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McNatt v. Bush

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

November 7, 2019




         Plaintiff, a federal pretrial detainee at Laurens County Jail in Dublin, Georgia, brought the above-captioned case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), concerning events allegedly occurring at Burke County Jail (“BCJ”) in Waynesboro, Georgia. The authority to maintain custody of federal prisoners is one created by federal law and reserved to the federal government. Accordingly, the Court construes Plaintiff's complaint broadly as an attempt to state a claim under Bivens rather than § 1983, which only applies to state actors. Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis (“IFP”), Plaintiff's complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006) (per curiam).


         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names as Defendants: (1) Major John H. Bush; (2) Captain Cassandra Haynes; (3) Major Chester V. Huffman; (4) Sergeant Williams; (5) Burke County Sheriff's Department; and (6) Jail Administrators. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 1-2.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         On an unknown date, whiled detained at BCJ, an officer called for Plaintiff, and Plaintiff went to the front of BCJ to talk with that officer. (Doc. no 1-3, p. 1.) Plaintiff believed he was being called because his attorney came to talk about Plaintiff's court appearance the following day. (Id.) However, Plaintiff was being transferred to Jefferson County Jail (“JCJ”) in Louisville, Georgia. (Id.) Plaintiff did not learn he was being transferred until after being escorted to the front of BCJ and talking with the shift sergeant. (Id.) Officers then placed Plaintiff in a holding cell. (Id.) Plaintiff begged the shift sergeant to return to his cell and get his stuff, which included legal mail, personal items, money, and other confidential information. (Id.) These materials were important to Plaintiff because it included information about Plaintiff working with the government on drug deals and figuring out who were gang members. (Id.) However, the shift sergeant refused to allow Plaintiff to return to his cell, and Plaintiff was transferred to JCJ. (Id.)

         A couple of days after being transferred to JCJ, Plaintiff's cousin called Plaintiff and told him another detainee found Plaintiff's letters to the government and his personal belongings, such as his bank account pin No. and $170. (Id.) This inmate told Plaintiff's cousin he let everyone at BCJ know about Plaintiff's involvement with the government. (Id.) Gang members thanked the inmate who stole Plaintiff's belonging, stating they would kill Plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges this should not have happened and is exactly why he asked the shift sergeant to return to his cell. (Id.)

         Around a month after the call from his cousin, Brad Mitchell went to Plaintiff's mother's home and told her he was just released from BCJ. (Id. at 1-2.) Mr. Mitchell went on to say someone named Dale Sherman had Plaintiff's pin No. and showed everybody the messages Plaintiff was relaying to the government, his lawyer, and the probation office. (Id. at 2.) Mr. Mitchell also stated Mr. Sherman and other detainees wanted to kill Plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges BCJ's handling of his materials was improper and violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and article seven of the universal declaration of human rights. (Id.) By not handling his materials properly, BCJ has placed Plaintiff and his family in danger. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's mother spoke with Captain Haynes, Major Bush, Major Huffman, and others. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges they mailed $170 by way of check, but Plaintiff has not received it. (Id.) While talking to Plaintiff's mother over the phone, Major Bush laughed at her, and Major Huffman stated he could not help. (Id.) Plaintiff's only alleged injuries are mental stress. (Doc. no. 1, p. 5.) For relief, Plaintiff requests $300, 000 to move his family, placement in witness protection, his name changed, and Burke County Sheriff's Department to pay for his court costs. (Id.)

         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) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (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 complaint must “state a claim for 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. A 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. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the court has ...

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