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Skinner v. King

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

April 19, 2017

JAMES LEE SKINNER PLAINTIFF
v.
RON KING, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Daniel P. Jordan III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This pro se prisoner case is before the Court on two motions for summary judgment, filed on behalf of four of the nine defendants: Carl Arnold's Motion for Summary Judgment for Failure to Exhaust Available Administrative Remedies [36] and Latasha Brooks, Ron King, and Brian Ladner's Motion for Summary Judgment [43], in which Defendants Carl Arnold, Anthony Health, Frederick Henderson, Daniel Lonie, and Aaron Spann have joined in part [45]. For the reasons that follow, both motions are granted, and the partial joinder is sustained.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         Plaintiff James Lee Skinner (“Skinner”) was a state inmate housed at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (“CMCF”) in Pearl, Mississippi, in 2015.[1] Skinner claims that on April 11, 2015, at the behest of Defendant Ron King (“King”), K-9 officers conducted a shakedown of his housing unit in an effort to confiscate cell phones from inmates. Skinner claims that he was beaten by several CMCF officers during this shakedown and that he was transported to Central Mississippi Medical Center (“CMMC”) to treat the injuries he sustained. Skinner says that on his way back from CMMC, Defendant Carl Arnold (“Arnold”) stopped the vehicle in which he was being transported, choked him, and tried to break his fingers.

         The following day, April 12, 2015, Skinner says he received a Rule Violation Report (“RVR”) on a false claim that he assaulted a corrections officer. He claims that Defendant Latasha Brooks handled the RVR and should have dismissed the charges against him; instead, she found him guilty. He also claims that Defendant Brian Ladner improperly denied his appeal of the guilty finding on the RVR. As a result of that guilty finding, Skinner lost all privileges for 60 days.

         Skinner filed this § 1983 lawsuit against King, Arnold, Brooks, Ladner, and others on October 5, 2015. Arnold filed his motion for summary judgment on October 5, 2016; Brooks, King, and Ladner moved for summary judgment on February 8, 2017; and Defendants Arnold, Anthony Health, Frederick Henderson, Daniel Lonie, and Aaron Spann joined the latter summary-judgment motion in part on February 8, 2017. Skinner failed to file responses to the motions, and the time to do so under the local rules has now expired. The Court has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction and is prepared to rule.

         II. Standard

         Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient 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] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). When such contradictory facts exist, the court may “not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments have never constituted an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075; SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993).

         Where, as here, the nonmovant fails to respond to a motion for summary judgment, “summary judgment cannot be granted by default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, advisory committee notes to 2010 amendments. Instead, the Court may “consider the fact[s presented by the movant] undisputed for purposes of the motion” and may “grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). “Usually, where the nonmovant fails to respond to a motion for summary judgment, he is relegated to his unsworn pleadings, which do not constitute summary judgment evidence.” Knoop v. Douglas, No. 2:09cv148, 2010 WL 4007752, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 12, 2010). Here, however, Skinner's § 1983 complaint was signed and declared to be true and correct under penalty of perjury. Compl. [1] at 8. And Skinner gave sworn testimony at a Spears hearing.[2] While the Court is not required to consider materials other than those cited by the parties, “it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The Court has considered the record as a whole in ruling on the pending motions.

         III. Analysis

         A. Arnold's Motion Arnold argues he is entitled to summary judgment on Skinner's claims against him because Skinner failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, prisoners must exhaust any available administrative remedies prior to filing suit under § 1983. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006). Skinner's available remedies are found in section 47-5-801 of the Mississippi Code, which

grants the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) the authority to adopt an administrative review procedure at each of its correctional facilities. Pursuant to this statutory authority, the MDOC has set up an Administrative Remedy Program (“ARP”) “through which an offender may seek formal review of a complaint relating to any aspect of their incarceration.”

Threadgill v. Moore, No. 3:10cv378-TSL-MTP, 2011 WL 4388832, at *3 (S.D.Miss. July 25, 2011) (quoting MDOC Inmate Handbook, Ch. VIII, ¶ 3); see also Wilson v. Epps, 776 F.3d 296, 300 (5th Cir. 2015) (describing MDOC grievance process). In order to exhaust his administrative remedies, a Mississippi inmate must “pursue the [ARP process] to ...


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