United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
who is presently incarcerated at Hancock State Prison in
Sparta, Georgia, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 to challenge certain conditions of his confinement while
at Rogers State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia. Doc.
After the requisite frivolity review under 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, I RECOMMEND the Court
DISMISS Plaintiff's claims against
Defendants Stankowitz and Rogers State Prison. I also
RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS
any claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their
official capacities. Further, I RECOMMEND
the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's claims of
racial and religious hate crimes against Defendants Robinson,
Copeland, and Hartmeyer, and I RECOMMEND the
Court DISMISS Plaintiff's retaliation
claim against Defendant McCumber. As to any dismissed claims,
I RECOMMEND the Court DENY
Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.
I FIND Plaintiff sets forth non-frivolous
Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants McFarlane,
Coleman, Williams, Robinson, Copeland, and Hartmeyer in their
individual capacities based on the outdoor cage incident. I
further FIND Plaintiff's retaliation
claims may proceed against Defendants McFarlane, Coleman,
Williams, Robinson, Copeland, and Hartmeyer in their
individual capacities. Finally, I FIND
Plaintiff may proceed with his prison conditions claims
against Defendants Coleman, McCumber, and McFarlane in their
individual capacities based on the lack of nighttime
emergency assistance at Rogers State Prison.
Court hereby DIRECTS the United States
Marshal to serve a copy of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
and attachments, docs. 10, 10-1, 10-2, and a copy of this
Order upon Defendants McFarlane, McCumber, Coleman, Williams,
Robinson, Copeland, and Hartmeyer without prepayment of cost.
alleges that at approximately 4:30 p.m. on December 12, 2017,
while praying, he was ordered to lockdown by Defendant
Coleman, the Warden of Rogers State Prison. Doc. 10 at 2.
Defendant Coleman then had Defendant McFarlane, the Deputy
Warden of Security, place Plaintiff in handcuffs, and
together they escorted Plaintiff to the segregation unit.
Id. Upon arriving at the segregation unit, Defendant
Coleman ordered Defendant Williams to put Plaintiff in the
outdoor segregation yard cage. Id. At that time, the
outside temperature was 30 degrees. Id.
alleges that at 5:45 p.m., he asked Defendant Robinson to
bring him in from the cold, and Defendant Robinson responded
by laughing. Id. at 3. At 7:45 p.m., Plaintiff asked
Defendant McFarlane to bring him in from the cold, and
Defendant McFarlane told Plaintiff he was not supposed to be
out there but failed to do anything to alleviate the
situation. Id. at 2. At 8:45 p.m., Plaintiff asked
Defendant Copeland about coming in from the segregation yard
cage, and she responded by laughing and saying, “Fuck
you, you Muslim n****.” Id. at 3. Plaintiff
alleges that at that point, the outside temperature had
dropped to 25 degrees. Id. At 9:45 p.m., Plaintiff
asked Defendant Hartmeyer to bring him in from the cold, and
Defendant Hartmeyer responded by saying, “Hell no you
black ass n****, you need to freeze your Muslim ass off some
more.” Id. Plaintiff was left outside for over
eight hours, during which time the outdoor temperature
dropped below 28 degrees, with minus 10 degrees wind chill.
Id. at 2-3.
claims this event was in retaliation for a grievance he filed
on October 12, 2017 concerning an October 8, 2017 incident
where he suffered an asthma attack in the middle of the night
and was unable to get emergency assistance. Id. at
3. Plaintiff alleges he had no panic button in his room and
no way to alert the correctional officer on duty about his
emergency situation, and Plaintiff ultimately feared he would
die. Id. In addition to filing a grievance,
Plaintiff alerted Defendant McCumber about this issue on
October 23, 2017 but never heard back from her. Id.
Plaintiff then hand-delivered a letter to Defendant Coleman
on November 13, 2017 about the incident but received no
response. Id. Finally, on December 4, 2017,
Plaintiff sent a request to Defendant Stankowitz about the
incident. Id. The outdoor cage incident occurred on
December 12, 2017. Id. at 2.
seeks compensatory damages in the amount of $15, 000.00 from
each of the named Defendants and punitive damages in the
amount of $300, 000.00. Id. at 12-13.
is bringing this action in forma pauperis. Under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing
of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the
plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of
all of his assets, shows an inability to pay the filing fee,
and also includes a statement of the nature of the action
which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the
plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action
if it is frivolous, malicious, or if it fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, under 28
U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity.
Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or
any portion thereof, that is frivolous, malicious, fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or which
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Court looks to the instructions for pleadings contained in
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when reviewing a
complaint on an application to proceed in forma
pauperis. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (“A pleading
that states a claim for relief must contain [among other
things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in
numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of
circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable
merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v.
Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir.
a complaint fails to state a claim under §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable
to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 Fed.Appx. 675, 678
(11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must
determine whether the complaint contains “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)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not
only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual
power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual
allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual
contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251
F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 327 (1989)).
analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle
that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a
less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and,
therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v.
Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006)
(“Pro se pleadings are held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys . . .
.” (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157,
1160 (11th Cir. 2003))). However, Plaintiff's
unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding
procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S.
