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Savinell v. Alexander

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

October 9, 2014

GLORIA ALEXANDER, et al., Defendants.


MICHAEL P. MILLS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ryan Savinell, an inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that Defendants Arthur L. Smith and Gloria Alexander failed to protect him from harm at the hands of other inmates.[1] Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the action, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Savinell has responded to the motion, and Defendants have submitted a rebuttal thereto. Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and competent summary judgment evidence, as well as the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendants' motion should be granted.

Plaintiff's Allegations

In March 2011, while housed in Unit 29 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary ("MSP"), Savinell got into a physical altercation with another inmate alleged to be a Gangster Disciples gang member. Savinell alleges that the Gangster Disciples put out a "hit" on him as a result of the fight, and that he went into protective custody to avoid retribution. Savinell maintains that he signed himself out of protective custody some twelve months later, and that he was subsequently transferred to the Carroll-Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility ("CMRCF"), where Defendants are employed.

On September 3, 2012, Savinell got into a fight with an inmate at CMRCF, and he was placed in segregation. Savinell states that requested to be moved to a facility where he could be placed in protective custody, inasmuch as CMRCF does not have a protective custody unit. Savinell alleges that he warned CMRCF personnel that he would not be safe in general population. Despite this warning, he maintains, CMRCF personnel did not recommend him for protective custody, and he was not placed in protective custody when he was subsequently moved to MSP on October 1, 2012. Savinell alleges that he was forced into general population upon his return to MSP and was "jumped on" by several Gangster Disciples on December 27, 2012. Savinell allegedly sustained a stab wound during the altercation and spent several weeks in MSP's hospital.

In his complaint, Savinell maintains that Gloria Alexander, a case manager at CMRCF, failed to recommend him for protective custody when she requested his transfer from CMRCF, and that she thereafter denied his administrative remedy request for review of that decision. He maintains that Warden Arthur L. Smith approved Gloria Alexander's decisions and ignored the threat the Gangster Disciples posed to Savinell.

Summary Judgment Standard[2]

Summary judgment is required "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute regarding a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining the appropriateness of summary judgment, all facts are considered in favor of the nonmoving party, including all reasonable inferences therefrom. Banc One Capital Partners Corp. v. Kneipper, 67 F.3d 1187, 1198 (5th Cir. 1995). However, in the absence of proof, the court does not "assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)(emphasis omitted).

Summary judgment is proper, then, "where a party fails to establish the existence of an element essential to his case and on which he bears the burden of proof. A complete failure of proof on an essential element renders all other facts immaterial because there is no longer a genuine issue of material fact." Washington v. Armstrong World Industries, Inc.., 839 F.2d 1121, 1122 (5th Cir.1988) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal citations omitted)). The nonmovant cannot rely upon "conclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions" to satisfy his burden, but rather, he must set forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue as to every essential element of his claim. Ramsey v. Henderson, 286 F.3d 264, 269 (5th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted); Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998). Therefore, summary judgment should be granted if "critical evidence is so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant, or where it is so overwhelming that it mandates judgment in favor of the movant." Armstrong v. City of Dallas, 997 F.2d 62, 67 (5th Cir.1993).

Summary Judgment Evidence

On September 3, 2012, Savinell got into a fight with an inmate at CMRCF and was placed in segregation. ( See Pl. Compl., ECF No. 1, p. 8). On September 5, 2012, Defendant Gloria Alexander conducted a seventy-two hour review, and Savinell stated at that time that he did not want to return to general population, as he feared for his life. ( See Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3, Offender Log). A few days later, Savinell "Red Tagged"[3] four inmates housed at CMRCF, claiming that the inmates were affiliated gang members who had "a hit out on him." ( Id. ). Defendant Alexander entered notes in Savinell's Offender Log, MDOC's running record of events, documenting his fears and identifying the red-tagged inmates. ( See Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2, Aff. of Gloria Alexander; Ex. 3). On or about September 12, 2012, while he was still in segregation, Savinell wrote an Administrative Remedy ("ARP") request asking to be transferred to protective custody at MSP. ( See Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 4, ARP #MSP-12-2107). The Department of Offender Services, which controls the decisions on when and where to transfer inmates, decided to transfer Savinell to MSP. ( See Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2, p.2). Savinell was kept in segregation at CMRCF until he was picked up on September 28, 2012, to be transferred to MSP. ( See Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, MDOC Housing History; Ex. 2, Ex. 3).

On October 1, 2012, an MSP official made the following notation in Savinell's Offender Log:

Offender was received at MSP today. After review of his record, his alerts indicated that offender was not to be moved from Carroll CCF without contacting CID Rogers. I contacted C/M Redding-Gallion in Offender Services of the situation who advised offender was to be placed in our general population and that he was brought in because of situation at Carroll CCF and Reg Tags. ...

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