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Ellis v. Dunn

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

August 2, 2017




         This pro se § 1983 action is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation [97] of Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball. Judge Ball recommended granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment [86, 90] and dismissing this action with prejudice. Plaintiff Thomas Earl Ellis did not object; instead, he moved to amend his complaint [98]. The Court, having considered each of these filings, finds that the Report and Recommendation should be adopted in part. Ellis's motion to amend is denied.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         In 1991, Ellis pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, to one count of sexual battery. After serving time, he was again indicted in 2009 in state court for sexual battery and gratification of lust. He was tried and convicted on those counts in March 2011. The court sentenced Ellis as a habitual offender, using his 1991 conviction to enhance his sentence. His 2011 convictions were affirmed in March 2014, and his application for post-conviction relief was denied seven months later.

         Ellis filed suit in this Court on December 23, 2014, alleging, among other things, that Defendants failed to keep accurate records, falsified records, and refused to produce records. Because Ellis is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, his Complaint was subject to the screening procedures of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. As part of that process, the Court dismissed Ellis's case in part. See Order [35].[1] All that is left are Ellis's federal-law claims against Defendants Barbara Dunn, Alicia Box, Tyrone Lewis, and Robert Schuler Smith regarding their alleged failure to provide records Ellis allegedly requested.

         Judge Ball conducted an omnibus hearing on August 31, 2016, to question Ellis concerning these claims and to address other case-management issues. Omnibus Order [74] at 1. Based on Ellis's testimony, Judge Ball clarified Ellis's claims as alleging a failure to produce records regarding his previous 1991 conviction in Hinds County, Mississippi.

         Once Ellis's claims against the remaining Defendants were clearly framed, Defendants Dunn, Lewis, Box, and Smith moved for summary judgment. Motion [86]; Motion [90]. Judge Ball issued a Report and Recommendation [97], recommending the Court grant their summary-judgment motions and dismiss this action with prejudice. Ellis did not file an objection, choosing instead to file a motion to amend his complaint [98]. 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).

         III. Analysis

         The Court will first examine the grounds for dismissal as set forth by Judge Ball and then turn to Ellis's motion to amend.

         A. Failure to State a Claim

         In his Report and Recommendation, Judge Ball observed that “the only constitutional right implicated by [Ellis's] allegations is that of access to the courts.” R&R [97] at 3. Ellis never objected to this description ...

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