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Shies v. Holman

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

August 29, 2014

RICKIE LEE SHIES, #77415, Plaintiff,
JAMES HOLMAN, ET AL., Defendants.


LINDA R. ANDERSON, Magistrate Judge.

The parties appeared and participated in an omnibus hearing before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on April 24, 2013, at the Jackson Federal Courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi. Rickie Lee Shies ("Plaintiff" or "Shies") appeared pro se; Defendants were represented by Keith Gates, Office of the Attorney General of the State of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi. On September 17, 2013, Shies filed a Motion for Injunctive Relief [35] and Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [36], and these motions are now before the Court. After consideration of the motions, the supporting pleadings, Shies's sworn testimony, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion of Defendants is well-taken and shall be granted. Shies's Motion for Injunctive Relief shall be denied.

I. Plaintiff's Claims

Jurisdiction of this case is based upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff was housed in the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Pearl, Mississippi, as a convicted felon in the custody of these Defendants since his conviction in 2004. He is now housed at the South Mississippi Correctional Institute (SMCI) in Leakesville, Mississippi. In 2011, he received a Rules Violation Report (RVR) for possessing contraband, a cell phone [RVR #1214520]. He was placed in segregation lockdown for 35-40 days as punishment before being moved back in general population. After the 2012 cell phone unit was created in February 2012, he was housed in that unit at CMCF. According to Plaintiff, this was additional punishment for the same incident and/or RVR and being housed in that cell phone unit violated his constitutional rights.

Plaintiff was transferred to the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF) on or about July 6, 2012. During that transfer, his legal property was lost, including copies of his criminal indictment, witness lists, and affidavits regarding other cases. Some of his commissary items were also lost.

At some point, Plaintiff received another RVR for possessing a cell phone, but he testified that he was unaware of its issuance. The Incident Report from the Mississippi Department of Corrections [MDOC], contained in Shies's inmate file, confirms that he was charged with having a cell phone on December 21, 2011, and again on March 10, 2012 [36-1, pp. 36-37]. Plaintiff also complains that Defendants at CMCF retaliated against him for filing appeals of his RVRs.

Defendants are all MDOC correctional officers serving at CMCF. They are Lieutenant James Holman, Superintendent; Lieutenant Sean Banks; Carolyn Banks, serving as an Investigator over disciplinary proceedings; Lieutenant Denise Bones, a disciplinary hearing officer; and, Sergeant Katrina Lee. Plaintiff also named Captain Robert Johnson, but that summons was returned unexecuted because there was no record of such person being employed at CMCF.

II. Standard of Review

"Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party can show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" United States v. Renda Marine, Inc., 667 F.3d 651, 655 (5th Cir.2012) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). "A factual dispute is genuine' where a reasonable party would return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Chiu v. Plano Indep. Sch. Dist., 339 F.3d 273, 282 (5th Cir.2003) (quoting Lukan v. North Forest Indep. Sch. Dist., 183 F.3d 342, 345 (5th Cir.1999). When considering a summary judgment motion, a court "must review all facts and evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Juino v. Livingston Parish Fire Dist. No. 5, 717 F.3d 431, 433 (5th Cir.2013). However, "[u]nsubstantiated assertions, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation are not sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Brown v. City of Houston, 337 F.3d 539, 541 (5th Cir.2003) (citing Bridgmon v. Array Sys. Corp., 325 F.3d 572, 577 (5th Cir.2003); Hugh Symons Group, plc v. Motorola, Inc., 292 F.3d 466, 468 (5th Cir.2002)).

III. Discussion

A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

Plaintiff requests that this Court award "general damages" to him in the amount of $1, 250, 000.00 and punitive damages in the sum of $975, 000.00. Any claim for money damages against Defendants in their official capacity is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. A claim against a state official that is in fact a [claim] against a State is barred regardless of whether it seeks damages or injunctive relief.'" Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101 (1984). A cause of action "against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office." Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). A state that has not consented to federal jurisdiction "is immune from suits brought in federal court by her own citizens as well as by the citizens of another state." Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 100.

Shies's official capacity claims against these Defendants are essentially claims against the State of Mississippi. Mississippi has not consented to suit in this Court or otherwise waived its immunity; therefore, neither it nor Defendant prison officials can be held liable for money damages.[1] Shies's claims for monetary damages against the Defendants in their official capacities must be dismissed. Further, any claim for injunctive relief must also be dismissed because the Ex Parte Young exception does not apply.

In Ex Parte Young, the Supreme Court recognized a narrow exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity which allows a state official to be sued in his or her official capacity for injunctive relief. 209 U.S. 123, 159-160 (1908). "This exception strips the individual state actor of immunity and allows a private citizen to sue that individual in federal court for prospective injunctive relief based on allegations that the actor violated federal law." McKinley v. Abbott, 643 F.3d 403, 406 (5th Cir.2011). A state official can be sued in his or her official capacity for injunctive relief under § 1983 because "official-capacity actions for ...

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