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Dinnella v. Jones

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

March 31, 2014

SHAWN MICHAEL DINNELLA, Plaintiff,
v.
SHAMBRICA JONES and ALISEA MENNA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING SHAMBRICA JONES' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LOUIS GUIROLA, Jr., Chief District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is the Motion for Summary Judgment [61] filed by the defendant, Shambrica Jones. The plaintiff, Shawn Michael Dinnella, has not responded to the Motion. After reviewing the Motion, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted.

FACTS

Dinnella was arrested for petty larceny and booked into the Harrison County jail on February 18, 2012. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. 1 to Ex. A, ECF No. 61-1). He was released on February 22, 2012. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. 3 to Ex. A, ECF No. 61-1). On February 27, 2012, Dinnella was arrested for grand larceny and uttering forgery, and he was again booked into the Harrison County jail. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. 4 to Ex. A, ECF No. 61-1).

On March 12, 2012, Dinnella's property, which allegedly included food stamps and casino cards or chips, was released to Alisea Menna by the defendant Jones. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. 6 to Ex. A, ECF No. 61-1). Jones has signed an affidavit explaining that she released the property to Menna, because a search of the prison's computer system revealed that Dinnella had been released from prison on February 22nd. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. D, ECF No. 61-4). Jones explained that, pursuant to prison policy she is only required to obtain the authorization of current inmates before releasing their property to third parties. ( Id. ) Authorization from former inmates is not required, and inmates are informed when they are booked that property will only be held for seven days after they leave the prison. ( Id. ; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 10 to Ex. A, ECF No. 61-1). Jones later learned that Dinnella was in fact in custody when she released his property to Menna. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. D, ECF No. 61-4). However, her computer search did not reveal that information because Dinnella's name was misspelled on the admission report pertaining to the February 27th arrest. ( Id. ; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 7 to Ex. A, ECF No. 61-1).

Jones has also submitted affidavits signed by Alisea Menna and her boyfriend, Matt York. In his affidavit, York states that he was housed in the same cell block as Dinnella after the February 27th arrest. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. C, ECF No. 61-3). According to York, Dinnella told him to ask Menna to retrieve the property so that the food stamps and casino cards could be utilized to obtain money that would be deposited in Dinnella's inmate account. ( Id. ) Menna has testified that she retrieved the property pursuant to this authorization, but she later misplaced it. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. E, ECF No. 61-5). Dinnella has not submitted any evidence or affidavits that counter the evidence and affidavits submitted by Jones.

Dinnella, who is currently incarcerated, filed this pro se lawsuit seeking damages from Jones and Menna for the lost property. He has not specified whether he is filing his claims pursuant to state or federal law or what constitutional rights, if any, may have been violated by Jones. Due to Dinnella's pro se prisoner status, the Court will liberally construe Dinnella's Complaint and address the possibility that he may be asserting claims under both state and federal law, as well as multiple constitutional violations.

DISCUSSION

A motion for summary judgment may be filed by any party asserting that there is no genuine issue of material fact that the movant is entitled to prevail as a matter of law on any claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The movant bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery on file, together with any affidavits, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant carries its burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to show that summary judgment should not be granted. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324-25. The nonmovant may not rest upon mere allegations or denials in its pleadings but must set forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986).

Section 1983 prohibits "persons" acting under color of law from depriving another of any "rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the Constitution and laws...." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, in order to assert a viable claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege that he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Dinnella claims that Jones improperly deprived him of his property by releasing it to a third party.

I. DINNELLA'S DEPRIVATION OF PROPERTY CLAIM

Jones argues that Dinnella's claim is barred by the Parratt-Hudson doctrine. See Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986). Under this doctrine, "a state actor's random and unauthorized deprivation of a plaintiff's property does not result in a violation of procedural due process rights if the state provides an adequate postdeprivation remedy." Alexander v. Ieyoub, 62 F.3d 709, 712 (5th Cir. 1995). "[W]here employees are acting in accord with customary procedures, the random and unauthorized' element required for the application of the Parratt/Hudson doctrine is simply not met." Brooks v. George Cnty., Miss., 84 F.3d 157, 165 (5th Cir. 1996).

[A] § 1983 action for deprivation of procedural due process is barred if a state has adequate post-deprivation remedies and the following conditions exist: (1) the deprivation must truly have been unpredictable or unforeseeable; (2) pre-deprivation process would have been impossible or impotent to counter the state actors' particular conduct; and (3) the conduct must have been unauthorized in the sense that it was not within the officials' express or implied authority.

Stotter v. Univ. of Tex. at San Antonio, 508 F.3d 812, 822 (5th Cir. 2007). Dinnella does not allege that his property was released to Menna in accordance with prison policy. It is undisputed that Jones' action in releasing the property was an unforeseeable failure to abide by the prison's policy. Pre-deprivation process was not available, because Jones' actions were not foreseeable, given that there is no evidence that property had previously been released in violation of prison policy. Furthermore, an adequate post-deprivation remedy is available in the form of a state court claim for conversion. See White v. Epps, No. 10-60040, 411 F.Appx. 731, 733 (5th Cir. Feb. 14, 2011). Since Jones failed to follow the prison policies for handling prisoner property, the release of Dinnella's property to Menna did not violate Dinnella's ...


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