Jordan v. Braddy et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS of the Magistrate Judge that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's 1 Complaint for failure to state a claim and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case. It is further RECOMMENDED that the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Any party seeking to object to this Report and Recommendation is ordered to file specific written objections within fourteen (14) days of the date on which this Report and Recommendation is entered. (Objections to R&R due by 7/26/2017). ORDER directing service of the REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS of the Magistrate Judge. Signed by Magistrate Judge R. Stan Baker on 7/12/2017. (csr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
JOSEPH F. JORDAN,
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 2:17-cv-59
NURSE LORIS BETH BRADDY;
CORONER JARED Z. MURPHY; WILLIAM
A. REID, M.D.; and APPLING COUNTY
MEMORIAL HEALTH CENTER, 1
ORDER and MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Plaintiff, who is a pretrial detainee presently confined at the Appling County Detention
Center in Baxley, Georgia, submitted a Complaint in the above-captioned action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) Concurrently, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma
Pauperis. (Doc. 2.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion to
Proceed in Forma Pauperis.
Additionally, I RECOMMEND that the Court
DISMISS this action for failure to state a claim and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this
I further RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma
The Court DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to amend the caption upon the docket and record of this case,
as set forth herein.
Plaintiff filed this action on May 24, 2017. (Doc. 1.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges
that, on October 5, 2015, Defendant Nurse Loris Beth Braddy injected him with an illegal
substance and falsified medical reports. (Id. at p. 3.) Additionally, Plaintiff contends Defendants
Coroner Jared Z. Murphy and William A. Reid conducted a faulty autopsy on the deceased
“Casey Nicole Davis”. (Id. at pp. 3–4.) The entirety of these events occurred at Appling Health
Care Systems. (Id. at pp. 2–3.) In addition to requesting counseling, Plaintiff requests monetary
compensation to remedy his mental pain and suffering, loss of sleep, and mental disorders.
(Id. at p. 5.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the
prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his
assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of
the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the
Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)–(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion
thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
The below-recited facts are taken from Plaintiff’s Complaint and are accepted as true, as they must be at
When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is
guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . .
a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed. R.
Civ. P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set
of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without
arguable merit either in law or fact.’” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).
Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by
the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 F. App’x 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard,
this 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.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must assert
“more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the
authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual
power to pierce the veil of the complaint’s factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose
factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).
In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of
unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and,
therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v.
Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent
standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys.”) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350
F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff’s unrepresented status will not excuse
mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We
have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as
to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).
Failure to State a Claim
Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff’s allegations
are analyzed under the Standard of Review set forth above, and the Court accepts Plaintiff’s nonconclusory factual allegations as true, as it must at this stage. However, to state a claim for relief
under Section 1983, Plaintiff must satisfy two elements. First, a plaintiff must allege that the act
or omission was committed by “a person acting under color of state law.” Hale v. Tallapoosa
Cty., 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th Cir. 1995). The state-actor requirement traditionally precludes
suit against a private party under Section 1983, because a private party may qualify as a state
actor for Section 1983 purposes only in “rare circumstances.” Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127,
1130 (11th Cir. 1992). The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes that a private party
may be liable as a “state actor” for a constitutional violation only in the following circumstances:
(1) “the State has coerced or at least significantly encouraged the action alleged to violate the
Constitution”; (2) “the private parties performed a public function that was traditionally the
exclusive prerogative of the State”; or (3) “the State had so far insinuated itself into a position of
interdependence with the [private parties] that it was a joint participant in the enterprise[ ].”
Rayburn ex rel. Rayburn v. Hogue, 241 F.3d 1341, 1347 (11th Cir. 2001) (alterations in original)
(quoting NBC, Inc. v. Comm’cns Workers of Am., 860 F.2d 1022, 1026–27 (11th Cir. 1988)).
Second, a plaintiff must allege that an act or omission deprived him “of some right, privilege, or
immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Id. The Eleventh Circuit
has stated that the district courts are not required to “sift through the facts presented and decide
for itself which were material to the particular cause of action asserted.” Beckwith v. Bellsouth
Telecomms. Inc., 146 F. App’x 368, 372 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Strategic Income Fund, LLC
v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 n.9 (11th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted)).
