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Flowers v. Turner

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

March 9, 2017

MARCUS FLOWERS, PLAINTIFF
v.
MARSHAL TURNER et al., DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT BASED ON SOVEREIGN AND QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

          JOHN C. GARGIULO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Sovereign and Qualified Immunity, filed by Defendants Marshall Turner, Brenda Sims, and Denise Brewer. (ECF No. 24). Plaintiff Marcus Flowers has filed a Response (ECF No. 28), and Defendants have not filed a Reply. Having considered the written submissions of the parties, as well as Plaintiff's sworn testimony at the omnibus hearing conducted on April 15, 2016, the Court concludes that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted. The claims against Defendants in their official capacities are barred by sovereign immunity. Defendants in their individual capacities are entitled to qualified immunity. Further, Plaintiff cannot recover for mental or emotional injury while in custody because he has not shown a physical injury.

         BACKGROUND

         On March 5, 2015, Plaintiff, a postconviction inmate, [1] commenced this action pro se and in forma pauperis against numerous Defendants, challenging the conditions of his confinement at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution (SMCI) in Leakesville, Mississippi. Jurisdiction is based upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants are Warden Marshall Turner, former Deputy Warden Brenda Sims, and Correctional Officer Denise Brewer.

         Plaintiff claims that his due process rights were violated when he was issued a false rule violation report (RVR) on September 6, 2014, by Officer Brewer at the direction of Deputy Warden Sims. The charge was possession of major contraband, a cellphone. (ECF No. 24-1, at 2). Plaintiff maintains that this RVR was issued in retaliation by Deputy Warden Sims because a previous RVR involving the same incident was dismissed because it was not delivered to Plaintiff within twenty-four hours. Plaintiff was found guilty of the second RVR and punished with a 60-day loss of prison privileges. Id. Plaintiff appealed the RVR, and the decision was affirmed by Warden Turner. (ECF No. 1, at 6).

         Plaintiff alleges that his due process rights were also violated when he received a another false RVR on September 25, 2015, for assaulting another prisoner. (ECF No. 24-1, at 3). Plaintiff was found guilty of the RVR and punished with a loss of prison privileges for two months. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standards

         1. Summary Judgment

         Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 56 provides, in relevant part, that summary judgment “shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). This language “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant need not, however, support the motion with materials to negate the opponent's claim. Id. As to issues on which the non-moving party has the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only point to portions of the record that demonstrate an absence of evidence to support the non-moving partys' claim. Id. at 323-24. The non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings and designate “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324.

         Summary judgment can be granted only if the record demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists. It is improper for the court to “resolve factual disputes by weighing the conflicting evidence, . . . since it is the province of the jury to assess the probative value of the evidence.” Kennett-Murray Corp. v. Bone, 622 F.2d 887, 892 (5th Cir. 1980). Summary judgment is also improper if the court merely believes it unlikely that the non-moving party will prevail at trial. Nat. Scrren Serv. Corp. v. Poster Exch., Inc., 305 F.2d 647, 651 (5th Cir. 1962).

         2. The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner pursuing a civil action seeking redress from government employees, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321, H.R. 3019 (codified as amended in scattered ...


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