Harris v. Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department
ORDER directing the U.S Marshal Service to serve a copy of this order and the amended complaint on the defendants. The State need not respond to the claim of defamation of character. Signed by Magistrate Judge G. R. Smith on 10/10/17. (jrb) (Additional attachment(s) added on 10/10/2017: # 1 USMS 285) (jrb).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
ERIC LATROY HARRIS,
SCMPD (CNT AGENTS),
Scott L. Poff, Clerk
United States District Court
By James Burrell at 3:24 pm, Oct 10, 2017
Proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, Eric LaTroy Harris brings
this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against two unknown Counter Narcotics
Team (CNT) agents at the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police
Department (SCMPD). Doc. 1. The Court screened his Complaint under
28 U.S.C. § 1915A and ordered him to amend it. Doc. 7. Having done
so, 1 the Court now screens his Amended Complaint.
Harris is confined at Chatham County Detention Center. CV417184, doc. 1 at 3. He alleges that on July 13, 2017, SCMPD CNT agents
When Harris filed his Amended Complaint, he failed to note the original case
number and it was erroneously docketed as a new § 1983 action. The Clerk is
DIRECTED to administratively close CV417-184, refile his Amended Complaint as
such under original case CV417-154, and the action will proceed under original case
entered a home he was visiting and ordered him to the ground. Id. at 5.
He complied with their directive, but after being handcuffed the agents
lifted him bodily by the arms and dragged him “through the house, down
the porch steps and through the driveway until they reached the
sidewalk where [he] was placed facedown.” Id. This “treatment was
unwarranted,” he contends, because he “never resist[ed] the agents in
any way,” had no illegal substances on his person, and ultimately was
not “charged with resisting arrest or obstruction.” Id. 2 As a result, he
received “multiple abrasions to [his] arms and legs as well as [an]
unknown injury to [his] back.”
He seeks $1.5 million in
compensation for the “cruel and unusual punishment [he] received as
well as for the defamation of character, mental anguish, [and] pain and
suffering that [he] endured at the hands of SCMPD.” Id. at 6.
Liberally construed, plaintiff alleges that SCMPD CNT officers
utilized excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment during his
drug-offense related arrest.
“Determining whether the force used to
effect a particular seizure is ‘reasonable’ under the Fourth Amendment
requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on
Harris explains that he has been charged with “possession [with] intent &
possession of a drug related object for use.” Doc. 1 at 5.
the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing
governmental interests at stake.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396
(1989) (quotes and cites omitted).
Because “[t]he test of reasonableness under the Fourth
Amendment is not capable of a precise definition or mechanical
application,” . . . its proper application requires careful attention to
the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the
severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an
immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and
whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest
Id. (cites omitted).
The Court examines “the fact pattern from the
perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene with knowledge of the
attendant circumstances and facts, and balanc[ing] the risk of bodily
harm to the suspect against the gravity of the threat the officer sought to
McCullough v. Antolini, 559 F.3d 1201, 1206 (11th Cir.
2009) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 383 (2007)). “Although some
amount of force is generally needed to subdue a suspect, the amount
used must be reasonably proportionate to the need for force.” Smith v.
LePage, 834 F.3d 1285, 1294 (11th Cir. 2016); see also Scott, 550 U.S. at
383 (observing that in determining whether the Fourth Amendment was
violated, “we must still slosh our way through the factbound morass of
Here, Harris alleges that he was compliant with SCMPD CNT
officers’ instructions, offered no resistance and posed no threat
whatsoever, and yet was still roughly dragged through the house and
unceremoniously dumped face-down on the sidewalk. Doc. 1 at 5. As a
result, he alleges, his back has been seriously (and perhaps permanently)
injured. Id.; cf. Nolin v. Isbell, 207 F.3d 1253, 1257 (11th Cir. 2000)
(“the application of de minimis force, without more, will not support a
claim for excessive force”). That is enough to warrant a response from
the State, including the assertion of any immunity defense.
excessive force claim is GREENLIT for service.
As to his defamation claim, however, the Constitution does not
Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976) (an interest in
reputation alone is not a liberty or property interest protected by the due
process clause); Williams v. City of Savavannah, 2015 WL 994259, at *3
(S.D. Ga. Nov. 12, 2015) (defamation and slander claims are not
actionable under § 1983). Therefore, defamation of plaintiff’s character -even if falsely accused of possession -- does not give rise to a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the State need not respond to it.
Harris’ Complaint is greenlit for service. The Clerk is DIRECTED
to forward a copy of this Order along with his Amended Complaint to the
Marshal for service upon the defendants so that they may respond to his
excessive force claim.
SO ORDERED, this 10th
day of October, 2017.
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