United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
EUGENE GRIGGS; CAMERON MADDOX; and CHRISTOPHER VARNER, Plaintiffs,
AHMED HOLT, in his official capacity as Assistant Regional Director, Georgia Department of Corrections; EDWARD PHILBIN, in his official capacity as Warden, Augusta State Medical Prison; STAN SHEPARD, in his individual capacity; VERNEAL EVANS, ANTONIO BINNS, JUSTIN WASHINGTON, LENON BUTLER, RODGERICK NABORS, JULIAN GREENAWAY, and JERRY BEARD, Former Correctional Officers, Augusta State Medical Prison, in their individual capacities; TREI BLUITT, JANSON CREAGOR, and JOHN DOE, Correctional Officers, Augusta State Medical Prison, in their individual capacities, Defendants.
RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for entry of final
judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). (Doc.
102.) Plaintiffs request certification of the Court's
October 24, 2018 Order dismissing Plaintiff Christopher
Varner's excessive force claims for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies. For the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiffs' motion is GRANTED.
case concerns three Plaintiffs' joint challenge to the
use of excessive force at Augusta State Medical Prison
(``ASMP") . Each Plaintiff's individual excessive
force claim is based on different incidents at ASMP involving
different Defendants. (See Am. Compl., Doc. 7,
¶¶ 138-50.) Nevertheless, Plaintiffs joined their
claims in a single suit to address ASMP's "pervasive
and longstanding practice" of using excessive force on
inmates with mental illness. (See id. ¶ 1.)
October 24, 2018, the Court entered an Order granting
Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff Christopher
Varner's excessive force claims for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform
Act ('' PLRA") . (Doc. 78, at 10-21.)
Varner's claims were dismissed with prejudice, but
Plaintiffs Eugene Griggs and Cameron Maddox's excessive
force and prospective relief claims were allowed to proceed.
(Id. at 21- 26.) Varner was the only Plaintiff
against whom Defendants raised an exhaustion defense.
Maddox and Griggs are litigating their claims in this Court
with discovery set to end on June 7, 2019, and dispositive
motions due by July 8, 2019. (Order of Mar. 12, 2019, Doc.
115.) Plaintiffs filed a motion for entry of final judgment
under Rule 54(b) so Varner can appeal the Court's October
24th Order dismissing his claims for failure to exhaust
without waiting for Maddox and Griggs to resolve their own
excessive force claims.
to file an appeal, there must be a final judgment
adjudicating the rights and liabilities of all parties on all
claims. Ebrahimi v. City of Huntsville Bd. of Educ,
114 F.3d 162, 165 (11th Cir. 1997). Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 54(b) provides an exception to that rule by
allowing the district court to certify a final judgment on
fewer than all claims or parties. Id.; see also
Lloyd Noland Found., Inc. v. Tenet Health Care Corp.,
483 F.3d 773, 777 (11th Cir. 2007).
Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit have counseled
district courts to exercise their discretion under Rule 54(b)
"conservatively"; limiting the rule's
application to ``the unusual case in which the costs and
risks of multiplying the number of proceedings and of
overcrowding the appellate docket are outbalanced by pressing
needs of the litigants for an early and separate judgment as
to some claims or parties." Ebrahimi, 114 F.3d
at 166 (quoting Morrison-Knudsen Co. v. Archer, 655
F.2d 962, 965 (9th Cir. 1981)); see also Curtiss-Wright
Corp. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 10 (1980).
enter a final partial judgment under Rule 54(b), district
courts employ a two-step analysis. First, the court must
decide whether its judgment is, in fact, both
"final" and a ``judgment." Curtiss-Wright
Corp., 446 U.S. at 7. ``It must be a judgment in the
sense that it is a decision upon a cognizable claim for
relief, and it must be final in the sense that it is `an
ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the
course of a multiple claims action.'" Id.
(quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351
U.S. 427, 436 (1956)).
the district court must determine that ``there is no `just
reason for delay' in certifying [the judgment] as final
and immediately appealable." Lloyd Nolan Found.,
Inc., 483 F.3d at 777 (quoting Curtiss-Wright
Corp., 446 U.S. at 8). Here, the district court balances
judicial administrative interests with the relative equitable
concerns. Ebrahimi, 114 F.3d at 165-66.
Consideration of judicial administrative interests is
necessary to "preserve the historic federal policy
against piecemeal appeals." Id. at 166 (quoting
Sears, 351 U.S. at 438). In a similar way, analyzing
the relevant equities ensures Rule 54 (b) certification is
limited to situations where immediate appeal is necessary to
alleviate some danger of hardship or injustice associated
with delay. Id.
Supreme Court has declined to ``fix or sanction narrow
guidelines for the district courts to follow" under the
second prong. Curtiss-Wright Corp., 446 U.S. at
10-11. Nevertheless, courts analyzing judicial administrative
interests should consider factors including "whether the
claims under review were separable from the others remaining
to be adjudicated and whether the nature of the claims
already determined was such that no appellate court would
have to decide the same issues more than once even if there
were subsequent appeals." Id. at 8. Further,
with respect to the equities involved, district courts enjoy
a greater degree of deference because the district court ``is
`the one most likely to be familiar with the case and with
any justifiable reasons for delay.'" See
id. at 10 (quoting Sears, 351 U.S. at 437).
do not contest that the Court's October 24th Order
dismissing Varner's claims for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies was a final judgment for the purposes
of Rule 54(b). The parties only dispute the second prong -