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Morris v. Chatham County C.N.T Division

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

March 1, 2019

SAMMY BRIAN MORRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHATHAM COUNTY C.N.T. DIVISION; BLOOMINGDALE POLICE DEPARTMENT; OFFICER JOHN DOE 1; CHATHAM COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT; and OFFICERS JOHN DOES 2-4, Defendants.

          ORDER

          R. STAN BAKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         After a careful de novo review of the record in this case, the Court concurs with the Magistrate Judge's January 7, 2019 Report and Recommendation, (doc. 7), to which Plaintiff filed Objections, (doc. 13). For the reasons set forth below, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's Objections and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation as the opinion of the Court. Consequently, the Court DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiff's Complaint against Chatham County Narcotics Team. The Court also DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE any attempted complaint against Bloomingdale Police Department and Chatham County Police Department.

         In his objections, Morris protests that his claims against the Bloomingdale Police Department and the Chatham County Counter Narcotics Team (“C.N.T.”) should be approved for service because the individual officers who injured him were operating in their “official and individual capacit[ies].” (Id. at 2.) As an initial matter, the complaint does not set forth any claims against the Bloomingdale Police Department. Even if it had, Police Departments, and by extension their subdivisions, are not entities subject to suit under § 1983. Lovelace v. DeKalb Cent. Prob., 144 Fed.Appx. 793, 795 (11th Cir. 2005) (county police department not a legal entity subject to suit under § 1983); Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992) (sheriff and police departments are not considered legal entities subject to suit), cited by Bunyon v. Burke Cnty., 285 F.Supp.2d 1310, 1328 (S.D. Ga. 2003). To the extent Morris believes that the department is responsible as the officers' employer, claims against local governments, government officials, or supervisors brought pursuant to § 1983 cannot be based upon theories of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. See Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 671 (11th Cir. 1990). That is, a governmental entity cannot be held liable just because it employs a tortfeasor. The CNT, Chatham County Police Department, and Bloomingdale Police Department are not viable defendants. Thus, any claims against either Chatham County Police Department, the C.N.T., or the Bloomingdale Police Department are DISMISSED. This case will proceed against the four unnamed police officers.[1]

         A few other orders of business, Plaintiff has requested that he be appointed counsel. (Doc. 10.) In this civil case, however, plaintiff has no constitutional right to the appointment of counsel. Wright v. Langford, 562 Fed.Appx. 769, 777 (11th Cir. 2014) (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), and Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1174 (11th Cir. 1985)).

         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) (quoting Kilgo v. Ricks, 983 F.2d 189, 193 (11th Cir. 1993)). A review of the record and pleadings in this case reveals no such “exceptional circumstances” warranting the appointment of counsel.

         Though plaintiff is incarcerated, this Court has repeatedly found that “prisoners do not receive special consideration notwithstanding the challenges of litigating a case while incarcerated.” See, e.g., Hampton v. Peeples, 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); Wright, 562 Fed.Appx. at 777; Faulkner v. Monroe Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 523 Fed.Appx. 696, 702 (11th Cir. 2013); McDaniels, 405 Fed.Appx. at 457; Sims v. Nguyen, 403 Fed.Appx. 410, 414 (11th Cir. 2010); Fowler, 899 F.2d at 1091, 1096; Wahl, 773 F.2d at 1174). This case is not so complex, legally or factually, as to prevent plaintiff from presenting “the essential merits of his position” to the Court. Indeed, Morris has already demonstrated an exceptional ability to succinctly set forth the events as they transpired and describe the roles of the defendants involved. His request for appointment of counsel (doc. 10) is DENIED.

         Finally, plaintiff has filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint. (Doc. 14.) That document purports to “add[] statement of facts and relief section.” (Id.) Insofar as this document purports to add to rather than superseded plaintiffs initial complaint, (doc. 1), plaintiffs motion is GRANTED. However, plaintiff is warned that a further amendment will supersede all previous versions of his complaint and therefore must be complete in itself.

         SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Plaintiff appears to request that certain discovery be made to ascertain the names of the officers involved in this suit. Doc. 13 at 3. However, the Court notes that waivers on behalf of CNT Agent Woodruff, doc. 16, CNT Agent J. Hood, doc. 18, and CNT Agent Krouse, doc. 20, have been filed with this Court. The Court will DEFER ruling on such a request until ...


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