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Montana v. Vannoy

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 15, 2019

ELLIOT MONTANA (#293682)
v.
DARREL VANNOY, ET AL.

          NOTICE

          RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. 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 a Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of defendants Warden Darrel Vannoy, Asst. Warden Tracy Falgout, and Capt. Michael Simpson (R. Doc. 13). The motion is not opposed.

         The pro se plaintiff, an inmate confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (“LSP”), Angola, Louisiana, filed this proceeding pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against numerous defendants alleging that his constitutional rights have been violated due the use of excessive force, failure to protect the plaintiff from the use of excessive force, false disciplinary charges, and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.[1] He prays for injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief.

         The moving defendants first seek dismissal on jurisdictional grounds, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, of the plaintiff's claim against them in their official capacities. In this regard, the defendants are correct that § 1983 does not provide a federal forum for a litigant who seeks monetary damages against either a state or its officials acting in their official capacities, specifically because these officials are not seen to be “persons” 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, the plaintiff's claims asserted against the defendants in their official capacities, for monetary damages, are subject to dismissal. In contrast, the plaintiff's claims for monetary damages asserted against the defendants in their individual capacities remain 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. The plaintiff's claims for injunctive and declaratory relief also remain viable. Of course, the plaintiff must prove a deprivation of a constitutional right to obtain any relief.

         Turning to the plaintiff's claims that are not subject to dismissal on the basis of Eleventh Amendment immunity, the defendants next assert, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court clarified the standard of pleading that a plaintiff must meet in order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, supra, at 555. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, supra, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, supra. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. It follows that, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-'that the pleader is entitled to relief.' ” Id. at 679. “Where a Complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.' ” Id. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the Complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Further, “[a] document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed' ... and ‘a pro se Complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.' ” Id. (citation omitted). Notwithstanding, the court need not accept “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or “naked assertions [of unlawful conduct] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, supra, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In his Complaint as amended, the plaintiff alleges that on September 22, 2017 he was placed in restraints by Sgt. Wesley Spillman and taken to the upstairs lobby to make a phone call regarding a death in his family. The plaintiff was unable to make his call due to restrictions on the phone line, and he requested to speak with the shift major. The plaintiff was then taken back to the downstairs lobby and instructed to stand to the right side of the lobby while the field line was brought in from work.

         While standing in the downstairs lobby, the plaintiff was approached by defendant Simpson and the plaintiff explained his need to access an outside line and requested to speak with a shift major. Defendant Simpson denied the plaintiff's request and the plaintiff then declared himself a mental health emergency and asked to speak to his social workers. Defendant Simpson refused the plaintiff's request and ordered the plaintiff to return to his cell. The plaintiff refused and again requested to speak to his social worker.

         Defendant Simpson then reached into his pocket, retrieved a can of mace, and sprayed the plaintiff. The plaintiff was then thrown to the floor, was stomped and kicked, and again sprayed with mace by defendant Simpson. Sgt. Spillman was present during these events but did not intervene. Defendant Vannoy had prior notice of complaints against defendant Simpson for use of excessive force, but ...


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