Plaintiff’s Complaint does not allege that Defendants Braddy, Reid, or Appling County
Memorial Health Center are affiliated with the State in any way. Additionally, he does not claim
that he received treatment from these defendants while detained or incarcerated. Accordingly,
Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts plausibly suggesting that these three Defendants are
state actors subject to liability under Section 1983. Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims against these
As to Defendant Murphy, it is likely that an elected county coroner, during the facilitation
of an autopsy, would qualify as acting under the color of state law. However, the requirements
of Section 1983 are still not met because Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant Murphy
deprived him of a constitutional right. In fact, Plaintiff’s allegations against Defendant Murphy
do not even involve Plaintiff; rather, Plaintiff contends Defendant Murphy conducted a faulty
autopsy on Casey Davis.
Moreover, at best, it appears that Plaintiff is attempting to set forth state law tort claims
against all Defendants for medical and professional malpractice. However, even if Defendants
had treated Plaintiff and even if he had been incarcerated at the time, these allegations of
negligence do not rise to the level of a constitutional claim. “Medical malpractice does not
become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner.” Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).
Thus, the Court should DISMISS Plaintiff’s claims against all
Defendants for failure to state a claim.
Heck v. Humphrey and the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
Construing Plaintiff’s Complaint liberally, he also appears to be contesting his potentially
ongoing criminal prosecution.
However, Plaintiff gives no indication whether the original
charges he was detained on resulted in an indictment, much less a conviction. Further, there is
no indication that any potential conviction has been reversed, expunged, invalidated, called into
question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, or otherwise overturned. As
such, this Court is precluded from reviewing his claims by the decision in Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477 (1994).
In Heck, a state prisoner filed a Section 1983 damages action against the prosecutors and
investigator in his criminal case for their actions which resulted in his conviction. The United
States Supreme Court analogized the plaintiff’s claim to a common-law cause of action for
malicious prosecution, which requires as an element of the claim that the prior criminal
proceeding be terminated in favor of the accused. 512 U.S. at 484. The Supreme Court
We think the hoary principle that civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for
challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments applies to § 1983
damages actions that necessarily require the plaintiff to prove the unlawfulness of
his conviction or confinement, just as it has always applied to actions for
malicious prosecution (footnote omitted).
We hold that, in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose
unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, (footnote omitted), a
§ 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal
authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court’s
issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages
bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so
invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks
damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in
favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or
sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can
demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated.
Id. at 486–87 (emphasis added).
Under Heck, a plaintiff who is attempting “to recover damages for allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose
unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid,” must make a showing that his
conviction, sentence, or other criminal judgment was reversed, expunged, declared invalid by an
appropriate state tribunal, or called into question in a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus. Id. If a plaintiff fails to make this showing, then he cannot bring an action under
Section 1983. Id. at 489. Furthermore, to the extent a plaintiff contends that a favorable ruling
on his claims would not invalidate his conviction, sentence, confinement, or other criminal
judgment, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove this contention in order for his claims to
proceed. Id. at 487. Although Heck involved a claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for money
damages, Heck’s holding has been extended to claims seeking declaratory or injunctive relief, as
well as money damages. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81–82 (2005); Abella v.
