Smith v. Danforth

7:10-cv-00090 | M.D. Ga. | Sep 3, 2010

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

VALDOSTA DIVISION : STEVEN EUGENE SMITH, : : Plaintiff, : : VS. : : NO. 7:10-CV-90 (HL) Warden WILLIAM C. DANFORTH and : Officers JAMES D. PRESCOTT and : NACOMBA D. HADLEY, :

: ORDER & RECOMMENDATION Defendants. : _____________________________________ Plaintiff STEVEN EUGENE SMITH , an inmate at Valdosta State Prison (“VSP”), originally filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. The Southern District of Georgia transferred the complaint to this Court, inasmuch as it was filed against individuals located in the Middle District of Georgia.

Plaintiff also seeks leave to proceed without prepayment of the $350.00 filing fee or security therefor pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Based on plaintiff’s submissions, the Court finds that plaintiff is unable to prepay the filing fee. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis and waives the initial partial filing fee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff is nevertheless obligated to pay the full filing fee, as will be directed later in this order and recommendation. The Clerk of Court is directed to send a copy of this order to the business manager of VSP.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), a federal court is required to conduct an initial screening of a prisoner complaint “which seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” Section 1915A(b) requires a federal court to dismiss a prisoner complaint that is: (1) “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted”; or (2) “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.”

A claim is frivolous when it appears from the face of the complaint that the factual allegations are “clearly baseless” or that the legal theories are “indisputably meritless.” Carroll v. Gross , 984 F.2d 392" date_filed="1993-02-25" court="11th Cir." case_name="Joseph Carroll v. Paul A. Gross, Sr., Bette Ellen Quial, Patricia A. Seitz">984 F.2d 392, 393 (11 th Cir. 1993). A complaint fails to state a claim when it does not include “enough factual matter (taken as true)” to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests[.]” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544" date_filed="2007-05-21" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly">550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007) (noting that “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level,” and that the complaint “must contain something more . . . than … a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action”) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (explaining that “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice”).

In making the above determinations, all factual allegations in the complaint must be viewed as true. Brown v. Johnson , 387 F.3d 1344" date_filed="2004-10-18" court="11th Cir." case_name="John Ruddin Brown v. Lisa Johnson">387 F.3d 1344, 1347 (11 th Cir. 2004). Moreover, “[p]ro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.” Tannenbaum v. United States , 148 F.3d 1262" date_filed="1998-08-04" court="11th Cir." case_name="Tannenbaum v. United States">148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11 th Cir. 1998).

In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) an act or omission deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a statute of the United States; and (2) the act or omission was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Hale v. Tallapoosa County , 50 F.3d 1579" date_filed="1995-05-02" court="3rd Cir." case_name="Larry Wayne Hale v. Tallapoosa County">50 F.3d 1579, 1581 (11 th Cir. 1995). If a litigant cannot satisfy these requirements, or fails to provide factual allegations in support of his claim or claims, then the complaint is subject to dismissal. See Chappell v. Rich , 340 F.3d 1279" date_filed="2003-08-11" court="11th Cir." case_name="Shelton Chappell v. J.W. Rich">340 F.3d 1279, 1282-84 (11 th Cir. 2003) (affirming the district court’s dismissal of a section 1983 complaint because the plaintiff’s factual allegations were insufficient to support the alleged constitutional violation). See also 28 U.S.C. 1915A(b) (dictating that a complaint, or any portion thereof, that does not pass the standard in section 1915A “shall” be dismissed on preliminary review).

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff’s claims arise out of an incident that occurred at VSP on April 16, 2010. According to plaintiff, he was attacked and “nearly stabbed to death” by other inmates. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Officers James D. Prescott and Nacomba D. Hadley [1] witnessed the attack and failed to timely intervene. Thereafter, the officers allegedly documented the incident as if plaintiff were the aggressor, in order to cover up the defendants’ “negligence, security bre[a]ch, and response time, unprofessionalism, and biousness [sic].” As relief, plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

In addition to defendant Officers Prescott and Hadley, plaintiff sues Warden William C. Danforth. [2]

