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Parks v. Mississippi Department of Corrections

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

January 22, 2014

CLAUDE DULWAINE PARKS, Individually and on behalf of others similarly situated; TIFFANY SNYDER; and CLAUDE PARKS AND TIFFANY SNYDER on behalf of their minor children, Plaintiffs,
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD; and JOHN DOES 1-20, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LOUIS GUIROLA, Jr., Chief District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are the [17] Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Mississippi Department of Corrections and the [21] Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. Plaintiffs have filed responses in opposition to both motions. Neither defendant has filed a rebuttal brief. Having reviewed the pleadings on file, the record, and the relevant law, it is the opinion of the Court that the Motion to Dismiss should be granted, and the Motion for Summary Judgment should also be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Claude Parks ("Parks") was sentenced to a term of five (5) years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with credit for time served, after he pleaded guilty to Felony Driving Under the Influence in 2006. His complaint alleges that the Mississippi Department of Corrections ("MDOC") failed to release him upon completion of his sentence, and that he served an additional 427 days in prison due to the negligence of the defendants. Parks sues on his own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated; he alleges that there are other individuals who have been detained past the completion of their sentences. The complaint does not name any other prisoners specifically. (Compl. 1 (¶3), ECF No. 1). Parks and Plaintiff Tiffany Snyder ("Snyder") also sue on behalf of their minor children.

The complaint seeks a declaration pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2201 that Parks was "falsely imprisoned, held against his will, his 1983 rights were violated, his civil rights were violated and res ipsa loquitur." (Compl. 7 (¶19), ECF No. 1). It alleges claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law, including the torts of false imprisonment, bad faith, negligence, negligent supervision/training, negligent hiring/retention, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. ( Id. at 7-13 (¶¶24-72)). The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial, as well as costs and attorney's fees. ( Id. at 13-14 (¶73)).

Proceedings in the Circuit Court of Harrison County

Plaintiffs have attached as an exhibit to their complaint a transcript of proceedings before the Circuit Court of Harrison County, Mississippi. While Parks was serving his sentence in prison, he filed a habeas corpus petition seeking review of his sentence, and that petition was heard by the Circuit Court of Harrison County. Parks appeared for a hearing in Circuit Court on July 11-12, 2011 regarding his petition. (Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 1-1). An assistant attorney general appeared on behalf of MDOC on the second day of the hearing. ( Id. at 16).

The Circuit Court established for the record that it had held hearing in May 2011 regarding Mr. Parks's sentence, but at that time the Court had not been able to determine exactly how much time Mr. Parks had served, "how much credit had been given for trustee time or for earned time based on the documents that were available." ( Id. at 3). For that reason, the Court had "directed both sides, but in particular the Department of Corrections, to provide detailed calculations as well as time sheets." ( Id. ) The MDOC had then provided a letter to the Circuit Court, the District Attorney's office, and Mr. Parks's counsel with "their information on Mr. Parks." ( Id. ) That letter included an affidavit from an employee of MDOC, which the Circuit Court called "garbled and unintelligible." ( Id. at 3-4).

During the July 2011 hearing, the Circuit Court attempted to determine how much time Parks had served in prison based on the affidavit from MDOC and other documents in the record, with input from counsel. The Circuit Court's review demonstrated that Mr. Parks was in and out of prison on a number of occasions during his sentence, served time on house arrest, and was incarcerated again as a result of a revocation as well as another arrest. ( Id. at 23-37). Mr. Parks was also sentenced to the Restitution Center for a period of time as part of his probation, and received some earned time credit as well as trustee time. ( Id. at 30, 33-37). After reviewing the affidavit from MDOC and other documents on the record, the Circuit Court commented that "[n]o one seems to know how to calculate this time or how it was calculated in this or any other case." ( Id. at 38).

Eventually, the Circuit Court, Mr. Parks's counsel, and the assistant attorney general agreed that Mr. Parks had served a total of 1, 440 days "actual incarceration time related to this charge, " and that he had not received credit for some of the time he had served. ( Id. at 43-44). The Court determined that Mr. Parks had not served five years "day-for-day, " but "giving him his trustee time, " he had completed "at least" five years. ( Id. at 46-48). The Court ordered that Mr. Parks be released from custody that day. Subsequently, Parks and Snyder filed this lawsuit.

DISCUSSION

I. MDOC's Motion to Dismiss

Defendant MDOC has filed a Motion to Dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12. The MDOC argues under Rule 12(b)(1) that the Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the plaintiffs' federal and state law claims because MDOC is immune from liability under the Eleventh Amendment. The MDOC further argues under Rule 12(b)(6) that the complaint fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 because MDOC does not qualify as a "person" under that statute. In response to the Motion to Dismiss, the plaintiffs submit that "the civil rights of the American people may be held hostage because a State does not feel like being sued." ...


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