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Oby v. Sander

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

July 23, 2015

SHERMAN OBY, Plaintiff,


SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sherman Oby, an inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following defendants, alleging that they were involved in an incident where the plaintiff was subjected to the use of excessive force: Raman King, Cedric Minton, James Webb, Corey Sanders[1], and Alphonzo Williams.[2] Plaintiff, Defendant Raman King, and Defendant Cedric Minton have each moved for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Having reviewed the submissions and arguments of the parties, as well as the applicable law, the Court finds that the defendants' motions should be granted and the plaintiff's denied, for the reasons that follow.

Plaintiff's Allegations & Background Facts

Sherman Oby, an inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections ("MDOC"), was housed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary on August 18, 2013. On that date, he received rule violation reports for various disciplinary infractions and was escorted by several officers to a holding cell to await transfer to lockdown. Specifically, Oby contends that Defendants Williams and Sanders were escorting him to the door of the holding cell when Sanders, without provocation, struck him six to eight times on the back and side of the head and pushed him through the doorway. Oby maintains that the other escorting officers failed to intervene and stop Sanders' attack.

Oby states that he received a brief medical evaluation before he entered lockdown a few hours after the alleged assault, and that he asked the evaluating nurse to note in his medical records that he had palpable knots on his head. He maintains that he continued to seek medical treatment for headaches for months after the incident, and that he continues to suffer headaches and psychological trauma as a result of the alleged attack. Oby asks the Court to award him punitive and compensatory damages from Defendant Sanders and that the other officers be suspended without pay for one hour.

Defendants' Allegations

Defendants King and Minton maintain that they are immune from liability in this lawsuit. They otherwise argue that the events alleged by Oby did not occur. Rather, they claim, Oby was issued a Rule Violation Report ("RVR") on August 18, 2013, after he threatened an officer and was found in possession of a sharpened instrument. Defendants maintain that other officers intervened, removed the weapon from Oby's possession, and transported him to a holding tank. They claim that Oby was evaluated by medical personnel following the incident, and they allege that the notes from the medical evaluation indicate that he had no apparent injuries at the time.

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper only when the pleadings and evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, illustrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is deemed "material" if "its resolution in favor of one party might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law." Sossamon v. Lone Star State of Texas, 560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). Once the motion is properly supported with competent evidence, the nonmovant must show that summary judgment is inappropriate. Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmovant cannot rely upon "conclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions" to satisfy his burden, but rather, 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, 144 F.3d at 380. If the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, " then there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no proof is presented, however, the Court does not assume that the nonmovant "could or would prove the necessary facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

I. Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment

Defendants King and Minton are sued in this action solely based on the allegation that they failed to intervene when Oby was purportedly attacked by Defendant Sanders. Each has separately moved for summary judgment, but both have asserted the defenses of Eleventh Amendment immunity and qualified immunity. Therefore, the Court addresses their defenses in the same analysis.

A. Eleventh Amendment

Defendants King and Minton each claim that they are entitled to summary judgment in their official capacities, as they are immune from suit pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Eleventh Amendment bars suits in federal court by a citizen against his own state. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). A suit against a state employee in his official capacity is a suit against the office and, as such, is the same as suit against the state itself. Will v. Michigan, Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (citations omitted). The Mississippi Department of Corrections is an arm of the State of Mississippi and enjoys the same immunity. See Hines v. Mississippi Dept. of Corrections, 239 F.3d 366, 2000 WL 1741624 at *4 (5th Cir. 2000).

A state can waive its immunity by consenting to suit against it, and Congress can explicitly revoke a state's immunity. See Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (noting that "[t]here can be no doubt... that suit against [a] State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless [the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit"); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99 (1984) (noting that congressional action can abrogate a state's immunity). However, § 1983 does not abrogate the Eleventh Amendment. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979); Sessions v. Rusk State Hospital, 648 F.2d 1066, 1069 (5th Cir. 1981). Mississippi has not consented to the filing of § 1983 suits against it in federal court. See, e.g., McGarry v. Univ. of Mississippi Med. Ctr., 355 F.Appx. 853, 856 (5th Cir. 2009) (noting that Mississippi "expressly preserved sovereign ...

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