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Luckett v. Hutchins

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

July 16, 2019

JABARI LUCKETT, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY HUTCHINS, Sheriff, and CLARK HIEBERT, Chief Deputy Col., Defendants.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EPPS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, a resident of Fulton County, Georgia using a mailing address in Desoto, Texas, (see doc. nos. 1, 1-1), is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiff's complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984).

         I. SCREENING THE COMPLAINT

         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names Gary Hutchins, Sheriff of Jefferson County Georgia, and Clark Hiebert, Chief Deputy at the Jefferson County Jail (JCJ), as Defendants. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 1, 2, 4.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         Plaintiff alleges he was incarcerated at JCJ on July 17, 2017, when four jailers instructed him and a fellow inmate to move the body of deceased inmate John Hymes from an upstairs cell to the downstairs. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff, and the other inmate carrying the deceased, dropped the body while descending the stairs but received no psychiatric treatment after this traumatic incident. (Id.) Plaintiff has since had “recurring nightmares and psychological fears about death and [his] future.” (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff identifies Sheriff Hutchins as the policy maker at JCJ, and Chief Deputy Hiebert as the acting supervisor over the jailers who instructed Plaintiff to carry the dead body. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff seeks “extensive counseling and psychiatric help [and] also a cash settlement” for the intentional infliction of emotional distress he experienced. (Id. at 5.)

         B. DISCUSSION

         1. Legal Standard for Screening

         The complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc., 366 Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the amended complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint is insufficient if it “offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '” or if it “tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). In short, the complaint must provide a “‘plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Finally, the court affords a liberal construction to a pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the court has a duty to re-write the complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).

         2. Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         “[B]ecause a federal court is powerless to act beyond its statutory grant of subject matter jurisdiction, a court must zealously insure that jurisdiction exists over a case, and should itself raise the question of subject matter jurisdiction at any point in the litigation where a doubt about jurisdiction arises.” Smith v. GTE Corp., 236 F.3d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 2001). Federal courts must always dismiss cases upon determining that they lack subject matter jurisdiction, regardless of the stage of the proceedings. Goodman ex rel. Goodman v. Sipos, 259 F.3d 1327, 1331 n.6 (11th Cir. 2001). To invoke the jurisdiction of the Court, a plaintiff must properly “allege the jurisdictional facts, according to the nature of the case.” McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 182 (1936).

         “A federal district court must have at least one of three types of subject matter jurisdiction: (1) jurisdiction under a specific statutory grant; (2) federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331; or (3) diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).” Baltin v. Alaron Trading Corp., 128 F.3d 1466, 1469 (11th Cir. 1997). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, diversity jurisdiction exists where the suit is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. The party asserting jurisdiction has the burden of establishing that their cause lies within this limited grant of jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Here, the complaint is devoid of any federal claim or cause of action and appears, in accordance ...


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