United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
18), and the Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies (Doc.
19) filed by Lieutenant Emanuel Ellis and Sergeant
Jesse Dunn ("Defendants"). In the Motion to
Dismiss, Defendants seek to dismiss any claims brought
against them in their official capacities under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). (Doc. 18-1 at p. 2). In the Partial Motion for
Summary Judgment, Defendants seek to dismiss several claims
because Plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative
remedies and on the basis that verbal threats alone do not
give rise to a constitutional violation. (Doc. 19-2 at pp. 2,
6-7). Plaintiff filed oppositions, (Docs. 20, 32), Defendant
filed a reply, (Doc. 34), and Plaintiff filed a
sur-opposition, (Doc. 29), where applicable. For reasons
explained fully herein, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
18) is DENIED, and the
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc.
19) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN
Aucoin ("Plaintiff") is an inmate at the Dixon
Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana. (Doc. 1 at p.
2). He alleges that on February 26, 2015, Lieutenant Ellis
placed him in restraints, removed him from his cell, and then
beat him. Id. at ¶¶ 7-9. Plaintiff further
alleges that Sergeant Dunn stood by and watched and praised
Lieutenant Ellis for beating him. Id. Plaintiff
claims that he suffered a black eye, busted lip, marks on his
neck and stomach, and bruised ribs from the beating.
Id. at ¶ 9. He further alleges that he has
permanent damage to his right eye, and that he continues to
spit up blood as a result of being beaten. Id. at
Dixon Correctional Institute, like all Louisiana prisons, has
a two-step administrative grievance process to address
prisoner complaints. La. Admin. Code. Tit. 22, §
325(F)(3)(a)(iii). At step one, a prisoner must file a
request for an administrative remedy or write a letter to the
warden, setting out the basis for the claim, and the relief
sought. § 325(G)(1)(a)(i). These letters "should be
as brief as possible, " but "should present as many
facts as possible to answer all questions (who, what, when,
where and how) concerning the incident." §
screening officer then notifies the prisoner about whether
the grievance will be processed, or rejected as a result of a
procedural rule violation. § 325(I)(1). Once accepted,
the warden must reply to the grievance within forty days.
§ 325(J)(1)(a). If a prisoner is not satisfied with the
response, they may proceed to step two and appeal the
warden's decision to the Secretary of the Department of
Public Safety and Corrections. § 325(J)(1)(b)(i). A
final decision must be made by the Secretary within
forty-five days. § 325(J)(1)(b)(ii).
alleges that after filing a grievance about the alleged
beating, Lieutenant Ellis made racist statements toward him
on April 17, 2015. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 14). In response to the
alleged racist statements, Plaintiff alleges that he filed
another grievance." Id. Plaintiff also claims that
on June 23, 2015, in further retaliation for filing
grievances, Sergeant Dunn told him that he "could turn
his six months into 7 years by putting false charges on
him" and Lieutenant Ellis threatened to knock the rest
of his teeth out. Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff avers
that he filed another grievance based on these threats.
February 1, 2016, Plaintiff brought suit against Lieutenant
Ellis and Sergeant Dunn under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
that Defendants used corporal punishment and excessive force
in violation of the Fourth and Eighth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution, and that Defendants retaliated against him for
filing prison grievances in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 35). Plaintiff also seeks
attorney's fees and costs under § 1988 and punitive
damages under § 1983. Id.
MOTION TO DISMISS
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is analyzed under the
same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).
Benton v. United States, 960 F.2d 19, 21 (5th Cir.
1992) (per curiam). "A claim may not be dismissed unless
it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of
facts that would entitle him to legal relief." In re
Supreme Beef Processors, Inc., 468 F.3d 248, 251 (5th
Cir. 2006) (en banc). This Court "take[s] the well-pled
factual allegations of the complaint as true and view[s] them
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Lane
v. Halliburton, 529 F.3d 548, 557 (5th Cir. 2008).
party asserting federal jurisdiction bears the burden of
proof on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). Ramming v. United
States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). When a
district court finds that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, its determination is not on the merits of the
case, and does not bar the plaintiff from pursuing the claim
in a proper jurisdiction. Hitt v. City of Pasadena,
561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977) (per curiam); Aucoin v.
Cupil, No. 16-CV-00373, 2017 WL 3633449, at *1 (M.D. La.
Aug. 22, 2017).
argue that they are entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign
immunity insofar as Plaintiff sued them in their official, as
opposed to individual, capacity. (Doc. 18-1 at pp. 1-2).
Plaintiff maintains that he has only sued Defendants in an
individual capacity, and not in an official capacity. (Doc.
20 at p. 1). "Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity
deprives a federal court of jurisdiction to hear a suit
against a state." Warnock v. Pecos Cnty., Tex.,88 F.3d 341, 343 (5th Cir. 1996). A § 1983 suit against
a state official in his official capacity is treated as a
suit against the state. See Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S.
21, 25 (1991). Therefore, if Plaintiff sued Defendants in
their official capacity, the suit would be barred by
sovereign immunity, and dismissal would be proper. Where it
is unclear in which capacity a defendant is sued, courts may
look to the "course of proceedings" for
clarification. United States ex rel. Adrian v. Regents of
Univ. of Cal.,363 F.3d 398, 402-03 (5th Cir. 2004);
see also Graham, 473 U.S. at 167 n.14 ("In many