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Doe v. Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

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

September 25, 2019

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF JUVENILE JUSTICE, AVERY D. NILES, MUSCOGEE YOUTH DETENTION CENTER, MARVIN MENEFEE, and PHOENICIA HILL, Defendants.

          ORDER

          CLAY D. LAND, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiff claims that a correctional officer at the Muscogee Youth Detention Center (“MYDC”), Defendant Phoenicia Hill, sexually assaulted him while he was in custody. In his original complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims against Hill in her individual and official capacities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that she violated his constitutional rights. He also alleged § 1983 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 were brought against them only in their official capacities.

         The Court previously dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against everyone but Hill based on Eleventh Amendment immunity. Order (Mar. 25, 2019), ECF No. 19. Plaintiff then, without leave of court or consent of the parties and contrary to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, filed his first amended complaint that added § 1983 individual capacity claims against Niles and Menefee and state tort claims against all defendants. The Department, the MYDC, Niles, and Menefee moved to dismiss all claims against them (ECF No. 26). Hill also moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s state law claims and § 1983 official capacity claim against her (ECF No. 29). No. motion was filed to dismiss Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim against Hill in her individual capacity. In response to the motions to dismiss, Plaintiff moved to file a second amended complaint that included the same claims as the first amended complaint, but added certain factual allegations pertaining primarily to his § 1983 individual capacity claims against Niles and Menefee (ECF No. 38). Defendants oppose Plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend arguing that amendment would be futile.

         The Court finds that Plaintiff’s first amended complaint, except for Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim against Hill in her individual capacity, must be dismissed and that Plaintiff’s proposed second amended complaint is futile to the extent that it adds allegations related to these claims. To simplify the Court’s discussion, the Court addresses the failure of Plaintiff’s first amended complaint to state a plausible claim and the futility of his second amended complaint together. In doing so, the Court essentially analyzes whether Plaintiff’s second amended complaint would state a plausible claim for relief on any basis other than a § 1983 claim against Hill in her individual capacity. Finding that it would not, the Court grants the Department, the MYDC, Niles, and Menefee’s motion to dismiss (ECF No. 26) and finds that filing a second amended complaint to add factual allegations pertaining to these claims would be futile.

         The Court also grants Hill’s motion to dismiss (ECF No. 29) Plaintiff’s official capacity claims and his state law claims against Hill in her individual capacity. Plaintiff’s § 1983 individual capacity claim against Hill, which is not the subject of any motion to dismiss, remains pending.

         STANDARDS FOR DISMISSAL AND AMENDMENT

         “To 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).

         Plaintiff asks the Court for leave to amend his first amended complaint to add factual allegations supporting his claims, particularly his § 1983 individual capacity claims against Niles and Menefee. Although leave to amend should be freely given when justice so requires, Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), “a district court need not . . . allow amendment . . . where amendment would be futile.” Bryant v. Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001). “Leave to amend a complaint is futile when the complaint as amended would still be properly dismissed.” Cockrell v. Sparks, 510 F.3d 1307, 1310 (11th Cir. 2007)(per curiam).

         FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         To determine whether Plaintiff’s complaint as amended would still be properly dismissed, the Court relies on the factual allegations in Plaintiff’s proposed second amended complaint for purposes of deciding these motions. The Court accepts these allegations as true.

         At the time of Plaintiff’s sexual assault, he was housed in the MYDC, a Georgia juvenile detention center that detains juveniles charged with committing delinquent acts. Mot. to File Second Am. Compl. Ex. 1, Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 11-12, ECF No. 38- 1. The Department operates these types of juvenile detention facilities in Georgia. Id. ¶ 2. Niles is the Commissioner of the Department, and Menefee is the Director of the MYDC. Id. ¶¶ 3, 5. Niles and Menefee knew of certain sexual incidents that occurred at the MYDC between 2014 and 2016. Those incidents included:

(a) Contractor/Volunteer-on Youth Voyeurism and/or Sexual Contact on or around July 6, 2014. Investigation was opened into said incident by DJJ/[MYDC] employee Lisa Thigpen.
(b) Youth on Staff/Contractor/Volunteer/Intern Sexual Contact on or around January 30, 2015;
(c) Staff/Contractor/Volunteer-on Youth Sexual Penetration on or around May 27, 2015. Investigation was opened into said incident by DJJ/[MYDC] employee Wayne Thaxton;
(d) Youth on Staff/Contractor/Volunteer Sexual Contact on or around October 28, 2015;
(e) Youth on Staff/Contractor/Volunteer Sexual Contact on or around January 28, 2016. Investigation was opened into said incident by DJJ/[MYDC] employee James Hilderbrand;
(f) Youth on Staff/Contractor/Volunteer Sexual Contact on or around February 16, 2016. Investigation was opened into said incident by ...

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