United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
claims that a correctional officer at the Muscogee County
Youth Detention Center (“MYDC”) sexually
assaulted him while he was in custody. He brings this action
against the correctional officer in the officer's
individual and official capacities. He also asserts claims
against the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (the
“Department”) and its commissioner, Avery D.
Niles, and the MYDC and its Director, Marvin Menefee. The
claims against Niles and Menefee are brought against them
only in their official capacities. Plaintiff alleges
violations of his federal and state constitutional rights. He
brings his federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Department, the MYDC, Niles, and Menefee filed a motion
to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them based on
Eleventh Amendment immunity. For the following reasons, the
Court grants their motion (ECF No. 5).
TO DISMISS STANDARD
survive a motion to dismiss” under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain
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 complaint must include sufficient factual
allegations “to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
In other words, the factual allegations must “raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence
of” the plaintiff's claims. Id. at 556.
But “Rule 12(b)(6) does not permit dismissal of a
well-pleaded complaint simply because ‘it strikes a
savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is
improbable.'” Watts v. Fla. Int'l
Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
alleges the following facts. The Court must accept these
allegations as true for purposes of the pending motion.
September 2016, Plaintiff was housed in the MYDC, a juvenile
detention center that detains juveniles charged with
committing delinquent acts. Compl. ¶¶ 10-12, ECF
No. 1. The Department operates Georgia's juvenile
detention centers like the MYDC. Id. ¶ 2. Niles
is the Commissioner of the Department, and Menefee is the
Director of the MYDC. Id. ¶¶ 3, 5.
“There have been high levels of sexual and other
assaults at [the Department] and [the MYDC].”
Id. ¶ 17.
Plaintiff was housed in the MYDC, an MYDC correctional
officer, Phoenicia Hill, sexually assaulted Plaintiff.
Id. ¶ 11. “[The Department] and [the
MYDC] had actual knowledge of [the officer's] improper
behavior on its premises against [Plaintiff] and other
juveniles.” Id. ¶ 18.
undisputed for purposes of the present motion that the
Department and the MYDC are agencies of the state of Georgia.
It is also well established that Plaintiff's claim
against Niles in his official capacity is considered a claim
against the Department and that Plaintiff's claim against
Menefee in his official capacity is considered a claim
against MYDC. See Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d
764, 776 (11th Cir. 1991)(per curiam)(noting that a §
1983 suit against an officer in his or her official capacity
is “another way of pleading an action against an entity
of which an officer is an agent” (quoting Kentucky
v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985))). The issue to be
decided is whether the Department and the MYDC are
“arms of the state” for Eleventh Amendment
Eleventh Amendment “bars suits brought in federal court
when the State itself is sued [or] when an ‘arm of the
State' is sued” unless the state voluntarily waives
its Eleventh Amendment immunity or Congress clearly abrogates
it. Manders v. Lee, 338 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir.
2003)(en banc); Cross v. Alabama, 49 F.3d 1490, 1502
(11th Cir. 1995). Congress did not abrogate Eleventh
Amendment immunity in § 1983 cases, Quern v.
Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979), and Georgia has not
voluntarily waived its immunity. See Ga. Const. art.
1, § II, ¶ IX(f)(“No waiver of sovereign
immunity under this Paragraph shall be construed as a waiver
of any immunity provided to the state or its Departments,
agencies, officers, or employees by the United States
Constitution.”). Therefore, if the Department and the MYDC
are considered the state or “arms of the state, ”
they are immune from Plaintiff's § 1983
Court finds that, under Georgia law, the Department is an arm
of the state with regard to the detention of youth offenders.
See Willis v. Ga. Dept. of Juvenile Justice, No.
7:05-CV-59 (HL), 2007 WL 2782509, at *4-*5 (M.D. Ga. Sept.
21, 2007)(reaching this conclusion by thoroughly analyzing
Georgia law). The MYDC is a juvenile detention facility that
is under the jurisdiction of the Department so it, too, is an
arm of the state. O.C.G.A. §
49-4A-5(a)(“[J]urisdiction over . . . juvenile
detention facilities is vested in the [D]epartment.”);
see Lovelace v. Dekalb Cent. Prob., 144 Fed.Appx.
793, 794 n.1 (11th Cir. 2005)(per curiam)(finding that claims
against the Dekalb County Central Probation were barred by
Eleventh Amendment immunity because it was “part of the
Department of Corrections” which was a state entity).
Therefore, the Department, the MYDC, and Niles and Menefee in
their official capacities are entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity. Accordingly, these Defendants' motion to
dismiss is granted.
HILL'S MOTION FOR STAY
Hill seeks to stay these proceedings while she remains under
threat of criminal prosecution for the actions giving rise to
this civil action. The Court finds that a temporary stay is
appropriate but that the stay shall not be indefinite and
shall not apply to all pretrial proceedings. Counsel for the
parties shall present a proposed joint scheduling order by
April 19, 2019 that provides deadlines for pretrial matters
that will not prejudice Defendant Hill's rights in a
criminal proceeding. The proposed scheduling order should also
include a termination date for any ...