United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
STAN BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
currently an inmate at Hays State Prison in Trion, Georgia,
submitted an Amended Complaint in the above-captioned action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting certain
conditions of his confinement while he was housed at Smith
State Prison in Glennville, Georgia. (Doc. 5.) While
proceeding before the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Georgia, Plaintiff was granted leave to
proceed in forma pauperis. (Docs. 6, 7.) Plaintiff
also filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel. (Doc. 17.) For the
reasons set forth below, I DENY
Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel, and I
RECOMMEND that the Court
DISMISS Plaintiff's claims for monetary
damages against Defendants in their official capacities and
DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma
pauperis as to those claims. However, Plaintiff'
arguably states colorable Eighth Amendment claims against
Defendants, and those claims shall proceed. Accordingly, the
Court DIRECTS the United States Marshal to
serve Defendants Williams and Smokes with a copy of
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and Brief, (docs. 5, 16),
and this Order.
originally filed this action in the United States District
Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where he also
submitted his Amended Complaint. (Docs. 1, 5.) After
reviewing Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the Northern
District Court dismissed Defendant Gray Jorges and
transferred Plaintiff's remaining claims against
Defendants Williams and Smokes to the Statesboro Division of
this District. (Docs. 8, 12, 13, 14.) In his Amended
Complaint, Plaintiff raises claims against Defendants
Williams and Smokes that implicate the Eighth Amendment.
(Doc. 5.) Plaintiff also filed a Brief in support of his
Amended Complaint where he objected to the Northern
District's findings and clarified and supplemented his
contentions. (Doc. 16.)
15, 2016, while at Smith State Prison, Plaintiff notified
counselor Picard that he was experiencing significant mental
health problems. (Doc. 5, p. 3.) Counselor Picard, however,
did not come back to see Plaintiff until three days later.
(Id.) When Picard met with Plaintiff on July 18, she
eventually had Plaintiff placed in a suicide cell.
(Id. at p. 5.) While in the suicide watch cell,
Plaintiff alleges Defendant Smokes came to inquire about
Plaintiff's mental health and current status in the
suicide cell. After listening to Plaintiff's issues,
Defendant Smokes asked if Plaintiff wanted to back to general
population, despite Plaintiff telling Defendant Smokes he had
yet to see a doctor. Plaintiff replied yes, allegedly because
Defendant Smokes “was not trying to understand what
[he] was going through.” (Id.) That next day,
on July 22, Plaintiff attempted to hang himself, but two
officers and an inmate pulled him to safety. Plaintiff was
taken to medical and then to Emory Hospital. (Id.)
Williams came to visit Plaintiff at Emory. (Id. at
p. 4.) While at the hospital, Defendant Williams allegedly
took cell phone video of Plaintiff saying that he “was
ok.” (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges Defendant
Williams took this video to cover up a violation of
Plaintiff's rights. Plaintiff avers he was then taken to
Georgia State Prison where he was confined without clothes
for two weeks before being taken to Hays State Prison on
August 8, 2016. (Id.)
asserts Defendant Williams and Smokes were deliberately
indifferent to his serious mental health needs. (Doc. 16.)
Plaintiff claims that Defendant Smokes acted with deliberate
indifference because he let Plaintiff out of suicide watch
without an evaluation from medical personnel. (Id.
at p. 2.) Similarly, Plaintiff claims Defendant Williams
acted with deliberate indifference because he did nothing
while viewing video footage that showed Defendant Smokes
transferring Plaintiff from suicide watch without a medical
evaluation. (Id. at p. 5.) Plaintiff also claims
Defendant Williams was aware Plaintiff went to the shower
without supervision the day of his attempted suicide and that
officers did not follow procedure in saving him.
(Id.) As relief, Plaintiff requests nominal,
compensatory, and punitive damages or a reduction in his
sentence. (Doc. 5, p. 5; see also Doc. 17, p. 3.)
brings this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (Docs. 6, 7.) 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, 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, 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. §
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.
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) (per curiam). 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)).
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.”). The requisite review of
Plaintiff's Complaint raises several doctrines of law,
which the Court discusses as follows.
Motion to Appoint Counsel (Doc. 17)
moves for the appointment of counsel. (Doc. 17.) Plaintiff,
however, has no constitutional right to the appointment of
counsel in this civil case. Wright v. Langford, 562
Fed.Appx. 769, 777 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (citing
Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312, 1320 (11th Cir.
1999)). “Although a court may, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(1), appoint counsel for an indigent plaintiff,
it has broad discretion in making this decision, and should
appoint counsel only in exceptional circumstances.”
Wright, 562 Fed.Appx. at 777 (citing Bass,
170 F.3d at 1320). Appointment of counsel in a civil case is
a “privilege that is justified only by exceptional
circumstances, such as where the facts and legal issues are
so novel or complex as to require the assistance of a trained
practitioner.” Fowler v. Jones, 899 F.2d 1088,
1096 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Poole v. Lambert, 819
F.2d 1025, 1028 (11th Cir. 1987); Wahl v. McIver,
773 F.2d 1169, 1174 (11th Cir. 1985)). The Eleventh Circuit
Court of Appeals has explained that “the key” to
assessing whether counsel should be appointed “is
whether the pro se litigant needs help in presenting
the essential merits of his or her position to the court.
Where the facts and issues are simple, he or she usually will
not need such help.” McDaniels v. Lee, 405
Fed.Appx. 456, 457 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (quoting
Kilgo v. Ricks, 983 F.2d 189, 193 (11th Cir. 1993)).
Court has reviewed the record and pleadings in this case, and
there are no “exceptional circumstances”
warranting the appointment of counsel. While the Court
understands that Plaintiff is incarcerated, this Court has
repeatedly found that “prisoners do not receive special
consideration notwithstanding the challenges of litigating a
case while incarcerated.” Hampton v. Peeples,
No. CV 614-104, 2015 WL 4112435, at *2 (S.D. Ga. July 7,
2015). “Indeed, the Eleventh Circuit has consistently
upheld district courts' decisions to refuse appointment
of counsel in 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions similar to this
case for want of exceptional circumstances.”
Id. (citing Smith v. Warden, Hardee Corr.
Inst., 597 Fed.Appx. 1027, 1030 (11th Cir. 2015) (per
curiam); Wright, 562 Fed.Appx. at 777; Faulkner
v. Monroe Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 523 Fed.Appx.
696, 702 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam); McDaniels v.
Lee, 405 Fed.Appx. 456, 457 (11th Cir. 2010) (per
curiam); Sims v. Nguyen, 403 Fed.Appx. 410, 414
(11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam); Fowler, 899 F.2d at
1091, 1096; Wahl, 773 F.2d at 1174). This case is
not so complex legally or factually to prevent Plaintiff from
presenting “the essential merits of his position”
to the Court. Thus, the Court DENIES
Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel.
Dismissal of ...