United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action
by filing a pro se Civil Rights Complaint (Doc. 1)
(Complaint), under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff names
five defendants: Julie L. Jones, Captain William B. Blitch,
Sergeant John Doe Tomlin, Sergeant R. Lee, and Sergeant John
Doe Butler, whom he sues in their official and individual
capacities. See Complaint at 1, 5-6. Plaintiff
asserts claims for for excessive use of force and failure to
intervene, under the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 7-8.
Specifically, he alleges that on October 6, 2017, Tomlin,
Lee, and Butler, dressed in riot gear, beat him in the
shower, causing physical injuries. Id. at 9-10. He
asserts that Blitch “allowed and permitted” the
beating and failed to intervene. Id. at 8-9.
Plaintiff seeks damages and declaratory and injunctive
relief. Id. at 11.
to this Court's screening obligation under the Prison
Litigation Reform Act, a district court shall dismiss a
complaint or any portion of a complaint if the court
determines that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or
“seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” See 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915A, 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). With respect to
whether a complaint “fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted, ” §§ 1915A and
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) mirror the language of Rule 12(b)(6),
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, so courts apply the same
standard in both contexts. Mitchell v. Farcass, 112
F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Alba v.
Montford, 517 F.3d 1249, 1252 (11th Cir. 2008).
“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, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In reviewing a pro se
plaintiff's pleadings, a court must liberally construe
the plaintiff's allegations. See Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Bingham v.
Thomas, 654 F.3d 1171, 1175 (11th Cir. 2011). However,
the duty of a court to construe pro se pleadings
liberally does not require the court to serve as
“de facto counsel” for the plaintiff.
Freeman v. Sec'y, Dept. of Corr., 679 Fed.Appx.
982, 982 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing GJR Invs., Inc. v. Cty.
Of Escambia, 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998)).
claims against Secretary Jones are due to be dismissed under
this Court's screening obligation. First, with respect to
Plaintiff's claim for damages against Jones in her
official capacity, she is entitled to immunity under the
Eleventh Amendment. See Zatler v. Wainwright, 802
F.2d 397, 400 (11th Cir. 1986). Second, Plaintiff has failed
to state a claim for relief against Jones. To state a claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1)
the defendant deprived him of a right secured under the
United States Constitution or federal law, and (2) such
deprivation occurred under color of state law. Salvato v.
Miley, 790 F.3d 1286, 1295 (11th Cir. 2015). In the
absence of a federal constitutional deprivation or violation
of a federal right, a plaintiff cannot sustain a cause of
action against a defendant.
only mention of Jones in Plaintiff's Complaint appears in
the caption and in the section identifying the parties.
See Complaint at 1, 5-6. Plaintiff names Jones
simply in her role as Secretary of the Florida Department of
Corrections because he filed grievances to her office
complaining both about the alleged incident and his
dissatisfaction with the grievance process. See
Complaint Ex. A, C, D, E, F (Docs. 1-1, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6).
To the extent Plaintiff sues Jones to express his
dissatisfaction with the grievance process at Florida State
Prison or her office's responses to his complaints about
the grievance process, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
for relief. See Bingham, 654 F.3d at 1177
(“[A] prison grievance procedure does not provide an
inmate with a constitutionally protected interest.”).
to the extent Plaintiff names Jones in her role as supervisor
of the other named Defendants, Plaintiff's claim also
fails. “It is well established in this Circuit that
supervisory officials are not liable under § 1983 for
the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates on the basis
of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.”
Cottone v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1360 (11th Cir.
2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
“The standard by which a supervisor is held liable in
[her] individual capacity for the actions of a subordinate is
extremely rigorous.” Id. Supervisor liability
arises only “when the supervisor personally
participates in the alleged constitutional violation or when
there is a causal connection between the actions of the
supervising official and the alleged constitutional
deprivation.” Mathews v. Crosby, 480 F.3d
1265, 1270 (11th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and
The necessary causal connection can be established
‘when a history of widespread abuse puts the
responsible supervisor on notice of the need to correct the
alleged deprivation, and he fails to do so.'
Alternatively, the causal connection may be established when
a supervisor's ‘custom or policy ... result[s] in
deliberate indifference to constitutional rights' or when
facts support ‘an inference that the supervisor
directed the subordinates to act unlawfully or knew that the
subordinates would act unlawfully and failed to stop them
from doing so.'
Cottone, 326 F.3d at 1360 (internal citations
omitted). See also Reid v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't
of Corr., 486 Fed.Appx. 848, 852 (11th Cir. 2012)
(affirming summary judgment in favor of a defendant sued
“only in his supervisory capacity” because the
plaintiff asserted no allegations that the defendant
participated in the action or that he was causally
responsible for any violations). Plaintiff does not allege
that Jones personally participated in the alleged incident,
created or ratified a policy approving the excessive use of
force against inmates, or directed the other named Defendants
to use force against Plaintiff. See Complaint at
7-10. Indeed, Plaintiff includes absolutely no factual
allegations as to Jones' actions or inactions with
respect to the alleged excessive force incident for which he
seeks relief. Because Plaintiff does not state a claim
against Jones, the Court will dismiss her from this action.
it is ORDERED:
1. Defendant Julie L. Jones is DISMISSED without
2. The Clerk of Court is directed to
terminate Defendant Jones from the docket.
3. The Court will enter a separate order directing service of
process on the remaining named Defendants.