Rubino, 63 F.3d 1063, 1066 (11th Cir. 1995); see also Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500
(1973) (“[W]e hold today that when a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his
physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate
release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas
corpus.”); Desravines v. Fla. Dep’t of Fin. Servs., No. 6:11-CV-235-ORL-22, 2011 WL
2292180, at *3 (M.D. Fla. May 23, 2011), report and recommendation adopted by No. 6:11-CV-
235-ORL-22, 2011 WL 2222170 (M.D. Fla. June 8, 2011) (citing Gray v. Kinsey, No. 3:09-cv324/LC/MD, 2009 WL 2634205, at *9 (N.D. Fla. Aug. 25, 2009) (“Under this standard, it is not
unusual for a § 1983 claim to be dismissed for failure to satisfy Heck’s favorable termination
requirement.”)); Domotor v. Wennet, 630 F. Supp. 2d 1368, 1379 (S.D. Fla. 2009) (“[A]llowing
the plaintiff to circumvent applicable state procedures and collaterally attack her convictions in
federal court is the precise situation that Heck seeks to preclude” when plaintiff entered into a
plea agreement with knowledge of substantially all of the allegations that now form the basis of a
Section 1983 action for damages); Cooper v. Georgia, No. CV413-091, 2013 WL 2253214, at *2
(S.D. Ga. May 22, 2013), report and recommendation adopted by No. CV413-091, 2013 WL
2660046 (S.D. Ga. June 11, 2013); Brown v. Renfroe, No. CV210-003, 2011 WL 902197, at *2
(S.D. Ga. Jan. 25, 2011), report and recommendation adopted by No. CV210-003, 2011 WL
892359 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 9, 2011), aff’d sub nom., Brown v. Coleman, 439 F. App’x 794 (11th Cir.
In this case, Plaintiff has not shown favorable termination of his conviction or sentence.
In fact, Plaintiff does not even indicate whether he has been convicted or what sentence he may
have received. Even if Plaintiff is not challenging any convictions, he at least appears to be
challenging his post-arrest confinement.
However, Heck is not only limited to claims
challenging the validity of criminal convictions. It also applies to detentions absent convictions.
See Hamilton v. Lyons, 74 F.3d 99, 102–03 (5th Cir. 1996) (applying Heck to a Section 1983
claim challenging the coercive nature of a pretrial detainee’s confinement prior to giving a
statement regarding pending charges); Cohen v. Clemens, 321 Fed.Appx. 739, 741 (10th Cir.
2009) (In the immigration context, “Heck bar[red the plaintiff's] claims for damages because
success on those claims would necessarily imply the invalidity of [his] detention.”); Edwards v.
Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997) (applying Heck to a Section 1983 claim challenging procedures
used to deprive a prison inmate of good time credits); Huftile v. Miccio-Fonseca, 410 F.3d 1136,
1137 (9th Cir. 2005) (applying Heck to a Section 1983 claim challenging civil commitment
under California’s Sexually Violent Predators Act).
Accordingly, the Heck decision
unquestionably precludes Plaintiff’s claims.
Additional grounds also support dismissal, to the extent Plaintiff desires the Court to
review any underlying criminal conviction. Pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Court
is without jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claims, which essentially seek review of a state court
criminal charge against him. “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine derives from Rooker v. Fidelity
Trust Company, 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman,
460 U.S. 462 (1983), and provides that, as a general matter, federal district courts lack
jurisdiction to review a final state court decision.” McCorvey v. Weaver, No. 15-10470, 2015
WL 5751756, at *1 (11th Cir. Oct. 2, 2015). “Rooker-Feldman applies because, among the
federal courts, Congress authorized only the Supreme Court to reverse or modify a state court
decision.” Helton v. Ramsay, 566 F. App’x 876, 877 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Exxon Mobil Corp.
v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). If Plaintiff, through this Section 1983
action, is asking this Court to invalidate the charges he is potentially facing in a state court, this
Court lacks jurisdiction over those claims.
For these additional reasons, the Court should DISMISS Plaintiff’s claims in their
Younger Abstention Doctrine
Furthermore, insofar as Plaintiff is asking this Court to intervene in the state case’s
ongoing proceedings, the Younger abstention doctrine bars Plaintiff’s Complaint. Under the
Younger abstention doctrine, a federal court must abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a case
where there is an ongoing state action. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). While
Younger involved a federal suit for injunctive relief of the ongoing state proceedings, the
Eleventh Circuit has also indicated that the Younger abstention extends to cases involving
Section 1983 claims for monetary damages. See Doby v. Strength, 758 F.2d 1405, 1405–06
(11th Cir. 1985) (requiring Younger abstention where plaintiff raised Fourth Amendment Section
1983 damages claims related to ongoing state criminal proceedings); see also Kowalski v.
