United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RANDY J. RICHBURG, #240 472, Plaintiff,
STATE OF ALABAMA DPT. OF CORR., et al., Defendants.
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an inmate incarcerated at the Limestone Correctional Facility
in Harvest, Alabama, brings this pro se 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 action against the Alabama Department of
Corrections, Commissioner Dunn, Captain Howard, and Captain
McCee. Plaintiff alleges that while incarcerated at the
Staton Correctional Facility Defendant Howard subjected him
to unconstitutional conditions of confinement and excessive
force. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant McCee
subjected him to verbal abuse during his incarceration the
Elmore Correctional Facility. Upon review, the court
concludes that dismissal of Plaintiff complaint against the
Alabama Department of Corrections and Captain McCee prior to
service of process is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. §
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Prison Litigation Reform Act, as partially codified at 28
U.S.C. § 1915A, requires this court to screen complaints
filed by prisoners against government officers or employees
as early as possible in the litigation. The court must
dismiss the complaint or any portion thereof that it finds
frivolous, malicious, seeks monetary damages from a defendant
immune from monetary relief, or which states no claim upon
which relief can be granted. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b)(1)
& (2). The court may sua sponte dismiss a
prisoner's complaint prior to service. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
§ 1915A(b)(1) the court may dismiss a claim as
“frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis in law or
fact.” See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319,
325 (1989). A claim is frivolous when it “has little or
no chance of success, ” that is, when it appears
“from the face of the complaint that the factual
allegations are clearly baseless or that the legal theories
are indisputably meritless.” Carroll v. Gross,
984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). A claim is frivolous as a
matter of law where the defendants are immune from suit,
id. at 327, the claim seeks to enforce a right that
clearly does not exist, id., or there is an
affirmative defense that would defeat the claim, such as the
statute of limitations, Clark v. Georgia Pardons &
Paroles Board, 915 F.2d 636, 640 n.2 (11th Cir. 1990).
Courts are accorded “not only the authority to dismiss
[as frivolous] a claim based on 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.”
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
court may dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, under
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted. Dismissal under §
1915A(b)(1) may be granted “only if it is clear that no
relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be
proved consistent with the allegations.” Hishon v.
King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). A review
on this ground is governed by the same standards as
dismissals for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007). To state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, “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) (internal quotation
marks omitted). To state a claim to relief that is plausible,
the plaintiff must plead factual content that “allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The
allegations should present a “‘plain
statement' possess[ing] enough heft to ‘show that
the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When a
successful affirmative defense, such as a statute of
limitations, appears on the face of a complaint, dismissal
for failure to state a claim is also warranted.
Jones, 549 U.S. at 215.
se pleadings “are held to a less stringent
standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys” and are
liberally construed. Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d
1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006). However, they “must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
The Alabama Department of Corrections
names the Alabama Department of Corrections as a defendant.
The Eleventh Amendment bars suit directly against a state or
its agencies, regardless of relief sought. Pennhurst
State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984);
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265 (1986) (Unless the
State of Alabama consents to suit or Congress rescinds its
immunity, a plaintiff cannot proceed against the State or its
agencies as the action is proscribed by the Eleventh
Amendment and “[t]his bar exists whether the relief
sought is legal or equitable.”).
“[T]he Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from
entertaining suits by private parties against States and
their agencies [or employees].” Alabama v.
Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 781, 98 S.Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed.2d 1114
(1978). There are two exceptions to this prohibition: where
the state has waived its immunity or where Congress has
abrogated that immunity. Virginia Office for Prot. &
Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247, 131 S.Ct. 1632,
1637-38, 179 L.Ed.2d 675 (2011). “A State's consent
to suit must be ‘unequivocally expressed' in the
text of [a] relevant statute.” Sossamon v.
Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 131 S.Ct. 1651, 1658, 179 L.Ed.2d
700 (2011) (quoting Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67
(1984)). “Waiver may not be implied.”
Id. Likewise, “Congress' intent to
abrogate the States' immunity from suit must be obvious
from ‘a clear legislative statement.'”
Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 55,
116 S.Ct. 1114, 134 L.Ed.2d 252 (1996) (quoting
Blatchford v. Native Vill. of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775,
786, 111 S.Ct. 2578, 115 L.Ed.2d 686 (1991)).
Selensky v. Alabama, 619 Fed.Appx. 846, 848-49 (11th
Cir. 2015). Thus, neither the State of Alabama or its
agencies may be sued unless the State has waived its Eleventh
Amendment immunity, see Pennhurst State School &
Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984), or
Congress has abrogated the State's immunity, see
Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 59 (1996).
Neither waiver nor abrogation applies here. The Alabama
Constitution states that “the State of Alabama shall
never be made a defendant in any court of law or
equity.” Ala. Const. art. I, § 14. The Supreme
Court has recognized that this prohibits Alabama from waiving
its immunity from suit. Pugh, 438 U.S. at 782, 98
S.Ct. 3057 (citing Ala. Const. art. I, § 14.)
Selensky, 619 Fed. App'x at 849. “Alabama
has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity in § 1983
cases, nor has Congress abated it.” Holmes v.
Hale, 701 Fed.Appx. 751, 753 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing
Carr v. City of Florence, Ala., 916 F.2d 1521, 1525
(11th Cir. 1990)). Consequently, any claims lodged against
the State of Alabama or its agencies are frivolous as these