United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
JOHN T. DANIEL, Plaintiff,
TERENCE KILPATRICK; TAMARSHA SMITH; CLARK; RIVERA; and GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
who is incarcerated at Hancock State Prison in Sparta,
Georgia, brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action to
challenge certain conditions of his confinement at Smith
State Prison in Glennville, Georgia. Doc. 1. The Court
granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Docs. 2, 5. For the reasons set forth below, I
RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's monetary damages
claims against all Defendants in their official capacities
and all claims against Defendant Georgia Department of
Corrections. Further, I RECOMMEND the Court DENY Plaintiff
leave to appeal in forma pauperis as to these
claims. However, I FIND Plaintiff's claims for excessive
force, deliberate indifference, and retaliation are not due
to be dismissed at this time. Consequently, a copy of
Plaintiff's Complaint, doc. 1, and a copy of this Order
shall be served upon Defendants Rivera, Clark, Smith, and
Kilpatrick by the United States Marshals Service without
prepayment of cost.
4, 2018, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Smith State
Prison, Defendant Rivera went to Plaintiff's cell and
repeatedly slammed Plaintiff's arm in the metal tray
flap. Doc. 1 at 5. Defendant Rivera then attempted to pepper
spray Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff asked Defendant
Rivera to visit the medical clinic for treatment of his arm
but was denied. Id. Plaintiff alleges he filed a
grievance to Defendants Kilpatrick, Smith, and Clark, who
referred the excessive force claim for a criminal
investigation, but did not respond or take action on his
request for medical care. Id. at 6. Plaintiff states
Defendant Rivera later threatened him for filing a grievance.
Id. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, court
costs, and a transfer away from Defendant Rivera.
Id. at 8.
seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 his assets and 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
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii).
reviewing a complaint on an application to proceed in
forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions
for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. 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
Official Capacity Claims
unclear whether Plaintiff is suing the named Defendants in
their individual or official capacities. However, Plaintiff
cannot sustain a § 1983 claim for monetary damages
against Defendants in their official capacities. States are
immune from private suits pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment
and traditional principles of state sovereignty. Alden v.
Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 712-13 (1999). Section 1983 does
not abrogate the well-established immunities of a state from
suit without its consent. Will v. Mich. Dep't of
State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 67 (1989). Because a lawsuit
against a state agency or a state officer in his official
capacity is “no different from a suit against the
[s]tate itself, ” such defendants are immune from suit
under § 1983. Id. at 71.
the State of Georgia would be the real party in interest in a
suit against Defendants in their official capacities as
employees of the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Accordingly, the Eleventh Amendment immunizes Defendants from
suit for monetary damages in their official capacities.
See Free v. Granger, 887 F.2d 1552, 1557 (11th Cir.
1989). Absent a waiver of that immunity, Plaintiff cannot
sustain any constitutional claims against Defendants in their
official capacities for monetary relief. However, to the
extent Plaintiff successfully states a constitutional claim,
he may seek injunctive relief against any Defendant in their
official capacity. Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123,
148-50 (1908). Therefore, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS all
claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their
official capacities under § 1983.
Plaintiff's Claims Against the Georgia Department of
named the Georgia Department of Corrections as a Defendant
but failed to provide any facts or theories to support these
claims. Even if Plaintiff alleged a cognizable § 1983
claim against the Georgia Department of Corrections, such a
claim would ultimately fail. The immunity provisions of the
Eleventh Amendment serve as a bar to § 1983 actions
against the Georgia Department of Corrections. Stevens v.
Gay, 864 F.2d 113, 115 (11th Cir. 1989) (“The
Eleventh Amendment bars [a plaintiff's § 1983]
action against the Georgia Department of Corrections . . .
.”). This bar applies regardless of whether Plaintiff
seeks money damages or prospective injunctive relief.
Id. Accordingly, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS the
Georgia Department of Corrections from this action.
Plaintiff's Excessive Force Claim ...