III. DISCUSSION

A. Warden William C. Danforth Plaintiff’s complaint does not allege that defendant Warden William C. Danforth was

involved in the events of April 16th. Supervisors are not responsible for the actions of subordinates under section 1983. Instead, a supervisor may be liable only if he: “(1) instituted a custom or policy which resulted in a violation of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights; (2) directed his subordinates to act unlawfully; or (3) failed to stop his subordinates from acting unlawfully when he knew they would.” Gross v. White , 2009 WL 2074234 at *2 (11 th Cir. July 17, 2009) (citing Goebert v. Lee County , 510 F.3d 1312" date_filed="2007-12-21" court="11th Cir." case_name="Goebert v. Lee County">510 F.3d 1312, 1331 (11 th Cir. 2007)). Plaintiff has not alleged that Danforth has satisfied any of the above prerequisites for supervisory liability. Accordingly, it is RECOMMENDED that Warden William C. Danforth be DISMISSED from this action.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), plaintiff may serve and file written objections to these recommendations with the district judge to whom this case is assigned, within fourteen (14) days after being served a copy of this order.

B. Officers James D. Prescott and Nacomba D. Hadley Construing the complaint liberally in favor of plaintiff, the Court will allow plaintiff’s claims

against Officers James D. Prescott and Nacomba D. Hadley to go forward. It is hereby ORDERED that service be made against Officers James D. Prescott and Nacomba D. Hadley, and that they file a Waiver of Reply, an Answer, or such other response as may be appropriate under Rule 12 of the F EDERAL R ULES OF C IVIL P ROCEDURE , U.S.C. § 1915, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act .

DUTY TO ADVISE OF ADDRESS CHANGE

During the pendency of this action, all parties shall at all times keep the clerk of this court and all opposing attorneys and/or parties advised of their current address. Failure to promptly advise the Clerk of any change of address may result in the dismissal of a party’s pleadings filed herein.

DUTY TO PROSECUTE ACTION

Plaintiff is advised that she must diligently prosecute her complaint or face the possibility that it will be dismissed under Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to prosecute. Defendants are advised that they are expected to diligently defend all allegations made against them and to file timely dispositive motions as hereinafter directed. This matter will be set down for trial when the court determines that discovery has been completed and that all motions have been disposed of or the time for filing dispositive motions has passed.

FILING AND SERVICE OF MOTIONS, PLEADINGS, DISCOVERY AND CORRESPONDENCE

It is the responsibility of each party to file original motions, pleadings, discovery, and correspondence with the Clerk of court; to serve copies of all motions, pleadings, discovery, and correspondence upon opposing parties or counsel for opposing parties if they are represented; and to attach to said original motions, pleadings, and discovery filed with the Clerk a certificate of service indicating who has been served and where (i.e., at what address), when service was made, and how service was accomplished (i.e., by U.S. Mail, by personal service, etc.). The Clerk of Court will not serve or forward copies of such motions, pleadings, discovery and correspondence on behalf of the parties.

DISCOVERY

Plaintiff shall not commence discovery until an answer or dispositive motion has been filed on behalf of the defendants from whom discovery is sought by the plaintiff. The defendants shall not commence discovery until such time as an answer or dispositive motion has been filed. Once an answer or dispositive motion has been filed, the parties are authorized to seek discovery from one another as provided in the F EDERAL R ULES OF C IVIL P ROCEDURE . The deposition of the plaintiff, a state/county prisoner, may be taken at any time during the time period hereinafter set out provided prior arrangements are made with his custodian. Plaintiff is hereby advised that failure to submit to a deposition may result in the dismissal of his lawsuit under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that discovery (including depositions and interrogatories) shall be completed within 90 days of the date of filing of an answer or dispositive motion by the defendant (whichever comes first) unless an extension is otherwise granted by the court upon a showing of good cause therefor or a protective order is sought by the defendants and granted by the court. This 90-day period shall run separately as to each plaintiff and each defendant beginning on the date of filing of each defendant’s answer or dispositive motion (whichever comes first). The scheduling of a trial may be advanced upon notification from the parties that no further discovery is contemplated or that discovery has been completed prior to the deadline.

