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Reeves v. King

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

January 16, 2015

JAMES RONNIE REEVES, Plaintiff,
v.
RONALD KING, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MICHAEL T. PARKER, Magistrate Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment [56] filed by Defendants Brenda Simms, Chiquita Brown, Joseph Cooley, Ronald King, Debra Platt and Steven Packer; and Motion Asking Acceptance of Objection to Motion for Summary Judgment [58] filed by the Plaintiff. Having carefully considered the record and the submission of the parties, the undersigned recommends that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [56] be granted, that Plaintiff's remaining claims should be dismissed sua sponte for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and that Plaintiff's Motion [58] be denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff James Ronnie Reeves, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983 on or about May 8, 2012. Reeves is currently incarcerated at South Mississippi Correctional Institution (SMCI) in Leakesville, Mississippi. SMCI is operated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections ("MDOC"). Through his complaint and as clarified during his Spears [1] hearing, Reeves alleges several claims in connection to the issuance of a Rule Violation Report (RVR).

According to Reeves, on or about July 10, 2011, he received a RVR from Defendant Packer for inciting a riot. Reeves claims the RVR was based on a false charge because the incident at issue was merely a nonviolent protest.[2] Reeves claims that Defendant Simms instructed Packer to prepare the "false RVR." A hearing on the matter was later held at which Defendant Platt served as the hearing officer. Reeves claims that on the day of the hearing, Defendant Brown deprived him of his noon meal. Reeves claims that Defendant Platt was not an impartial at the hearing, and that she did not allow Reeves to call witnesses or give him an opportunity to speak on his on behalf in violation of his due process rights. Platt found Reeves guilty of inciting a riot, and Reeves alleges he lost certain privileges and 60 days good time credit as a result. Reeves also claims that Defendant Brown ordered Platt to find him guilty and threatened Reeves with physical force.

Reeves sought to appeal the disciplinary conviction by utilizing the prison's Administrative Remedy Procedure (ARP). However, Reeves alleges that his initial ARP form was lost by Defendant Cooley, which resulted in Reeves re-filing the ARP in December 2011. Reeves claims that Defendant King, then Superintendent of SMCI, later violated MDOC policy and wrongfully affirmed Reeves's disciplinary conviction.[3]

Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment [56] on May 9, 2014. In the Motion, Defendants claim they are entitled to sovereign and qualified immunity as to Reeves's due process claims in connection to the RVR. On June 6, 2014, Reeves filed Motion [58], in which he argues that there are genuine issues of material fact and that summary judgment should not be granted. Reeves's motion is essentially a response to the Defendants' motion for summary judgement [56].

STANDARD

Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that the court shall grant summary judgment if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If a party fails to properly support an assertion of facts or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required, the court may grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the moving party is entitled to it. FED. R. CIV. PRO. 56(e). Summary judgment is proper "where a party fails to establish the existence of an element essential to his case and on which he bears the burden of proof." Washington v. Armstrong World Indus., 839 F.2d 1121, 1122 (5th Cir. 1988). "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." Id.

This court may grant summary judgment only if, viewing the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, the defendant demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Woods v. Smith, 60 F.3d 1161, 1164 (5th Cir. 1995). If the defendant fails to discharge the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue concerning any material fact, summary judgment must be denied. John v. State of Louisiana, 757 F.2d 698, 708 (5th Cir. 1985). The existence of an issue of material fact is a question of law that the court must decide, and in making that decision, it must "draw inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and take care that no party will be improperly deprived of a trial of disputed factual issues." Id. at 712 (quoting U.S. Steel Corp. v. Darby, 516 F.2d 961, 963 (5th Cir. 1975)).

Failure to State a Claim

In their Motion [56], Defendants seek summary judgment only as to Reeve's due process claims regarding the issuance of an RVR and the subsequent hearing. Defendants do not discuss Plaintiff's other allegations, including his denial of access to the courts claim, his claim that he was denied a meal and his claim that Defendant Brown's made threats of physical force. Thus, Defendants' Motion [56] is more properly construed as a motion for partial summary judgment. However, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the district court is directed to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint at any time if it determines that the complaint is frivolous or malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 202 (2007) (holding that Prison Litigation Reform Act mandates early judicial screening of prisoner complaints).

A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. See Rogers v. Boatright, 709 F.3d 403, 407 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing Berry v. Brady, 192 F.3d 504, 507 (5th Cir. 1999)). A complaint lacks an arguable basis in fact if, after providing the plaintiff the ...


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