Scott v. Poppell et al
OPINION AND ORDER re: granting 24 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction; MOTION to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, granting 19 MOTION to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. The amended complaint is DISMISSED without preju dice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff may file an Amended Complaint on or before December 17, 2020. Otherwise, the Court will close this case without further notice. Signed by Judge Sheri Polster Chappell on 11/17/2020. (SLU)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
FORT MYERS DIVISION
Case No.: 2:20-cv-4-FtM-38MRM
CHAD POPPELL and DONALD
OPINION AND ORDER1
Plaintiff Lorenzo Scott initiated this action by filing a pro se Civil Rights Complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Defendants Chad Poppell and Donald Sawyer have
filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 19, Doc. 24).
Scott is civilly confined to the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC) under the
Sexual Violent Predators Act (SVPA), Fla. Stat. §§ 394.910-.913. Under the SVPA, a
person found to be a sexually violent predator must be housed in a secure facility “for
control, care, and treatment until such time as the person’s mental abnormality or
personality disorder has so changed that it is safe for the person to be at large.” Fla. Stat.
§ 394.917(2). Defendants are Secretary for the Florida Department of Children and
Families Chad Poppell and FCCC Director Donald Sawyer. Scott challenges an internal
FCCC policy called PRG-11 as unconstitutional.
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Scott was committed on November 16, 2016, and diagnosed with “a mental
abnormality, personality disorder, and lack of volitional control.” (Doc. 1 at 6). Scott states
he received a disciplinary report under PRG-11 for “conducting a masturbation behavior
looking directly at a staff member from the Group Room window.” (Doc. 1 at 6). Without
providing PRG-11, Scott claims his disciplinary report “carries a penalty of 90 days of
confinement.” (Doc. 1 at 6). Scott alleges “the mental health treatment that [he] is
receiving for his diagnosis is punishment” and contends PRG-11 is “basically a copycat”
of the disciplinary policy utilized by the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC). (Doc.
1 at 3-6). Scott reasons that because he is not a prisoner and because PRG-11 mirrors
the FDOC disciplinary policy in penalizing him with a term of confinement, PRG-11
amounts to punishment and is unconstitutional.
While pro so complaints are held to “less stringent standards” than those drafted
and filed by attorneys, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted), the
standard pleading requirements under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 10 still apply.
Giles v. Wal-Mart Distrib. Ctr., 359 F. App’x 91, 92 (11th Cir. 2009). The complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief,” and “each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2),
(d)(1). “[A] lengthy…personal narrative suggesting, but not clearly and simply stating, a
myriad of potential claims” does not meet the pleading requires of Rules 8 and 10. Giles,
359 F. App’x at 93.
Under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint may be dismissed if the claim alleged is not
plausible. See Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). All pleaded facts are
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deemed true under Rule 12(b)(6), but a complaint is still insufficient without adequate
facts. See id. at 556. The plaintiff must assert enough facts to allow “the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
The asserted facts must “raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” for the plaintiff’s claim. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556. “[L]abels…conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause
of action” are not enough to meet the plausibility standard. Id. at 555.
To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) a
violation of a right secured by the Constitution or under the laws of the United States and
(2) that the deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state
law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Arrington v. Cobb County, 139 F.3d 865,
872 (11th Cir. 1998). “[C]omplaints in § 1983 cases must…contain either direct or
inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery
under some viable legal theory.” Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 707 n.2 (11th Cir. 2020)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff must also allege a causal
connection between the defendant’s conduct and the alleged constitutional deprivation.
Swint v. City of Wadley, Ala., 51 F.3d 988, 999 (11th Cir. 1995).
Because Plaintiff is pro se, the Court must liberally construe the amended
complaint. Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F. 3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998) (per
curiam). But courts are not under a duty to re-write a plaintiff’s complaint to find a claim.
Peterson v. Atlanta Hous. Auth., 998 F.2d 904, 912 (11 Cir. 1993). Nor is the Court
required to credit a pro se plaintiff’s “bald assertions” or “legal conclusions” as facts.
Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 1357 (3d ed.
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2013) (noting that courts, when examining a 12(b)(6) motions have rejected “legal
conclusions,” “unsupported conclusions of law,” or “sweeping legal conclusion…in the
form of factual allegations”).
The Amended Complaint does not allege sufficient facts that Defendants deprived
Scott of any constitutional rights by implementing PRG-11. Liberally construing the
Amended Complaint, it appears Plaintiff claims his due process rights are being violated
because the FCCC adopted the same “progressive” policy that FDOC uses and thus the
implementation of this policy at the FCCC makes the FCCC akin to a prison, which per
se is punitive and violates his constitutional rights. (Doc. 1 at 4-6). Scott fails to provide
a copy of PRG-11, fails to point to any portion or language of PRG-11, and fails to
otherwise explain how PRG-11 violates his due process rights. Instead, Scott makes the
conclusory claim that because FDOC uses a similar rule, PRG-11 is punitive per se. And
he asserts that as a civilly committed person he should be subject to the same
“regressive” regulations as a mentally ill person committed under the Baker Act.
Due process requires that the conditions of confinement of a non-prisoner not
amount to punishment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). Whether a condition
of confinement amounts to “punishment” depends on whether the challenged condition is
imposed for punishment or is incident to some other legitimate government purpose. Id.
If a condition of confinement is "reasonably related to a legitimate
governmental objective, it does not, without more, amount to 'punishment.'" Id. at 539.
Although not prisoners, sexually violent predators, like other civil detainees, are
unquestionably subject to security measures similar to those employed by corrections
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officials. Id. at 540; see also Allen v. Illinois, 478 U.S. 364, 373-74 (1986) (detainees may
“be subjected to conditions that advance goals such as preventing escape and assuring
the safety of others, even though they may not be punished”). Thus, any similarity
between PRG-11 and FDOC policy is understandable and does not prove a punitive
intent. Other than Scott’s conclusory allegation that PRG-11 is punitive, the amended
complaint is devoid of factual allegations from which the Court can plausibly infer that
PRG-11 is meant to punish.
Scott’s argument that his status should be compared to mentally ill individuals
committed under the Baker Act is similarly unpersuasive. The state legislature expressly
found that the SVPA and the Baker Act were meant for different individuals. Significantly,
in its statement of “findings and intent,” the state legislature said that the SVPA was aimed
at “a small but extremely dangerous number of sexually violent predators…who do not
have a mental disease or defect that renders them appropriate for involuntary treatment
under the Baker Act.” Fla. Stat. § 394.910; see also Westerheide v. State, 831 So. 2d
93, 112 (Fla. 2002) (rejecting plaintiff's equal protection argument on the basis, inter
alia, that it “rests on the false premise that individuals subject to commitment under the
[SVPA] are similarly situated to mentally ill persons committed under the Baker Act”) and
Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 358 (1997) (“we have sustained civil commitment
statutes when they have coupled proof of dangerousness with the proof of some
additional factor such as mental illness or mental abnormality”) (internal quotations
Thus, Scott’s status as civilly committed person under the SVPA is not
analogous to a person committed under the Baker Act.
Accordingly, it is now
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Defendant Donald Sawyer’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 19) and Defendant Chad
Poppell’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 24) are GRANTED.
1. The amended complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice under 28 U.S.C.
2. Plaintiff may file an Amended Complaint on or before December 17, 2020.
Otherwise, the Court will close this case without further notice.
DONE and ORDERED in Fort Myers, Florida on November 17, 2020.
Copies: All Parties of Record
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