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Hickson v. Groom

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

August 13, 2018

HENRY HICKSON (#369635)
v.
GROOM, MASTER SGT., ET AL.

          NOTICE

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have fourteen (14) days after being served with the attached Report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions, and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge which have been accepted by the District Court.

         ABSOLUTELY NO EXTENSION OF TIME SHALL BE GRANTED TO FILE WRITTEN OBJECTIONS TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE=S REPORT.

         MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Tim Delaney, the State of Louisiana, and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (R. Doc. 13). This Motion is not opposed.[1]

         Pro se Plaintiff, an inmate confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (“LSP”), Angola, Louisiana, brought this proceeding pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against MSgt. Groom, MSgt. Woods, Col. McKey, Ass't Warden Tim Delaney, the State of Louisiana, and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, complaining that Defendants violated his constitutional rights, commencing in June 2016, by refusing to allow him any opportunity for exercise outside of his cell while he was confined in administrative segregation.

         In the instant Motion, Defendants Tim Delaney, the State of Louisiana, and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections seek dismissal on jurisdictional grounds, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Initially, as to the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Corrections, Defendants are clearly correct that Plaintiff's claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. Under the Eleventh Amendment, an unconsenting state is generally immune from any lawsuit seeking monetary damages or equitable relief brought in federal courts by her citizens or by the citizens of other states. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). Although Congress has the power to abrogate this immunity through the Fourteenth Amendment, it has not done so as to claims for the deprivation of civil rights under color of state law under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979). Accordingly, absent consent or waiver, not here present, the State of Louisiana is immune from suit in federal court under § 1983. This shield of immunity also extends to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections as an arm or agency of the State. See, e.g., Anderson v. Phelps, 655 F.Supp. 560, 563-64 (M.D. La. 1985). See also Lova v. Texas Dept. of Corrections, 878 F.2d 860, 861 (5th Cir. 1989). Accordingly, these Defendants are subject to dismissal as a matter of law.

         Turning to Plaintiff's claim asserted against Defendant Tim Delaney, Defendants are also correct that Plaintiff is not entitled to assert a claim for monetary damages against Defendant Delaney in his official capacity. In this regard, § 1983 does not provide a federal forum for a litigant who seeks monetary damages against a state official acting in an official capacity, specifically because such official is not seen to be a “person” within the meaning of § 1983. Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). In addition, in Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991), the United States Supreme Court addressed the distinction between official capacity and individual capacity lawsuits and made clear that a suit against a state official in an official capacity for monetary damages is treated as a suit against the state and is therefore barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at 25. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claim asserted against Defendant Delaney in his official capacity for monetary damages is subject to dismissal. In contrast, Plaintiff's claim for monetary damages asserted against Defendant Delaney in his individual capacity remains theoretically viable because a claim against a state official in an individual capacity, seeking to impose personal liability for actions taken under color of state law, is not treated as a suit against the state. Id. at 29.[2]

         Accordingly, based upon the foregoing, it is appropriate that the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Tim Delaney, the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (R. Doc. 13) be granted, dismissing Plaintiff's claims asserted against the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Corrections and dismissing Plaintiff's claims asserted against Defendant Tim Delaney in Defendant's Delaney's official capacity, reserving to Plaintiff his claim asserted against Defendant Delaney in Defendant's individual capacity.

         RECOMMENDATION

         It is recommended that the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Tim Delaney, the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (R. Doc. 13) be granted, dismissing Plaintiff's claims asserted against the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Corrections and dismissing Plaintiff's claims asserted against Defendant Tim Delaney in the Defendant's official capacity, reserving to Plaintiff his claim asserted against Defendant Delaney in Defendant's individual capacity. It is further recommended that this matter be referred back to the Magistrate Judge for further proceedings.

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