United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. ANDERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tabarus Devante Vaughn sued Defendants James Hollomon and
Regenald Brown in both their individual and in their official
capacities. Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment , asking that the claims made against them in
their official capacities be dismissed on the basis of
Eleventh Amendment immunity.
of this case is based upon 42 U.S.C. §1983. Plaintiff
was housed in the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility
[CMCF] in Rankin County, Mississippi, in the custody of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections [MDOC] in November
2015. Plaintiff testified at the hearing conducted by this
Court that on November 26, 2015, he was trying to use the
phone to order from the commissary for the holidays and he
put his arm out of his door slot. Defendant Hollomon grabbed
his arm and started beating his arms and legs. Once it was
over, Officer Bolton came to his cell to ask Plaintiff what
had happened. Plaintiff told him about the incident and
showed him his swollen wrist and cuts; Bolton said he would
get Plaintiff medical attention. Bolton called Defendant
Reginald Brown to escort Plaintiff to the 720 Medical Clinic,
but Defendant Hollomon also showed up to escort him. Hollomon
put restraints on Plaintiff really tight, and he was barely
able to walk. Plaintiff showed Officer Brown the burns on his
legs, and Defendant Hollomon threatened Plaintiff in front of
Brown. As they walked, Defendant Hollomon pushed Plaintiff
down the stairs. Brown never tried to intervene or stop
Hollomon from assaulting him.
asked for $12, 000 in compensatory damages and $7, 000 in
punitive damages in his initial Complaint . He was allowed
to amend to raise the damages amount to $75, 000 in
compensatory damages from each Defendant and $19, 000 in
punitive damages from each Defendant [52, 66]. In
Plaintiff's initial Complaint , he named Hollomon
"in his official capacity, " not mentioning his
personal capacity. In the Amended Complaint , he named
both Hollomon and Brown in their "official
capacity." He also requested to sue Defendants in their
individual capacities by “request” filed February
23, 2016 . Plaintiff's Motion to Amend  was
granted by the Court as unopposed ; he clarifies that he
sued Defendants in both capacities. In Plaintiff's
response  to this Motion for Summary Judgment, he states
that he has "made it known" through his Amended
Complaint and in other documents that he is suing in both
Defendants' individual and personal capacities as well as
in their official capacities. Defendants do not deny that
they have been sued in their individual capacities.
have moved for the dismissal of Vaughn's official
capacity claims on the grounds that they are barred by
Eleventh Amendment immunity. This motion, because it is based
on Eleventh Amendment immunity, is considered under Rule
12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See
e.g. Warnock v. Pecos Cnty., Tex., 88 F.3d 341, 343 (5th
Cir. 1996)(“Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity
deprives a federal court of jurisdiction to hear a suit
against a state.”)(citing Pennhurst State Sch. and
Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984)). Under Rule
12(b)(1), a district court may grant dismissal based on a
lack of subject matter jurisdiction in cases in which it
appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of
facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to
relief. See Saraw P'ship v. United States, 67
F.3d 567, 569 (5th Cir. 1995). When deciding a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,
the court may consider “the complaint alone, the
complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the
record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts
plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.”
Ynclan v. Department of the Air Force, 943 F.2d
1388, 1390 (5th Cir. 1991). This Court is utilizing the facts
as set forth by Plaintiff in his Complaint, as supplemented
by his sworn testimony.
Court finds that Defendants are entitled to Eleventh
Amendment immunity as to the claims for monetary relief in
their official capacities. The Eleventh Amendment provides:
'[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced
or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of
another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign
State." The narrow language of this amendment has been
broadly construed by the Supreme Court "to embrace the
larger principle that a state is granted immunity from suits
initiated by private entities or persons in federal courts,
if the State has not consented to such suits."
Coolbaugh v. Louisiana ex rel. La. Dep't of Public
Safety & Corr., 136 F.3d 430, 433 (5th Cir. 1998).
Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution
“bars an individual from suing a state in federal court
unless the state consents to suit or Congress has clearly and
validly abrogated the state's sovereign immunity.”
Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Serv. Ctr., 307 F.3d 318,
326 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing U.S. Const. amend. XI;
College Sav. Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Educ.
Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666, 670 (1999)). The scope of the
immunity provided by the Eleventh Amendment “extends to
any state agency or entity deemed an “alter ego”
or “arm” of the state.” Id. at 326
(citing Vogt v. Board of Comm'rs, 294 F.3d 684,
688-89 (5th Cir. 2002)).
context of a § 1983 claim, "a suit against a state
official in his or her official capacity is not a suit
against the official but rather is a suit against the
official's office, " and consequently "it is no
different from a suit against the State itself."
Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S.
58, 71 (1989). The Mississippi Department of Corrections is
an arm of the state, so its officers and employees are, in
fact, officers and employees of the state, and are likewise
entitled to sovereign immunity from monetary damages in their
official capacity. See Am Bank and Trust Co. v.
Dent, 982 F.2d 917, 921 (5th Cir. 1993)
(citing Will, 491 U.S. at 71).
Vaughn's federal law claims for monetary damages against
Hollomon and Brown in their official capacities are treated
as claims against the State of Mississippi, and as
Mississippi is immune from such claims under the Eleventh
Amendment, the Court finds that Hollomon and Brown are
likewise immune from these claims. See e.g. Hopkins v.
Mississippi, 634 F.Supp.2d 709, 711 (S.D.Miss.
2009)(explaining that the “Eleventh Amendment prohibits
suits against state officials acting in their official
capacities where the plaintiff seeks monetary relief, or
retroactive injunctive or declaratory relief based on
allegations that the defendant state officials violated
federal law.”)(citing Pennhurst State Sch. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 102-03 (1984)).
IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that:
Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #61] is hereby
granted, and the claims against Defendants
in their official capacities are dismissed. Plaintiff shall
be allowed to proceed as to his claims made ...