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Goldsmith v. Strickland

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

February 7, 2017




         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment [48] and a supporting memorandum filed by Defendants Daniel Strickland, James Rutland, Ben Blaine, Eddie Thompson, Bryan Bailey, [1] David King, and Pattie Temple (“Rankin County Defendants”). In a previously entered Memorandum Opinion and Order [52], the Court granted the motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff moved for reconsideration, [55], [56], and he attached previously unsubmitted papers that he argued demonstrated his attempts at exhaustion. Based on these submissions, the Court granted Goldsmith's motion for reconsideration, withdrew the Memorandum Opinion and Order [52], set aside the Judgment [54], and re-opened the case. Defendants were given until October 17, 2016, to file a rebuttal, but made no additional filing.

         Having considered the filings, the Court finds that the Motion for Summary Judgment [48] should be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         Plaintiff is a former pretrial detainee at the Rankin County Jail (“Jail”), and he is currently housed at South Mississippi Correctional Institution. According to Plaintiff's complaint, the Rankin County Defendants violated his constitutional rights when he was incarcerated at the Jail in 2013 and 2014, as a pre-trial detainee and after he was convicted. Defendants are the Sheriff of Rankin County, Bryan Bailey; James Rutland, Chief of Security; Daniel Strickland, a Jail officer; Ben Blaine, Jail Administrator; Eddie Thompson, Chief Deputy; David King, Jail shift leader; and Pattie Temple, Jail employee.

         The Court held an omnibus hearing[2] in this matter, at which time it conferred with Plaintiff and counsel for all Defendants in this suit founded upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At that hearing, the parties consented to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct any and all further proceedings in the case and order the entry of final judgment, and the District Judge subsequently entered an order of reference. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Goldsmith is proceeding in this matter in forma pauperis (“IFP”) and pro se.

         Goldsmith sets forth his claims in his original Complaint [1], in a Response [10] to an Order from the Court, and in his omnibus hearing testimony [48-2], as follows:

         1. Goldsmith alleges claims of due process violations related to disciplinary procedures, resulting in lockdowns and/or periods of isolation, on the following occasions:

a. January 26, 2013, to March 18, 2013. [1] at 5; [48-3] at 9-19, 89;
b. January 29, 2014, to February 26, 2014. [1] at 8; [48-2] at 27-28; [48-3] at 89;
c. May 24, 2014, for four days. [1] at 9; and
d. June 18, 2014, for seven days. [1] at 9, [48-2] at 29; [48-3] at 113.

         2. Goldsmith complains of the conditions of confinement while he was in isolation. He complains of cold food served without regard to proper food-handling precautions, lack of exercise, no contact with the outside world, and no communication with family during his periods in isolation, including lost mail. [1] at 5, 6, 8, 10.

         3. Goldsmith alleges that Defendant Strickland used excessive force against him on January 25, 2013, for which Goldsmith was given a rules violation. Id. at 5; [48-2] at 17-22; [48-3] at 21.

         4. Goldsmith complains of his conditions of confinement on March 1, 2013, when he alleges that Defendant Blaine made him stand outside in inadequate clothing for one-half day in temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. [1] at 5; [6] at 1; [10] at 2; [48-2] at 30-32.

         5. Goldsmith alleges that Defendants denied him adequate medical treatment on February 13, 2013, when they failed to transport him to a doctor's appointment that he had made prior to his arrest. [1] at 8; [48-2] at 36-37.

         6. Goldsmith alleges that the medical staff denied him adequate medical treatment related to a rash that he asserts he contracted during a period of lockdown/isolation in January 2014. [1] at 10; [48-2] at 37.

         In a Response [10] to the Court's Order [6] asking for more information about his claims, Goldsmith asserts that Defendant Bailey violated his constitutional rights when he allowed his employees to cause physical harm to him. [10] at 1. He also alleges that Defendant King allowed his employees to “do as they choose.” Id. In the Response, Plaintiff also asserts that the Jail staff denied him yard call, and that Defendants King, Rutland, Thompson, and Bailey should be held accountable for the denial of yard call. Id.

         At the omnibus hearing, Goldsmith testified that he wrote letters and grievances related to his complaints about Jail conditions to the Jail's administration. [48-2] at 34. He also testified that he mailed copies of these letters and grievances to his home for safekeeping. Id. at 33. The remainder of his testimony essentially reiterated the claims he had made in his Complaint [1] and the Response [10].

         Having reviewed the grievances and other documents submitted by Goldsmith as a part of his motion for reconsideration, the Court turns to evaluate Plaintiff's claims.

         II. Discussion

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         The Rankin County Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting several bases for dismissal. Defendants first argue that Goldsmith has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, as is required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), and, thus, this matter should be dismissed. Alternatively, Defendants argue that they are entitled to dismissal on the merits of Goldsmith's claims. The Court has considered Plaintiff's submission [55], [56], in response to the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states, in relevant part, that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue of fact is genuine if the "'evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable factfinder to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Lemoine v. New Horizons Ranch and Center, 174 F.3d 629, 633 (5th Cir. 1999)(quoting Colston v. Barnhart, 146 F.3d 282, 284 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 119 S.Ct. 618 (1998)). Issues of fact are material if “resolution of the issues might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Lemoine, 174 F.3d at 633. The Court does not, "however, in the absence of any proof, assume the nonmoving [or opposing] party could or would prove the necessary facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)(en banc)(emphasis omitted). Moreover, the non-moving party's burden to come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, " Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986), is not satisfied by "conclusory allegations" or by "unsubstantiated assertions, " or by only a "scintilla" of evidence. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         B. Exhaustion

         Based on the attachments to Goldsmith's motion to reconsider, [55], [56], the Court will consider whether Goldsmith exhausted his administrative remedies. Statutory and case law requires a prisoner to exhaust administrative remedies, regardless of the relief sought. The relevant portion of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), states the following:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)(Supp. 2000). In Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731 (2001), the Supreme Court held that 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, revised as a part of the PLRA, requires an inmate to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing an action with respect to prison conditions, regardless of the relief offered through administrative procedures. Booth, 532 U.S. at 741. The United States Supreme Court further explained that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement is mandatory and applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong. See Porter ...

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