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Griggs v. Fisher

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

August 25, 2017



         This matter comes before the court on the pro se prisoner complaint of Williams Griggs, who challenges the conditions of his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the court notes that the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this suit. The plaintiff has brought die instant case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a federal cause of action against "[e]very person" who under color of state authority causes the "deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants failed to protect him from attack by other inmates. The defendants have moved for summary judgment; the plaintiff has responded, and the matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the motion by the defendants for summary judgment will be granted, and judgment will be entered for the defendants.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the "materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials" show 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) and (c)(1). "The moving party must show that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the nonmoving party to carry its burden." Beck v. Texas State Bd. of Dental Examiners, 204 F.3d 629, 633 (5th Or. 2000) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), cert, denied, 484 U.S. 1066 (1988)). After a proper motion for summary judgment is made, the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Beck, 204 F.3d at 633; Allen v. Rapides Parish School Bd., 204 F.3d 619, 621 (5* Or. 2000); Ragas v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, 136F.3d455, 458(5thCir. 1998). Substantive law determines what is material, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id., at 248. If the non-movant sets forth specific facts in support of allegations essential to his claim, a genuine issue is presented. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 327. "Where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, diere is no genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Federal Savings and Loan, Inc. v. Krajl, 968 F.2d 500, 503 (5mCir. 1992). The facts are reviewed drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Allen, 204 F.3d at 621; PYCA Industries, Inc. v. Harrison County Waste Water Management Dist, 177F.3d351, 161 (5th Cir. 1999); Banc One Capital Partners Corp. v. Kneipper, 67 F.3d 1187, 1198 (5 Cir. 1995). However, this is so only when there is "an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994); see Edwards v. Your Credit, Inc., 148 F.3d 427, 432 (5th Cir. 1998). In the absence of proof, the court does not "assume that die nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts." Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (emphasis omitted).

         The very purpose of summary judgment is to "pierce the pleadings and assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Advisory Committee Note to the 1963 Amendments to Rule 56. Indeed, "[f]he amendment is not intended to derogate from the solemnity of the pleadings[;] [r]ather, it recognizes that despite the best efforts of counsel to make his pleadings accurate, they may be overwhelmingly contradicted by the proof available to his adversary." Id. The non-moving party (the plaintiff in this case), must come forward with proof to support each element of his claim. The plaintiff cannot meet this burden with "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, " Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986), "conclusory allegations, " Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 871-73, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3180 (1990), "unsubstantiated assertions, " Hopper v. Frank, 16 F.3d 92 (5m Cir. 1994), or by a mere "scintilla" of evidence, Davis v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 14 F.3d 1082 (5th Cir. 1994). It would undermine the purposes of summary judgment if a party could defeat such a motion simply by "replac[ing] conclusory allegations of the complaint or answer with conclusory allegations of an affidavit." Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3188 (1990). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must determine whether the non-moving party's allegations arc plausible. Matsushita, supra, (emphasis added). "[Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim is context-specific, requiring the reviewing court to draw on its experience and common sense." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (discussing plausibility of claim as a requirement to survive a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. R 12(b)(6)).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, once the court "has determined the relevant set of facts and drawn all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party to the extent supportable by the record, [the ultimate decision becomes] purely a question of law." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381 (2007) (emphasis in original). "When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on the motion for summary judgment." Id. at 380.

         Undisputed Material Facts

         Williams Griggs is an inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections ("MDOC"). In his complaint [1], he alleges that he was attacked by gang members on March 7, 2016, while housed at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF) in Meridian, Mississippi. He has named as defendants Marshall Fisher, former Commissioner of MDOC, Ron King, Superintendent of Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Pearl, Mississippi, and James Fill yaw, Deputy Warden of CMCF in Pearl, Mississippi. None of these defendants worked at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, where the attack occurred.

         Mr. Griggs alleges that while housed at CMCF in Pearl, Mississippi, in September of 2015, he asked these three defendants to place him in protective custody, but they did not do so. He alleges that he wrote Commissioner Fisher somewhere between September 1 and September 3, 2015, requesting protective custody because gang members had placed a "KOS" ("Kill on Sight") order against him.

         [1 at 6]. Griggs alleges that, prior to sending his request to the Commissioner, he "sent out many hand-mails to Warden Fill yaw." [1 at 6]. He alleges that on September 8, 2015, he received a response to his letter to Commissioner Fisher from CMCF Superintendent Ron King, which read as follows:

Your recent correspondence to the Commissioner's office has been forwarded to the case manager and Deputy Warden at CMCF R.C. In the future, please follow the proper chain of command at the facility level for matters such as this.

[1 at 6].

         Griggs was transferred from CMCF to South Mississippi Correctional Institution (SMCI) in Leakesville, Mississippi on October 21, 2015, then to East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, Mississippi on December 21, 2015. He alleges that the attack occurred several months later on March 7, 2016, while housed at EMCF. According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections website, Mr. Griggs was most recently moved to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility on July 28, 2017, where he remains.

         Failure to Protect

         Williams Griggs claims that the defendants failed to protect him from attack by other inmates. "The Eighth Amendment affords prisoners protection against injury at the hands of other inmates." Johnson v. Lucas,786 F.2d 1254, 1259 (S* Or. 1986) (citations omitted). Deliberate indifference "[is] die proper standard to apply in the context of convicted prisoners who claim[] denial of medical care or the failure to protect." Grabowski v. Jackson County Public Defenders Office,47 F.3d 1386, 1396 (5th Cir. 1995). A prisoner plaintiff cannot show that a prison official showed deliberate indifference unless he can show that "the official [knew] of and disregard[ed] an excessive risk to inmate health or safety;" indeed, the official must have been aware of facts giving rise to an inference that a substantial risk of serious harm existed - and he must have drawn that inference. Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 837(1994). An inmate pursuing a claim for failure to protect may prove his claim by showing that the defendants knew of a specific threat to him but failed to take measures to protect from it. Id. at 843. However, even in the absence of specific threat, an inmate may prove a claim of failure to protect if he can show that he was placed in a prison environment "where terror reigns." Jones v. Diamond, 636 F.2d 1364(5th Cir. 1981), overruled on other grounds by International Woodworkers of America, AFL-CIO and its Local No. 5-376 v. Champion Intern. Corp., 790 F.2d 1174(5th Cir. 1986). This situation arises in a jail or prison where officials permit violent offenders to hold sway over part or all of the facility - creating "a pervasive risk of harm and a failure to take reasonable steps to prevent the known risk." Stokes v. Delcambre,710 F.2d 1120 (5 Cir. 1983) (sheriff housed college students arrested on a ...

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