Tesmer, 543 U.S. 125, 133 (2004) (intervention in ongoing state court proceedings is not
appropriate as a Section 1983 cause of action when there is ample opportunity to raise
constitutional challenges in those state court proceedings).
Here, because the status of Plaintiff’s criminal prosecution is potentially ongoing, any
ruling by this Court as to the constitutionality of Defendants’ actions could substantially interfere
with the results reached in the state court proceeding. See 31 Foster Children v. Bush, 329 F.3d
1255, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003) (noting the importance of “whether the federal proceeding will
interfere with an ongoing state court proceeding” in determining whether Younger abstention is
appropriate). Moreover, Plaintiff cannot demonstrate the lack of an adequate remedy at law
because he is free to allege the same violations by Defendants in his state criminal proceedings.
See Boyd v. Georgia, No. CV 112-042, 2012 WL 2862157, at *2 (S.D. Ga. May 14, 2012),
report and recommendation adopted, No. CV 112-042, 2012 WL 2862123 (S.D. Ga. July 11,
2012), aff’d, 512 F. App’x 915 (11th Cir. 2013) (concluding that plaintiff had an adequate
remedy at law with respect to constitutional claims that he could bring in his pending state
criminal case). In addition, Plaintiff’s allegations provide no indication of irreparable injury, and
the hardships associated with having to defend against a criminal prosecution do not establish it
as a matter of law. Younger, 401 U.S. at 47 (“Certain types of injury, in particular, the cost,
anxiety, and inconvenience of having to defend against a single criminal prosecution, could not
by themselves be considered ‘irreparable’ in the special legal sense of that term.”).
For these reasons, the Court should DISMISS Plaintiff’s claims in their entirety.
Leave to Appeal in Forma Pauperis
The Court should also deny Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. 3
Plaintiff has, of course, not yet filed a notice of appeal, it would be appropriate to address these
issues in the Court’s order of dismissal. Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (trial court may certify that
appeal is not taken in good faith “before or after the notice of appeal is filed”).
An appeal cannot be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that the appeal is
not taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3). Good faith in this
context must be judged by an objective standard. Busch v. Cty. of Volusia, 189 F.R.D. 687, 691
(M.D. Fla. 1999). A party does not proceed in good faith when he seeks to advance a frivolous
claim or argument. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). A claim or
argument is frivolous when it appears the factual allegations are clearly baseless or the legal
theories are indisputably meritless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Carroll v.
Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). Stated another way, an in forma pauperis action is
frivolous, and thus, not brought in good faith, if it is “without arguable merit either in law or
fact.” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Brown v. United States,
Nos. 407CV085, 403CR001, 2009 WL 307872, at *1–2 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 9, 2009).
A certificate of appealability is not required in this non-habeas action.
Based on the above analysis of Plaintiff’s action, there are no non-frivolous issues to
raise on appeal, and an appeal would not be taken in good faith. Thus, the Court should DENY
him in forma pauperis status on appeal.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed in
Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 2.) Additionally, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS this action
for failure to state a claim and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case. I further
RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.
The Court ORDERS any party seeking to object to this Report and Recommendation to
file specific written objections within fourteen (14) days of the date on which this Report and
Recommendation is entered. Any objections asserting that the Magistrate Judge failed to address
any contention raised in the Complaint must also be included. Failure to do so will bar any later
challenge or review of the factual findings or legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge. See 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). A copy of the objections must be
served upon all other parties to the action. The filing of objections is not a proper vehicle
through which to make new allegations or present additional evidence.
Upon receipt of Objections meeting the specificity requirement set out above, a United
States District Judge will make a de novo determination of those portions of the report, proposed
findings, or recommendation to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify in
whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. Objections not
meeting the specificity requirement set out above will not be considered by a District Judge. A
party may not appeal a Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation directly to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Appeals may be made only from a final
judgment entered by or at the direction of a District Judge. The Court DIRECTS the Clerk of
Court to serve a copy of this Report and Recommendation upon Plaintiff.
SO ORDERED and REPORTED and RECOMMENDED, this 12th day of July, 2017.
R. STAN BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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