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Riley v. Glover

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

March 4, 2019

DENNIS LEWIS RILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
Corrections Officer, JAMES GLOVER, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          STEPHEN HYLES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint (ECF No. 14). For the reasons explained below, it is recommended that Defendant's motion be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that he observed Defendant Officer James Glover reading another inmate's legal mail, so Plaintiff confronted Glover about whether Glover was allowed to read their legal mail. Compl. 5, ECF No. 1. In response, Glover became angry and told Plaintiff to remove his shorts, which Glover said were contraband. Id. at 7. Plaintiff removed his shorts, leaving him in his boxer shorts. Id. Thereafter, Glover ordered Plaintiff to step outside of his cell and handcuffed him. Id.

         Glover then began berating Plaintiff and lunged at Plaintiff, as if to grab his throat. Compl. 7. Plaintiff jumped back from Glover, and in doing so, Plaintiff's genitals came out of his boxer shorts. Id. Plaintiff asked Glover if Plaintiff could put his penis back into his boxer shorts, and Glover refused to allow him to do so. Id. Plaintiff was left with his genitals exposed for approximately two hours. Id. During this time, Glover walked Plaintiff through the prison to the security building, such that Plaintiff could be seen by anyone looking out a window. Id. at 8. Plaintiff asserts that, before this incident, he was already under the care of mental health services because he suffers from mental illness. Id. He states he has had to see his mental health counselor twice a week, has lost over 18 pounds, has nightmares, and is in fear for his safety as a result of the incident. Compl. 10.

         Following preliminary review, the Court found Plaintiff had sufficiently alleged that Defendant subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eight Amendment. Order & R. & R. 6, ECF No. 6; Order on R. & R., ECF No. 10. It also found that Plaintiff had sufficiently alleged that Defendant had violated his constitutional right to bodily privacy. Order & R. & R. 8; Order on R. & R. Accordingly, those claims were allowed to proceed. Defendant now moves to dismiss those claims, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to state a relievable claim, that Defendant is immune from Plaintiff's claims, and that Plaintiff seeks unavailable remedies. Mot. to Dismiss 1, ECF No. 14.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Monetary Damages

         Defendant contends that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment “[t]o the extent Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against Defendant in his official capacities[.]” Br. in Supp. Mot. to Dismiss 3, ECF No. 14-1. He also argues that Plaintiff cannot seeks monetary damages in general because he alleges no physical injury. Id. at 12. The Court agrees with Defendant and recommends dismissal of Plaintiff's claims to the extent he seeks monetary relief beyond nominal damages.

         “Under the Eleventh Amendment, state officials sued for damages in their official capacity are immune from suit in federal court.” See, e.g., Jackson v. Ga. Dep't of Transp., 16 F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994); see also Lewis v. Charlotte Corr. Inst. Emps., 589 Fed.Appx. 950, 952 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (state prison officials entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit under § 1983 when sued in their official capacities). Defendant is an employee of a state prison, and thus considered a representative of the State of Georgia. Further, “an incarcerated plaintiff cannot recover either compensatory or punitive damages for constitutional violations unless he can demonstrate a (more than de minimis) physical injury.” Brooks v. Warden, 800 F.3d 1295, 1307 (11th Cir. 2015). The Eleventh Circuit has found injuries such as “temporary chest pain, headache, and difficulty breathing” with recurrent back pain to be de minimis. Quilan v. Pers. Transp. Servs. Co., 329 Fed.Appx. 246, 249 (11th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff has not alleged he suffered any physical injury. Accordingly Defendants' motion to dismiss should be granted as to their request to limit Plaintiff's request for damages to only nominal damages. See Br. in Supp. Mot. to Dismiss 12-13.

         II. Failure to State a Claim

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not alleged “sexual abuse severe enough to state an Eighth Amendment claim.” Br. in Supp. Mot. to Dismiss 6. He also contends that Plaintiff has failed “to state a viable claim for violation of his right to bodily privacy.” Id. at 8. Defendant essentially asks the Court to reverse its previous finding that Plaintiff's allegations were sufficient to support both of these claims. It is recommended that this request be rejected, and Defendant's motion to dismiss on grounds that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim be denied.

         A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not include “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)). The factual allegations in a complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and cannot “merely create[] a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (first alteration in original). As noted above, the Court, in screening Plaintiff's complaint, found that his allegations are “sufficient to state a claim for sexual abuse” such that the claim should proceed. Order & R. & R. 8. It also found that Plaintiff had “alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for violation of his right to bodily privacy.” Accordingly, it is recommended that Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a relievable claim be denied.

         III. ...


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