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Turner v. Sparkman

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern (Jackson) Division

September 15, 2014



LINDA R. ANDERSON, Magistrate Judge.

This cause is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [41] filed by Defendants. Having considered the entire record in this matter, the Court finds that the motion is well-taken and should be granted.

I. Background

Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), who is proceeding pro se in this litigation. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging the conditions of his confinement. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the MDOC Inmate Legal Assistance Program (ILAP) is inadequate and violates his constitutional right of access to the courts. [1]. As the Court interprets the allegations, Plaintiff contends either that the inadequate ILAP program caused his federal court habeas petition, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, to be time barred, and therefore prevented him from presenting a legitimate challenge to his underlying conviction, or that the inadequate ILAP program is preventing him from further challenging his conviction in federal court. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants retaliated against him for exercising his constitutional rights. [36]. Defendants Sparkman, Clay, Tilley and McLeod[1] are all state officials working within, or with a connection to, the ILAP program.

The Court held an omnibus or Spears hearing in this matter on January 24, 2013, at which Plaintiff was afforded the opportunity to fully explain his claim.[2] At the hearing, all parties consented to the undersigned deciding this case in its entirety. [32]. 28 U.S.C. § 636.

Plaintiff was convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine after a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Oktibbeha County. On appeal, the case was reversed and remanded for a hearing regarding whether probable cause existed to support the search warrant in the case or whether evidence collected pursuant to the search warrant should be suppressed. Turner v. State, 945 So.2d 992 (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). The trial court subsequently conducted an evidentiary hearing and determined that there was in fact probable cause for issuance of the search warrant. Accordingly, the trial court entered an order on June 14, 2007, denying Plaintiff relief. Plaintiff did not appeal that decision. Instead, approximately eighteen months after the decision, on January 5, 2009, Plaintiff filed his response and objection to the trial court's finding with the Mississippi Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals dismissed the motion on March 18, 2009, concluding that it no longer had jurisdiction. Turner v. State, No. 2005-KA-00255-COA (Miss. Ct. App. March 18, 2009). Then, two years after that decision, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus with the Mississippi Supreme Court, urging the Supreme Court to compel the Court of Appeals to decide his case. The Mississippi Supreme Court dismissed the petition as moot. In re Johnny Turner, No. 2011-M-00466 (Ms. Ct. App. June 1, 2011). On December 16, 2011, Plaintiff filed a motion for post-conviction relief with the Mississippi Supreme Court, which was denied as time-barred on April 11, 2012. In re Johnny Turner, No. 2011-M-00466 (Miss. April 11, 2012).

Meanwhile, Plaintiff was also pursuing habeas relief in federal court. Turner v. State , No. 10-60531 (5th Cir. February 23, 2011); Turner v. State, 2010 WL 1568579, No. 1:09CV249-A-D (N.D. Miss. April 19, 2010). Plaintiff did not respond to a motion to dismiss his petition as time-barred, filed by the state in his federal habeas case. The Court dismissed Plaintiff's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus as time-barred. Turner v. State, 2010 WL 1568579, No. 1:09CV249-A-D (N.D. Miss. April 10, 2010). Plaintiff filed a Motion for a Certificate of Appealability in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was denied. The Fifth Circuit agreed that Plaintiff's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus was time-barred, noting that though Plaintiff should have filed his petition in federal court by July 16, 2008, the petition was not filed until October 1, 2009. Turner v. State, No. 10-60531 (5th Cir. February 23, 2011); Turner, No. 1:09CV249-A-D at 2. The Fifth Circuit also denied Plaintiff's request for reconsideration of its ruling and subsequent petition for rehearing en banc . [1-1] at 4.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment in this case on the bases, inter alia , that the Eleventh Amendment bars suits for damages against Defendants in their official capacities and that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to the claims against them in their individual capacities.

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

The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits suits against states in federal court brought by private citizens. Board of Trustees of the Univ. of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001). This immunity from suit extends to state agencies and state officials sued in their official capacities for any relief, except certain types of injunctive relief. Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman , 465 U.S. 89, 100-103 (1984); Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).

Plaintiff seeks to have the time bar of 28 U.S.C. § 2254 lifted so that he may appeal his criminal conviction. [1]. This is not the type of prospective injunctive relief that falls within an exception to the Eleventh Amendment bar. See, e.g., Ex parte Young , 209 U.S. 123 (1908). 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 prospective injunctive relief under Section 1983 because "official-capacity actions for prospective relief are not treated as actions against the State." Kentucky v. ...

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