the only
question should be finding a fair settlement value for this
case.” [Id. at 5]. The letter concludes by
demanding “the full statutory limits of one-million
($1, 000, 000.00) dollars.” [Id.]
filed this lawsuit on November 12, 2017, seeking compensatory
and punitive damages under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and
1988 for Defendant's alleged use of cruel and unusual
punishment. [Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 1, 76]. Defendant filed
his Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 6] on January 29, 2018,
contending that Plaintiff “failed to exhaust
administrative remedies that were available to him during his
[SYDC] detention.” [Doc. 6-1 at 2].
response, Plaintiff argues that instead of following the
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice's formal grievance
procedure, he brought “his grievance directly to the
attention of the [SYDC] director, ” which he contends
he did by mailing the August 31, 2017 “Anti-Litem
Notice” letter. [Doc. 9 at 2]. Alternatively, Plaintiff
argues that he may amend his complaint because he “has
now completed the other available grievance process by
placing the grievance form in the collection box at the
Savannah Youth Detention Center [where he is now
incarcerated] on or about January 30, 2018.”
[Id. at 6]. A grievance officer reviewed this latest
grievance and rejected it on February 2, 2018. [Doc. 10-3 at
2]. Plaintiff appealed the rejection the same day, and the
Savannah Youth Detention Center Director denied his appeal.
[Id.] Finally, Plaintiff appealed the rejection to
the Ombudsman of the Department of Juvenile Justice, who
informed Plaintiff that “action has been taken and the
case is now closed.” [Doc. 9-3 at 2].
Standard of Review.
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), “[n]o 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.” The determination of whether an inmate
exhausted his available administrative remedies prior to
filing a cause of action in federal court is a matter of
abatement and should be raised in a motion to dismiss.
Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374 (11th Cir.
2008). Defendant bears the burden of proving that Plaintiff
did not satisfy the exhaustion requirement. Turner v.
Burnside, 541 F.3d 1077, 1082 (11th Cir. 2008).
Plaintiff's ante litem notice does not satisfy the
exhaustion requirement of the PLRA.
Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 6] hinges on his contention that
Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as
required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e (“PLRA”), prior to filing suit. With
regard to administrative remedies, the PLRA states that
“[n]o 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.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a). Exhaustion of the available administrative
remedies is mandatory, and “unexhausted claims cannot
be brought in court.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S.
199, 211 (2007).
time Plaintiff suffered his injuries, Georgia Department of
Juvenile Justice Policy Number 15.2 set forth the applicable
grievance procedures for SYDC. [Doc. 6-3]. The policy states
that “[t]he formal grievance process is the only
process allowed for a youth to file a grievance.”
[Id. at 3 (emphasis added)]. This single and
mandatory process requires an incarcerated youth to submit a
grievance form or written statement, which is reviewed by the
facility's Grievance Officer. [Id.] The youth
may appeal the Grievance Officer's decision to the
facility's director, and that decision may then be
appealed to the Grievance Analyst at the Department of
Juvenile Justice Office of the Ombudsman. [Id.]
Clearly, Plaintiff failed to follow this policy prior to
filing his suit.
this omission, Plaintiff claims that his ante litem notice to
the director exhausted his administrative remedies because
the policy manual also provides that “[g]rievances made
by parents or guardians may be mailed to the Director or
deposited in a box in an area accessible to the public marked
‘Director.'” [Id. at 4]. SYDC's
Local Operating Procedures confirm this method of filing a
grievance. [Doc. 6-4 at 2].
the question the Court must answer is whether Plaintiff's
ante litem notice should be considered a
“grievance” within the meaning of Policy Number
15.2 and SYDC Local Operating Procedures. ...