Johnson v. Whitman et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 6/9/2014. (KAM, )
2014 Jun-09 AM 11:46
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JERRY WAYNE JOHNSON,
JAMES WHITMAN, et al.,
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Jerry Wayne Johnson (“Johnson”) filed a civil rights action in this Court,
seeking money damages along with declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 (“§ 1983”). Both Defendants have filed an answer responding to the claims for
money damages, but a dispute remains as to the demands for declaratory and
injunctive relief. Defendant Rick Harris (“Harris”) has moved to dismiss those
demands. (Doc. 7.) Johnson has opposed the motion but has also moved for leave to
file an amended complaint. (Doc. 12.) For the reasons discussed below, Harris’s
motion to dismiss is due to be granted, and Johnson’s motion for leave to amend is
due to be denied.
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Johnson was incarcerated at the Winston County jail (the “Jail”) in the summer
of 2013. Defendant James Whitman was employed as a corrections officer at the Jail,
and Defendant Harris was the sheriff of Winston County, Alabama.
In July 2013, Johnson broke his wrist at the Jail. He claims that even though Jail
employees knew about his injury, Harris and Whitman denied him appropriate
medical treatment. Instead of promptly treating his injury, he contends that the
Defendants delayed his care for approximately 12 to 14 weeks before he was ultimately
able to see a doctor who then diagnosed the fractured wrist. According to Johnson, the
Jail’s inadequate medical treatment and screening policies contributed to his injury.
Outside these incidents in the summer of 2013, Johnson has not pleaded that he either
continues to be incarcerated in the Jail or is likely to be held there in the future.1
On April 16, 2014, Johnson filed his complaint in this Court. He alleges a § 1983
claim based on deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Johnson’s claims against
the Defendants for money damages are not at issue. However, Johnson demands
injunctive and declaratory relief against Harris in his official capacity, seeking to have
this Court declare a number of policies at the Jail unconstitutional.
Elsewhere in the complaint, Johnson pleaded that he was denied medical care “[a]t various
times [, and] for obvious serious medical needs of which [Defendants] were aware.” (Doc. 1 at 5 ¶
25.) However, there is no indication as to when these denials occurred or whether these incidents
are separate from his complaints about his wrist.
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STANDARD OF REVIEW
Standing is an Article III doctrine limiting the jurisdiction of the federal courts
to actual “cases” and “controversies.” Socialist Workers Party v. Leahy, 145 F.3d
1240, 1244 (11th Cir. 1998). In order to establish standing, a plaintiff “must
demonstrate injury in fact, causation, and redressability.” I.L. v. Alabama, 739 F.3d
1273, 1278 (11th Cir. 2014). As Johnson is the party invoking this Court’s jurisdiction,
he has the burden of establishing standing. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S.
555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 2136 (1992).
“[E]ach element of standing must be supported ‘with the manner and degree
of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.’” Church v. City of
Huntsville, 30 F.3d 1332, 1336 (11th Cir. 1994) (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561, 112
S.Ct. at 2136). When raised at the motion to dismiss stage, “general factual allegations
of injury resulting from the defendant’s conduct may be sufficient to show standing.”
America’s Health Ins. Plans v. Hudgens, 742 F.3d 1319, 1327 (11th Cir. 2014). However,
a defendant may raise a facial attack upon a plaintiff’s standing, and the Court must
consider whether the allegations in the complaint, taken as true, support an inference
of standing. See Carmichael v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 572 F.3d 1271, 1279
(11th Cir. 2009).
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At this stage in the litigation, Harris has raised a facial challenge to Johnson’s
standing to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief only. Unlike money damages, both
declaratory and injunctive relief are forms of prospective relief. See McGee v. Solicitor
Gen. of Richmond Cnty., Ga., 727 F.3d 1322, 1325 (11th Cir. 2013) (explaining that
“[d]eclaratory relief is by its nature prospective”); see also Church, 30 F.3d at 1337
(noting that “injunctions regulate future conduct”). “For a plaintiff seeking
prospective relief to have standing, he ‘must show a sufficient likelihood that he will
be affected by the allegedly unlawful conduct in the future.’” Koziara v. City of
Casselberry, 392 F.3d 1302, 1305 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Johnson v. Bd. of Regents,
263 F.3d 1234, 1265 (11th Cir. 2001).
In his complaint, Johnson pleaded that he was injured around July 7, 2013, and
that the Defendants deprived him of treatment for roughly 12 to 14 weeks. (Doc. 1 at
¶¶ 4, 8.) Although it is clear that Johnson was incarcerated during this time, he has
not pleaded any additional facts about his contact with the Jail. However, he conceded
in his brief opposing the motion to dismiss that “[t]he Plaintiff is not presently in
custody in the Winston County Jail.” (Doc. 11 at 5.) Even had he not made such a
concession in his brief, Johnson’s allegations of past injury alone would not be
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sufficient to support an inference of standing to seek prospective relief for future
injuries. See, e.g., Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1173 (11th Cir. 1985) (“Past exposure
to illegal conduct does not constitute a present case or controversy involving
injunctive relief if unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects.”).2
Instead, Johnson’s pleaded facts, if ultimately proven, suggest that he was
damaged in the past but does not face an imminent threat of future injury, entitling
him to a claim for money damages but not claims for declaratory and injunctive relief.
See Adler v. Duval County School Bd., 112 F.3d 1475, 1477 (11th Cir. 1997) (“Equitable
relief is a prospective remedy, intended to prevent future injuries. In contrast, a claim
for money damages looks back in time and is intended to redress a past injury.”).
