United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MORALES HOWARD United States District Judge
Dwight Williams, an inmate of the Florida penal system,
initiated this action on May 31, 2016,  by filing a Civil
Rights Complaint (Doc. 1). Williams filed an Amended
Complaint (Amended Complaint; Doc. 13) on February 28, 2017.
He names as defendants Monroe Barnes and Robert Mercado. In
the Amended Complaint, Williams asserts that Defendants
permanently suspended Samona Taylor from visiting him in prison
in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. As relief, Williams seeks compensatory and
punitive damages, and “an injunction striking down the
indefinite suspension of” Samona Taylor's
visitation privileges. Amended Complaint at 7.
the Court is Defendant Mercado's Motion to Dismiss
(Mercado Motion; Doc. 23). The Court advised Williams that he
had thirty days to respond to a motion to dismiss and that
the granting of a motion to dismiss would be an adjudication
of the case that could foreclose subsequent litigation on the
matter (Court Order; Doc. 14). On May 23, 2017, Williams
filed a response in opposition to the Mercado Motion.
See Reply to Defendant Mercado's Motion to
Dismiss (Mercado Response; Doc. 27).
before the Court is Defendant Barnes' Motion to Dismiss
(Barnes Motion; Doc. 26). When Williams did not respond to
the Barnes Motion within thirty days, the Court directed
Williams (1) to show cause why the claims against Barnes
should not be dismissed for failure to comply with the Court
Order and (2) to file a response to the Barnes Motion by
August 9, 2017. Doc. 28. On August 2, 2017, Williams filed a
response in opposition to the Barnes Motion. See
Reply to Defendant Mercado's Motion to Dismiss (Barnes
Response; Doc. 29).
the Barnes Motion and Mercado Motion (collectively, the
Motions) present identical arguments in support of dismissal,
the Court will address the Motions together. The Court notes
that Barnes and Mercado also submitted identical exhibits in
support of the Motions. Docs. 23-1 and 26-1. Barnes and
Mercado state that the Court may consider the exhibits
without converting their Motions to ones for summary judgment
because they are central to Williams' claim and the
exhibits are authentic public records. See Barnes
Motion at 2; Mercado Motion at 2. Generally, a district court
“must convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for
summary judgment if it considers materials outside the
complaint.” Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272,
1275-76 (11th Cir. 2005). However, a district court may
consider material beyond the four corners of a complaint in
ruling on a motion to dismiss if the material “is (1)
central to the plaintiff's claim, and (2) its
authenticity is not challenged.” SFM Holdings, Ltd.
v. Banc of Am. Sec., LLC, 600 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir.
2010). Upon review of the Motions, the Court determines that
consideration of the exhibits submitted by Barnes and Mercado
is unnecessary to their resolution. Thus, whether or not the
exhibits meet the exception to the general rule, the Court
declines to consider them, and will analyze the Motions under
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the
factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009);
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1
(2002); see also Lotierzo v. Woman's World Med. Ctr.,
Inc., 278 F.3d 1180, 1182 (11th Cir. 2002). In addition,
all reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the
plaintiff. See Omar ex. rel. Cannon v. Lindsey, 334
F.3d 1246, 1247 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). Nonetheless,
the plaintiff must still meet some minimal pleading
requirements. Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomm., 372
F.3d 1250, 1262-63 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).
Indeed, while “[s]pecific facts are not necessary[,
]” the complaint should “‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). Further, the plaintiff must allege “enough
facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556);
see Miljkovic v.Shafritz and Dinkin, P.A.,
791 F.3d 1291, 1297 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation and footnote
omitted). A “plaintiff's obligation to provide the
grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do[.]”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations
omitted); see also Jackson, 372 F.3d at 1262
(explaining that “conclusory allegations, unwarranted
deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as
facts will not prevent dismissal”) (internal citation
and quotations omitted). Indeed, “the tenet that a
court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in
a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions[, ]”
which simply “are not entitled to [an] assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 680. Thus, in
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the 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[.]'” Id. at
678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Consistent
with this authority, the Eleventh Circuit has instructed:
To survive a motion to dismiss, [plaintiff]'s complaint
must have set out facts sufficient to "raise a right to
relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This means he must
have alleged "factual content that allow[ed] the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant[s] [were]
liable for the misconduct." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The allegations must be plausible,
but plausibility is not probability. See id.
Lane v. Philbin, 835 F.3d 1302, 1305 (11th Cir.
Williams' Amended Complaint 
April 27, 2014, Williams received a visit from Samona Taylor
during the visiting hours at Columbia Correctional
Institution. Amended Complaint at 4. After the visiting
hours, Mercado and Officer Marcus Cooper conducted strip
searches on Williams and other inmates. Id. During
the search of Williams' clothing, Mercado found tissue
paper and assumed the tissue paper was used “as an
attempt to push unknown contraband into [Williams'] anal
area.” Id. Williams tried to explain to
Mercado that the “supposed white object was nothing
more than wadded toilet paper” used for Williams
inflamed hemorrhoids, but Mercado refused to listen and
“ordered [Williams] to stop.” Id.
Mercado handcuffed Williams and escorted him to a dry cell
for further examination. Id. In the dry cell,
Williams removed the tissue paper from his rectal area and
gave it to the prison officials. Id. Prison
officials then physically and visually examined Williams'
rectum. Id. at 5. During this process, Mercado
“repeatedly stated that [Williams] would never see
[his] girlfriend again.” Id. After the
examination, prison officials moved Williams to an
administrative confinement cell. Id.
April 28, 2014, Mercado wrote a disciplinary report (DR)
stating that Williams disobeyed a verbal or written order.
Id. Prison officials found Williams guilty of
disobeying an order and “sentenced [him] ¶ 30 days
of DC confinement.” Id. Following the April
27th incident, prison officials suspended Samona Taylor's
visitation privileges with Williams. See id.
Williams “appealed the DR” to the Assistant
Warden. Id. Despite the fact that no contraband had
been found “on or in [Williams'] body, ” the
Assistant Warden denied the appeal on May 19, 2014.
28, 2014, Williams filed a grievance regarding the suspension
of Samona Taylor's visitation privileges. Id.
Classification Officer J. Tomlinson denied the grievance
stating “Samona Taylor's privileges were suspended
permanently based on the DR and incident report.”
Id. Williams appeal of the denial of this grievance
was “returned without action.” Id.
Williams filed another grievance on June 2, 2014, denying the
fact that he or Samona Taylor attempted to introduce
contraband into the correctional institution, and explaining
“how he was dry celled, and physically searched and no
contraband was ever found.” Id. at 5-6. On
June 11, 2014, Assistant Warden Polk denied the grievance
stating that an incident report completed on April 27, 2014,
provided enough evidence that Samona Taylor passed contraband
to Williams and Williams was “clearly observed
attempting to push contraband into his rectal area.”
Id. at 6. In the denial, the Assistant Warden noted
that Williams' visitation had been suspended indefinitely
for violating Chapter 33-601.727(1)(c) of the Florida
Administrative Code. Id. Williams appealed the
denial of the grievance to the Warden on February 25, 2015.
Id. at 7. The Warden denied the appeal
“stating that the visitor's visitation privileges
were suspended for a serious rule violation, and that
[Williams] was found guilty of an infraction involving ...