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Henderson v. Roundtree

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

May 15, 2018

RICHARD ROUNDTREE, Sheriff, and OFFICER BROWN, Jailer, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, an inmate at Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this case, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, concerning events alleged to have occurred while he was a pretrial detainee at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center (“the Jail”) in Augusta, Georgia. Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiff's complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names the following as Defendants: (1) Richard Roundtree, Sheriff of Richmond County, and (2) Officer Brown, Jailer. (See doc. no. 1, pp. 1-2.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         On January 9, 2018, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee in protective custody, F-E Block, at the Jail, and Defendant Brown “was in control of the protective custody booth.” (Id. at 4, 5.) Plaintiff was let out of his cell for the weekly change of bed linens, but when he realized the trustees had not yet arrived with the new linens, he decided to return to his cell. (Id. at 4.) Two other inmates, released from their cells on the top tier of protective custody by Defendant Brown, came down the stairs and began to punch and kick Plaintiff as he made his way back to his cell. (Id.) In the process of fighting off his two attackers, Plaintiff's finger was slammed in the door. (Id.) Defendant Brown “refused to reply” when Plaintiff told him what happened, but Plaintiff was taken to the emergency room to re-attach his finger. (Id.)

         Upon his return to the Jail the next day, Plaintiff told Jail officials he wanted to press criminal charges against the inmates who attacked him and caused the severance of part of his finger, but investigators told Plaintiff his story was not consistent with the video surveillance. (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiff was not allowed to view the video. (Id. at 5.) At some point, Plaintiff “notified” Defendant Roundtree about the January 9, 2018 attack, but the Sheriff turned the matter over to Internal Affairs. (Id.) Plaintiff does not state how or when he “notified” Defendant Roundtree about the events of January 9, 2018. Even though Defendant Brown knew about and disregarded protective custody policy and procedures by letting multiple individuals out of their protective custody cells at the same time, Defendant Roundtree did nothing to change procedures in the protective custody section of the Jail. (Id.)

         Plaintiff seeks a declaration his Eighth Amendment and Equal Protection rights were violated, as well as monetary damages against each Defendant. (Id. at 22.)


         A. Legal Standard for Screening

         The complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc., 366 Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint is insufficient if it “offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '” or if it “tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). In short, the complaint must provide a “‘plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Finally, the Court affords a liberal construction to a pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the Court has a duty to re-write the complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).

         B. Plaintiff Fails to State a Valid Equal Protection Claim.

         “To establish an equal protection claim, a prisoner must demonstrate that (1) he is similarly situated with other prisoners who received more favorable treatment; and (2) his discriminatory treatment was based on some constitutionally protected interest such as race.” Jones v. Ray, 279 F.3d 944, 946-47 (11th Cir. 2001); see also Elston v. Talladega County Bd. of Educ., 997 F.2d 1394, 1406 (11th Cir. 1993) (requiring plaintiff to ...

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