When a prisoner has been held in a jail but is later released or transferred, “[t]he
general rule is that a prisoner’s transfer or release from a jail moots his individual
claim for declaratory and injunctive relief.” McKinnon v. Talladega Cnty., Ala., 745
When the Court reviews standing on a Rule 12 motion, it is generally limited to the
allegations in the complaint. See Shotz v. Cates, 256 F.3d 1077, 1081 (11th Cir. 2001) (noting that
“[o]n defendants’ motion to dismiss we must evaluate standing based on the facts alleged in the
complaint”). Johnson attached various documents to his brief in response to Harris’s motion, and
he also sought to incorporate those documents into his amended complaint. Only one of those
documents, an affidavit from Johnson, related to his claims. Although the Court does not consider
these documents in ruling on the motion to dismiss, it notes that the affidavit corroborates the lack
of facts to support standing to pursue prospective remedies. In his affidavit, Johnson lists a
Haleyville, Alabama, address as his current residence, and although he continues to have issues with
his wrist from the past misconduct, there is no indication that he is likely to return to the jail and
suffer future misconduct.
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F.2d 1360, 1363 (11th Cir. 1984). In addition, Johnson has not pleaded any facts to
suggest that any transfer or release was part of an effort to evade this Court’s
jurisdiction. See id. (suggesting that “this court might entertain jurisdiction over [the]
claim if there were evidence of efforts on the part of the defendants to evade the
jurisdiction of the court”).
Moreover, an assertion that one may again be subject to an unconstitutional
police policy does not generally give rise to standing. See City of Los Angeles v. Lyons,
461 U.S. 95, 104, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 1666 (1983). Indeed, to conclude that Johnson has
standing to seek prospective relief based on future injury, the Court would have to
assume that he would commit another crime, be charged with that crime, and then be
held at the Jail either pending trial or as a result of his conviction. Such assumptions
would be purely “conjectural, hypothetical, or contingent.” Emory v. Peeler, 756 F.2d
1547, 1552 (11th Cir. 1985). Without some facts to suggest that Johnson is likely to reoffend and be subjected to the procedures at the Winston County jail, the Court will
not assume that he is likely to engage in future criminal activity. Cf. Church, 30 F.3d
at 1337–38 (determining that homeless individuals had standing to seek equitable relief
because, unlike in Lyons, their status as homeless persons made it likely that they
would violate various laws prohibiting them from gathering in public places).
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Instead of dismissing these claims, Johnson contends in his brief that the Court
should allow him jurisdictional discovery on these issues. However, such request is
due to be denied because he has not established a prima facie case that suggests the
Court would have jurisdiction. See Butler v. Sukhoi Co., 579 F.3d 1307, 1314 (11th Cir.
2009) (“Inasmuch as the complaint was insufficient as a matter of law to establish a
prima facie case that the district court had jurisdiction, the district court abused its
discretion in allowing the case to proceed and granting discovery on the jurisdictional
Finally, Johnson has moved for leave to file an amended complaint. Generally,
when a party requests leave to amend his pleading, “the court should freely give leave
when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). However, the Court should not
grant leave to amend when it appears that the proposed amendments would be futile.
See Cockrell v. Sparks, 510 F.3d 1307, 1310 (11th Cir. 2007) (noting that amendment
is futile when a complaint would still be appropriately dismissed as amended). The
proposed amendment lists a number of policies at the Jail that Johnson contends are
unconstitutional, and it also has added facts about incidents where the Defendants
The Court also notes that Johnson “never formally moved the district court for
jurisdictional discovery but, instead, buried such requests in [his] briefs.” United Techs. Corp. v.
Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260, 1280 (11th Cir. 2009).
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purportedly harmed several other inmates.4 Although Johnson has identified the
policies he challenges, “standing in no way depends on the merits of the plaintiff’s
contention that particular conduct is illegal, [though] it often turns on the nature and
source of the claim asserted.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 500, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2206
(1975) (internal citation omitted).
Here, the proposed amendment provides greater description about the nature
and source of Johnson’s claims, but it does not include any facts to suggest that
Johnson personally is likely to be subject to the Jail’s policies and customs in the
future. Indeed, the proposed amendment merely restates the dates in the initial
complaint, and those dates only tie Johnson to the Jail in the summer of 2013. (Doc.
12-1 at ¶¶ 6, 9.) In order to prospectively challenge these policies or customs, Johnson
would have to plead facts to suggest that he faces likely incarceration at the Jail in the
future. He has not suggested such facts, and thus dismissal without prejudice is
appropriate. See Stalley ex rel. United States v. Orlando Reg’l Healthcare Sys., Inc., 524
F.3d 1229, 1234–35 (11th Cir. 2008) (noting that when a federal court lacks standing
it should dismiss the claim without prejudice).
The proposed amended complaint describes certain incidents involving inmates Michael
Brimer and Joshua Kizzire, but nothing ties either incident to Johnson. (Doc. 14-1 at ¶¶ 5–6.) In
addition, the proposed amendment attaches the same documents to the amended complaint that
Johnson attached to the motion to dismiss. None of these documents discuss Johnson’s period of
incarceration or suggest that he is likely to return to the Jail.
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For the reasons discussed above, Harris’s motion to dismiss Johnson’s
demands for declaratory and injunctive relief is due to be granted. (Doc. 7.) These
demands will be dismissed without prejudice. Johnson’s motion for leave to amend
(Doc. 12) is due to be denied. A separate order consistent with this opinion will be
Done this 9th day of June 2014.
L. SCOTT COOGLER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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