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Cannady v. Clay County

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

September 25, 2017



         Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment [80] filed by Defendants Clay County, Mississippi and Sheriff Eddie Scott. Upon due consideration, the Court finds that the motion must be denied in part and held in abeyance in part, as follows.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On March 6, 2015, Plaintiff Calvin Cannady ("Plaintiff") filed a pro se complaint against Defendants Clay County, Mississippi ("Clay County") and Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott ("Defendant Scott") (collectively, "Defendants"), asserting 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims and state law claims. Although Plaintiff initially proceeded pro se, he is now represented by counsel. Plaintiff claims that he was wrongfully held in pretrial detention from October 29, 2012 through October 16, 2013.[1]on a burglary charge that was dismissed nolle prosse on October 14, 2013. Thus, Plaintiff maintains he spent approximately one year in jail without having been found guilty of the crime for which he was charged, burglary. He argues that such a delay is a denial of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment through Section 1983, a violation of his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment through Section 1983, and negligence for failure to bring him before a judicial officer under Mississippi law. Defendants filed answers and affirmative defenses [21 & 76][2]On April 17, 2017, Defendants filed the present motion for summary judgment [80] on the aforementioned claims. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition, and Defendants filed a reply. This matter is now ripe for review.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         This Court grants summary judgment "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Weaver v. CCA Indus., Inc., 529 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2008). The rule "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., 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Under Rule 56(a), the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to "go beyond the pleadings and by . . . affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial' " Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Littlefleldv. Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61 F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995). Where, as here, the parties dispute the facts, the Court must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) (internal citations omitted). "However, a nonmovant may not overcome the summary judgment standard with conclusional allegations, unsupported assertions, or presentation of only a scintilla of evidence." McClure v. Boles, 490 F.App'x 666, 667 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)).

         III. Analysis and Discussion

         Defendants argue in their motion for summary judgment that Plaintiffs claims must be dismissed as a matter of law for the following purported reasons: (1) Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate municipal or county liability under Section 1983; (2) Defendant Scott was not the government official responsible for Plaintiffs right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment, and Defendant Clay County's only involvement in the criminal case was the execution of the bench warrant for Plaintiffs arrest; (3) the Clay County Sheriffs office's failure to immediately file the bench warrant return is not a violation of due process; (4) Defendant Scott is protected by qualified immunity from suit; and (5) Plaintiffs state law negligence claims are barred under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (the "MTCA") due to the police function exemption, Miss. Code Ann. § 11-16-9(1)(c), and due to the incarceration exemption, Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-9(1)(m).

         "The constitutional rights of a pretrial detainee are found in the procedural and substantive due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment." Estate of Henson v. Wichita County, Tex., 795 F.3d 456, 462 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing Hare v. City of Corinth, Miss., 74 F.3d 633, 639 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc)). Furthermore, the Sixth Amendment requires the government not to indefinitely delay in bringing defendants to trial in criminal prosecutions. See United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 747, 107 S.Ct. 2095, 95 L.Ed.2d 697 (1987) (internal citations omitted) ("the maximum length of pretrial detention is limited by the stringent time limitations of the Speedy Trial Act"). "Though the state has a recognized interest in detaining defendants for trial, the substantive limits on state action set by the Due Process Clause provide that the state cannot punish a pretrial detainee." Estate of Henson, 795 F.3d at 462. In the Fifth Circuit, "the legal standard used to measure the due process rights of pretrial detainees depends on whether the detainee challenges the constitutionality of a condition of his confinement or whether he challenges an episodic act or omission of an individual state official." Id. (citing Hare, 74 F.3d at 644-45). "[W]here the complained-of harm is a particular act or omission of one or more officials, the action is characterized properly as an 'episodic act or omission' case .. . ." Scott v. Moore, 114 F.3d 51, 53 (5th Cir. 1997) (en banc). "In such a case, an actor is 'interposed between the detainee and the municipality, such that the detainee complains first of a particular act of, or omission by, the actor and then points derivatively to a policy, custom, or rule (or lack thereof) of the municipality that permitted or caused the act or omission.' " Id.

