United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while
incarcerated at D. Ray James Correctional Facility in
Folkston, Georgia, to challenge certain conditions of his
confinement. Doc. 1. Plaintiff also submitted a motion to
proceed in forma pauperis, which this Court granted.
Docs. 2, 4. After the requisite frivolity review, the Court
FINDS Plaintiff sets forth cognizable claims
for excessive force, deliberate indifference, and denial of
procedural due process against Defendants Brazeale and
Lawson. Additionally, for the reasons set forth below, I
RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS
Plaintiff's conditions of confinement, supervisory
liability, and deliberate indifference claims against
Defendants Lawson, Johns, and Cross, and
DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis
status on appeal as to those claims. Accordingly, the Court
DIRECTS the United States Marshal to serve
Defendants Brazeale and Lawson with a copy of Plaintiff's
Complaint, doc. 1, and this Order without prepayment of cost.
29, 2017, Correctional Officer Brazeale forcefully closed a
door on Plaintiff's back, causing him injury and
significant pain. Doc. 1 at 10. Plaintiff was walking outside
for a recreational period but had stopped in the doorway to
call to a friend when Brazeale became verbally abusive toward
him by “cursing and acting in an unprofessional
manner.” Id. at 11. Then, Brazeale
“reached for the door, using the door as a weapon to
hit [Plaintiff] in the back with force.” Id.
Plaintiff experienced agonizing pain and asked for help, but
Brazeale “continued to be abusive, ” and other
inmates would not help Plaintiff due to Brazeale's
“belligerent and unprofessional behavior.”
medical ward, immediately after he was struck, Plaintiff
complained of excruciating back pain and was prescribed pain
medication and muscle relaxers. Id. at 7. Plaintiff
also received crutches for walking. Id. The next
day, Plaintiff fell off his crutches, and Captain Lawson,
passing by, remarked to other inmates that Plaintiff was
faking his injuries. Id. Due to his fall, the
medical unit gave Plaintiff a wheelchair, and he continued to
take “multiple pain medications multiple times
daily.” Id. at 7. Days later, a
physician's assistant performed an x-ray and told
Plaintiff “something was seriously wrong with [his]
spine.” Id. Plaintiff wrote to Robyn Cross,
the Health Services Administrator, requesting additional
treatment but was instructed to “remain patient”
and wait for an appointment. Id. at 7-8.
Specifically, Plaintiff desired a CAT scan to assess his
spinal injuries but, as of the time of filing his Complaint,
Plaintiff had not received one. Id. at 8.
morning of June 6, 2017, Plaintiff received a medical
check-up in connection to the wheelchair he had been
prescribed. Id. at 9. Defendant Lawson appeared in
the medical ward and told Plaintiff he was faking, then
directed two correctional officers to remove Plaintiff from
the wheelchair and place him in a regular chair. Id.
Then, Lawson told Plaintiff to find his way back to his unit
on crutches. Id. While attempting to return to his
unit on crutches, in the rain, Plaintiff slipped and fell a
second time. Id. Medical staff found Plaintiff and
returned him to the medical ward on a stretcher where he was
given the wheelchair again. Id. Lawson returned to
the medical ward and appeared “furious, ” then
handcuffed Plaintiff and brought him to the Special Housing
Unit (“SHU”) where he remained for six days.
Id. Later, on July 14, 2017, Lawson blocked
Plaintiff from entering the dining hall where the other
inmates were eating because Plaintiff arrived late due to an
internal affairs interview connected to his spine injury.
Id. A different officer brought Plaintiff food to
eat. Id. at 9-10.
complains that Warden Johns has not “reprimanded or
disciplined” Brazeale or “attempted to rectify
the issue in any way, ” contending that, by refusing to
take action against Brazeale, the warden condones
Brazeale's actions. Id. at 7. Plaintiff
continues to have pain due to his back injury and suffers
sleepless nights due to his back pain. Id. at 7-8.
He seeks relief in the form of $5 million in compensatory
damages and $30 million in punitive damages. Id. at
20. Plaintiff submitted the record of his formal and informal
grievances connected to the foregoing events. Doc. 1-1. The
Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma
pauperis and now conducts the requisite frivolity
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, pursuant to
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
contends Defendant Johns, Warden of D. Ray James Correctional
Facility, is liable for failing to discipline Defendant
Brazeale after Brazeale allegedly injured him. Doc. 1 at
13-14. Section 1983 liability must be based on something more
than a defendant's supervisory position or a theory of
respondeat superior. Bryant v. Jones, 575 F.3d 1281,
1299 (11th Cir. 2009); Braddy v. Fla. Dep't of Labor
& Emp't Sec., 133 F.3d 797, 801 (11th Cir.
1998). A supervisor may be liable only through personal
participation in the alleged constitutional violation or when
there is a causal connection between the supervisor's
conduct and the alleged violations. Id. at 802.
“To state a claim against a supervisory defendant, the
plaintiff must allege (1) the supervisor's personal
involvement in the violation of his constitutional rights,
(2) the existence of a custom or policy that resulted in
deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's constitutional
rights, (3) facts supporting an inference that the supervisor
directed the unlawful action or knowingly failed to prevent
it, or (4) a history of widespread abuse that put the
supervisor on notice of an alleged deprivation that he then
failed to correct.” Barr v. Gee, 437 Fed.Appx.
865, 875 (11th Cir. 2011).
wishes to hold Defendant Johns liable based solely on
Johns' supervisory position as the Warden of the D. Ray
James Correctional Facility. Plaintiff asserts no factual
allegations that Johns directly participated in or was
otherwise causally connected to the alleged deprivations of
his constitutional rights. Rather, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant Johns “has implicitly condoned and authorized
the unnecessary use of violence and force against
inmates.” Doc. 1 at 7. Plaintiff states Defendant Johns
has a duty to “protect and provide a safe environment
for inmates.” Id. As set forth above, such
supervisory allegations are an insufficient basis for §
1983 liability. Moreover, as explained below, in order to
establish that a defendant violated his Eighth Amendment
rights, Plaintiff must show that the Defendant was
objectively aware of a risk to Plaintiff's safety and
that the defendant consciously disregarded that risk.
Plaintiff does not plausibly allege these elements as to
Defendant Johns. Rather, he relies upon an inference that
Defendant Johns-by not disciplining Defendant Brazeale-
supports the use of excessive force against inmates. Even
under the standard of review at this early stage, these
allegations do not survive. For these reasons, the Court
should DISMISS all claims against Defendant