Discovery materials shall not be filed with the Clerk of Court. No party shall be required to respond to any discovery not directed to him/her or served upon him/her by the opposing counsel/party. The undersigned incorporates herein those parts of the Local Rules imposing the following limitations on discovery: except with written permission of the court first obtained, INTERROGATORIES may not exceed TWENTY-FIVE (25) to each party, REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS AND THINGS under Rule 34 of the F EDERAL R ULES OF C IVIL P ROCEDURE may not exceed TEN (10) requests to each party, and REQUESTS FOR ADMISSIONS under Rule 36 of the F EDERAL R ULES OF C IVIL P ROCEDURE may not exceed FIFTEEN (15) requests to each party. No party shall be required to respond to any such requests which exceed these limitations.

REQUESTS FOR DISMISSAL AND/OR JUDGMENT

Dismissal of this action or requests for judgment will not be considered by the court absent the filing of a separate motion therefor accompanied by a brief/memorandum of law citing supporting authorities. Dispositive motions should be filed at the earliest time possible, but in any event no later than thirty (30) days after the close of discovery unless otherwise directed by the court.

DIRECTIONS TO CUSTODIAN OF PLAINTIFF

Following the payment of the required initial partial filing fee or the waiving of the payment of same, the Warden of the institution wherein plaintiff is incarcerated, or the Sheriff of any county wherein she is held in custody, and any successor custodians, shall each month cause to be remitted to the Clerk of this court twenty percent (20%) of the preceding month’s income credited to plaintiff’s account at said institution until the $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full. In accordance with provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act , plaintiff’s custodian is hereby authorized to forward payments from the prisoner’s account to the Clerk of Court each month until the filing fee is paid in full, provided the amount in the account exceeds $10.00.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND DIRECTED that collection of monthly payments from plaintiff’s trust fund account shall continue until the entire $350.00 has been collected, notwithstanding the dismissal of plaintiff’s lawsuit or the granting of judgment against her prior to the collection of the full filing fee.

PLAINTIFF’S OBLIGATION TO PAY FILING FEE

Pursuant to provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act , in the event plaintiff is hereafter released from the custody of the State of Georgia or any county thereof, he shall remain obligated to pay any balance due on the filing fee in this proceeding until said amount has been paid in full; plaintiff shall continue to remit monthly payments as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act . Collection from the plaintiff of any balance due on the filing fee by any means permitted by law is hereby authorized in the event plaintiff is released from custody and fails to remit payments. In addition, plaintiff’s complaint is subject to dismissal if he has the ability to make monthly payments and fails to do so.

ELECTION TO PROCEED BEFORE THE

UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Under Local Rule 72, all prisoner complaints filed under provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are referred to a full-time United States Magistrate Judge for this district for consideration of all pretrial matters. In addition, 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) authorizes and empowers full-time magistrate judges to conduct any and all proceedings in a jury or nonjury civil matter and to order the entry of judgment in a case upon the written consent of all the parties. Whether the parties elect to proceed before a magistrate judge or retain their right to proceed before a U.S. district judge is strictly up to the parties themselves.

After the filing of responsive pleadings by the defendants, the Clerk of court is directed to provide election forms to the parties and/or to their legal counsel, if represented. Upon receipt of the election forms, each party shall cause the same to be executed and returned to the Clerk’s Office within fifteen (15) days. Counsel may execute election forms on behalf of their clients provided they have such permission from their clients. However, counsel must specify on the election forms on whose behalf the form is executed.

SO ORDERED and RECOMMENDED , this 3 rd day of September, 2010.

S/

THOMAS Q. LANGSTAFF

UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

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NOTES

[1] Throughout his complaint, plaintiff refers to “the officers.” Presumably he means defendant Officers James D. Prescott and Nacomba D. Hadley, as named in the caption of the complaint.

[2] In the caption of plaintiff’s complaint, plaintiff named the State of Georgia as a defendant. On page 4 of his complaint, however, under the section that asks for the full name of each defendant, plaintiff listed Prescott, Hadley, and Danforth. The Court will construe plaintiff’s pleadings as having named Prescott, Hadley, and Danforth as parties to this lawsuit, and not the State of Georgia. In any case, the State of Georgia is not a “person” who may be sued in an action brought under section 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police , 491 U.S. 58" date_filed="1989-06-15" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Will v. Michigan Department of State Police">491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).