         In the case subjudice, Plaintiff challenges the episodic act or omission of an individual state official, Defendant Scott, for not filing the return on the bench warrant for Plaintiffs arrest; Plaintiff also challenges Defendant Clay County's alleged lack of policy, custom, or rule that caused inaction and failure to make inquiry of Plaintiffs status while he was incarcerated awaiting trial for nearly one full year. Fifth Circuit case law establishes that " "[a] single decision may create municipal liability if that decision [is] made by a final policymaker responsible for that activity.' " Harris v. Payne, 254 F.App'x 410, 422 (5th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (quoting Woodard v. Andrus, 419 F.3d 348, 352 (5th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Furthermore, " '[s]heriffs in Mississippi are final policymakers with respect to all law enforcement decisions made within their counties.' " Id. (quoting Brooks v. George County, Miss., 84 F.3d 157, 165 (5th Cir. 1996)). Therefore, Defendant Clay County is potentially liable for Defendant Scott's acts as sheriff, because he is a final policymaker for Defendant Clay County, regardless of the existence of a policy or custom. See id.

         The undisputed facts giving rise to this suit are as follows. On March 11, 2011, a suspect in various crimes in Clay County reported to Clay County detective Jimmy Burchfield that Plaintiff had participated in a burglary; based on the suspect's statement, Detective Burchfield signed an affidavit for Plaintiffs arrest.[3] Subsequently, on October 10, 2011, Plaintiff was indicted on the burglary charge.[4] On April 26, 2012, Plaintiff was released from jail on bond.[5]On June 9, 2012, Plaintiff waived his arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty.[6] Trial was initially set on the burglary charge on October 10, 2012.[7], [8] The day before trial was set, October 9, 2012, the Circuit Court of Clay County entered an Order directing Plaintiffs arrest and directing Defendant Scott, as Sheriff of Clay County, to have Plaintiff appear to court "instanter then and there to answer to the State of Mississippi why [Plaintiff] failed to appear on [his] appearance bond ... on a charge of [b]urglary and [l]arceny of a [b]usiness"; this was concerning Plaintiffs failure to appear at a pre-trial status conference.[9] On October 29, 2012, the Flowood Police Department arrested and detained Plaintiff pursuant to the bench warrant.[10]Subsequently, on November 9, 2012, pursuant to the bench warrant, Plaintiff was picked up at the Rankin County Jail and transported to the Clay County Jail.[11] However, the return on the bench warrant was not filed in the Clay County Circuit Court's office until January 15, 2013, approximately two months after the bench warrant was executed.[12] Plaintiff was incarcerated from the date he was arrested pursuant to the bench warrant until October 14, 2013, when the Circuit Court of Clay County dismissed the charges against Plaintiff in an order of nolle prosse, "based upon the fact that the State is unable to locate a material witness . . . and cannot meet its burden without said witness."[13]

         Although all of the foregoing facts are not in dispute, the facts concerning the events and circumstances of Plaintiffs incarceration, his trial setting, his representation by counsel, the handling of his pro se motions, and what effect-if any-the delay in execution of the bench warrant had on the length of his incarceration and trial setting are largely in dispute; such facts are material in the case subjudice. Key to these disputes of fact is Plaintiffs argument that due to Defendant Scotf s failure to timely file a return on the bench warrant and commission of other subsequent failures and omissions, including failure to make an inquiry of why no inquiry was made concerning Plaintiffs status, Plaintiff was incarcerated nearly one full year, during which time Plaintiff alleges he was never brought before the Circuit Court of Clay County.[14]

         Defendants maintain that no constitutional delay occurred, despite the untimely filing of the bench warrant, because the first available court date was in January of 2013.[15] However, much remains unclear about the circumstances of Plaintiffs trial settings and continuances and whether Defendants were aware of Plaintiff s incarceration.[16]

         Plaintiff maintains that during his incarceration he "was never brought before the [c]ourt, " and "[a]t no time did any officials from the [s]heriff s department make any inquiries of [Plaintiff] regarding [his] appearance before the Circuit Court [of Clay County]."[17] Plaintiff attaches to his response copies of motions he apparently filed pro se during his incarceration in Clay County Jail, including a motion for speedy trial [86-11] apparently filed on February 11, 2013, and a motion for no continuation or delay [86-12] apparently filed on March 12, 2013. Plaintiff has raised genuine disputes of fact concerning the alleged delay in his release, the circumstances of his incarceration, and trial settings, ...

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