106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that
procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be
interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed
Claim Against Rogers State Prison
has included Rogers State Prison as a Defendant in one of his
Amended Complaint's counts. See Doc. 10 at 11.
Rule 17(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs
which individuals and entities are capable of being sued in
federal court, and it specifically directs this Court to look
to the law of this state in determining whether a defendant
such as Rogers State Prison can be sued. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3). Under Georgia law, “in every suit
there must be a legal entity as the real plaintiff and the
real defendant. [Georgia] recognizes only three classes as
legal entities, namely: (1) natural persons; (2) an
artificial person (a corporation); and (3) such
quasi-artificial persons as the law recognizes as being
capable to sue.” Lawal v. Fowler, 196
Fed.Appx. 765, 768 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing Ga. Insurers
Insolvency Pool v. Elbert County, 368 S.E.2d 500, 502
(Ga. 1988) (finding sheriff's department not a legal
entity subject to suit)). This Court, in considering Georgia
law, has previously concluded that a “State Prison, as
a division of the Georgia Department of Corrections, is not a
separate legal entity capable of being sued.” See
Jamelson v. Unnamed Defendant, Civil Action No.
6:17-cv-103, 2017 WL 6503630, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 19, 2017),
adopted by 2018 WL 616142 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 29, 2018).
because the State of Georgia would be the real party in
interest in a claim against Rogers State Prison, Eleventh
Amendment immunity also bars Plaintiff's claim. In
Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, the
United States Supreme Court, citing to longstanding
principles of state immunity, concluded that “a State
is not a person within the meaning of § 1983” and
applied this holding to “governmental entities that are
considered ‘arms of the State' for Eleventh
Amendment purposes.” 491 U.S. 58, 64, 70 (1989). Based
on the foregoing, Rogers State Prison is not a proper party
Defendant, and I RECOMMEND the Court
DISMISS Plaintiff's claim against Rogers
Claims for Monetary Damages Against Defendants in Their
also cannot bring a § 1983 claim for monetary damages
against the Defendants in their official capacities. See
Will, 491 U.S. at 71 (“[A] suit against a state
official in his or her official capacity is not a suit
against the official but rather is a suit against the
official's office”); see also Free v.
Granger, 887 F.2d 1552, 1557 (11th Cir. 1989)
(“Such an action is barred, because any damage award
would be paid out of the state treasury, an impermissible
occurrence under our constitutional scheme.”).
Therefore, I RECOMMEND the Court
DISMISS Plaintiff's § 1983 claim to
the extent it seeks monetary relief against Defendants in
their official capacities.
Claims of Cruel and Unusual Punishment and Deliberate
Indifference Based on Exposure to Cold “It is
unquestioned that ‘[c]onfinement in a prison . . . is a
form of punishment subject to scrutiny under the Eighth
Amendment standards.'” Rhodes v. Chapman,
452 U.S. 337, 345 (1981) (citation omitted). “The
Eighth Amendment, in only three words, imposes the
constitutional limitation upon punishments: they cannot be
‘cruel and unusual.'” Id.
“When conditions of confinement amount to cruel and
unusual punishment, ‘federal courts will discharge
their duty to protect constitutional rights.'”
Id. at 352 (citation omitted).
plaintiff seeking to show unconstitutional conditions of
confinement must clear a ‘high bar' by
deprivations.'” Ellis v. Pierce County,
415 Fed.Appx. 215, 217 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Chandler
v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1298 (11th Cir. 2004)).
Moreover, he must demonstrate the prison officials were
deliberately indifferent, specifically alleging the
defendants subjectively knew that the plaintiff faced a
substantial risk of serious harm, and that defendants
“disregarded that known risk by failing to respond to
it in an objectively reasonable manner.” See
Johnson v. Boyd, 568 Fed.Appx. 719, 721 (11th Cir.
2014); see also Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 303
(1991) (“Whether one characterizes the treatment
received by [the prisoner] as inhumane conditions of
confinement, failure to attend to his medical needs, or a
combination of both, it is appropriate to apply the
‘deliberate indifference' standard . . . .”)
(citation and quotation omitted).
to Plaintiff, Defendant Williams, at the direction of
Defendant Coleman, placed Plaintiff in an outdoor cage in the
segregation yard during freezing weather in only a T-shirt
and state issued pants. Doc. 10 at 4. Plaintiff alleges he
was left in the outdoor cage for over eight hours, during
which time the temperature dropped to 25 degrees.
Id. at 2-3. While outside, Defendant Williams
rejected Plaintiff's request for a coat, cap, socks, and
boots. Id. at 5. Plaintiff further alleges
Defendants Robinson, McFarlane, Copeland, and Hartmeyer, at
various points in the evening, all declined Plaintiff's
requests to be brought in from the cold. Id. at 2-3.
In response to Plaintiff's requests, Defendant Robinson
is alleged to have laughed at him and said, “Are you
cold enough yet you dumb Muslim, ” Defendant Copeland
is alleged to have laughed and said, “Fuck you, you
Muslim n****, ” and Defendant Hartmeyer is alleged to
have said, “Hell ...