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Scott v. State of Georgia Appling County Superior Court

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

May 9, 2018

STEPHEN ANTWAUN SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF GEORGIA APPLING COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, Defendant.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Appling County Detention Center in Baxley, Georgia, filed a cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contesting current criminal proceedings against him. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 4.) For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. Furthermore, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS with prejudice Plaintiff's claims against Defendant, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and to CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.[1]

         PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS[2]

         Plaintiff asserts that on January 14, 2018, at 10:36 p.m., Defendant violated his due process rights by prohibiting him from challenging the personal jurisdiction of the State of Georgia. (Doc. 1, p. 5.) Plaintiff argues Defendant failed to “protect” his right to challenge personal jurisdiction. (Id.) As relief, Plaintiff ostensibly seeks an injunction but is unclear as to what that injunction should remedy. (Id. at pp. 1, 5.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 and 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 or 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).

         When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 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 Fed.Appx. 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.”).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Dismissal under Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief against Defendant Superior Court of Appling County, Georgia.[3] As an instrumentality of the State of Georgia, a suit against the Appling County Superior Court would be the same as a suit against the State of Georgia. “The Eleventh Amendment insulates a state from suit brought by individuals in federal court unless the state either consents to suit or waives its Eleventh Amendment immunity.” Stevens v. Gay, 864 F.2d 113, 114 (11th Cir. 1989) (footnote omitted) (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-100 (1984)). A lawsuit against a state agency or employee in its official capacity is no different from a suit against a state itself; such a defendant is immune. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (holding that the state and its “arms” are not “persons” amenable to suit under Section 1983).

         In enacting Section 1983, Congress did not intend to abrogate “well-established immunities or defenses” under the common law or the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at 67. Arms or agencies of the state, such as the Superior Courts and the Department of Corrections, are therefore immune from suit. See Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (per curiam) (“There can be no doubt, however, that suit against the State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless [Georgia] has consented to the filing of such a suit.”); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974); Pugh v. Balish, 564 Fed.Appx. 1010, 1013 (11th Cir. 2014) (“In addition, the Eleventh Amendment bars [plaintiff's] claims against the [superior court judge], since [plaintiff] is suing a state official, in federal court, for damages resulting from actions taken by the judge in his official capacity.”); Stevens, 864 F.2d at 115 (Georgia Department of Corrections is barred from suit by Eleventh Amendment).

         Because the State of Georgia would be the real party in interest in a suit against the Appling County Superior Court, the Eleventh Amendment immunizes Defendant from suit even though Plaintiff only seeks injunctive relief. Additionally, the exception under Ex parte Young is inapplicable here because Plaintiff is suing an entity of the state itself rather than a state officer in his or her official capacity.[4] Thus, the Court ...


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