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Robinson v. Hogans

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

November 13, 2017




         Plaintiff Scooter Lynn Robinson, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a prisoner civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights while incarcerated at East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). Doc. [1]. Plaintiff later amended his complaint. Doc. [14]. The undersigned conducted a screening hearing on December 5, 2016. See Minute Entry (12/5/2016); Doc. [115-1]. Near the conclusion of the screening hearing, Plaintiff indicated that the “main points” of his lawsuit are the RVR he received without due process, his personal property and paperwork that went missing, and the denial of his requests for transfer to a different facility. Doc. [115-1] at 28-29.

         On June 17, 2014, Plaintiff got into a fight with another inmate in the law library at EMCF. Captain Matthew Naidow broke up the fight. Following the altercation, Plaintiff was returned to his unit. Shortly thereafter, Lt. Joshua Roberts delivered a rule violation report (RVR) to Plaintiff based on his assault of inmate Austin McKennsey. Roberts reviewed the RVR with Plaintiff at his cell door. Roberts then took Plaintiff to administrative segregation. Plaintiff testified that he remained in administrative segregation for 15 days before being returned to his normal housing unit. Plaintiff denies that he ever received a disciplinary hearing.

         According to the RVR records, Disciplinary Investigator Rosemary Cotton attempted to interview Plaintiff regarding the incident, but Plaintiff told her he would make a statement at his disciplinary hearing. Doc. [115-3] at 3. Lt. Jones conducted the disciplinary hearing on June 26, 2014, but Plaintiff refused to participate. Id. at 1. Sgt. Cotton witnessed Plaintiff's refusal. Id. Lt. Jones found Plaintiff guilty of the RVR based on review of security camera footage and staff witness statements. Id. She imposed reclassification as punishment. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Lt. Jones and Sgt. Cotton failed to conduct a proper investigation and disciplinary hearing on the charges against him, thereby violating his due process rights. He also claims that his classification status was changed from B custody to C custody because of the RVR conviction. Plaintiff further claims that on July 22, 2014, Captain Christopher Dykes and Sgt. Rosalyn Delaine denied him access to the law library because of the prior altercation at the law library. Plaintiff generally alleges that he did not receive proper assistance from the law library staff. Plaintiff testified that he was working on post-conviction relief efforts at the time he was denied access and assistance. However, Plaintiff testified that ILAP staff eventually came to Plaintiff's housing unit to provide services, and he was able to file his post-conviction pleadings. The ILAP records indicate that Plaintiff received ILAP and legal mail services on a frequent basis during the relevant time period.

         On November 5, 2014, Plaintiff got into a fight with several inmates in his housing unit, which resulted in severe injuries and treatment at a local hospital. The fight began because Plaintiff complained about getting sick from food passed out by inmates on his zone. During the fight, Plaintiff was stabbed repeatedly. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and also spent time in the medical unit after returning from the hospital. When Plaintiff returned to EMCF from the hospital on November 12, 2014, he discovered that his personal property, including legal paperwork, was missing. Plaintiff spoke with several of the named Defendants about the missing property. He claims that the Defendants failed to secure his property after he was taken to the hospital and later failed to properly investigate the disappearance of his property.

         On December 5, 2914, Plaintiff was transferred to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF). He claims that before being transferred, a case manager and classification asked him if he wanted “red tags” for anyone as a result of the November 5, 2014 incident. Plaintiff alleges he did not know the identity of the inmates who assaulted him because Defendants failed to conduct an adequate investigation. The record reveals that Defendant Ricks conducted an investigation of the incident, obtained statements, and completed a report. See Doc. [115-7]. In the report, Ricks identified Plaintiff, Don Williams, Michael Corder, Harold Jones, and Kendarius Fortenberry as the individuals involved in the November 5, 2014, incident. Id.

         Plaintiff testified that he sued Deputy Warden Hogans and Psychologist Amy Hodgson because they never answered his requests to be transferred to another facility. Plaintiff also claims that Administrative Remedy Program Coordinator Mary Dempsey failed to properly assess his administrative grievances regarding the investigation of the November 5, 2014, altercation and his missing personal property.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Vernell Thomas' motion for summary judgment. Doc. [100]. Defendants Anderson, Bender, Birdtail, Braxton, Cotton, Dempsey, Dukes, Dykes, Hodgson, Hogans, Jones, Jaidow, Rice, Ricks, Roberts, and Steele have filed a joint motion for summary judgment. Doc. [115]. Plaintiff also has filed two motions for summary judgment. Doc. [114] & [119]. Liberally construed, Plaintiff's pleadings raise the following claims: (1) Defendants violated Plaintiff's due process rights because they failed to conduct a disciplinary hearing stemming from the June 17, 2014, RVR; (2) Defendants failed to properly investigate the November 5, 2014, altercation; (3) Defendants failed to secure Plaintiff's personal property while he was in the hospital and medical unit; (4) Defendants failed to properly investigate the disappearance of Plaintiff's personal property; (5) Plaintiff was denied of access to legal services and the law library; (6) Defendants failed to transfer Plaintiff to a different facility; and (7) Defendants did not handle Plaintiff's administrative grievances properly.

         Law and Analysis

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56 provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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); Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). Where the summary judgment evidence establishes that one of the essential elements of the plaintiff's cause of action does not exist as a matter of law, all other contested issues of fact are rendered immaterial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Topalin v. Ehrman, 954 F.2d 1125, 1138 (5th Cir. 1992). In making its determinations of fact on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence submitted by the parties in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. McPherson v. Rankin, 736 F.2d 175, 178 (5th Cir. 1984).

         The moving party has the duty to demonstrate the lack of a genuine issue of a material fact and the appropriateness of judgment as a matter of law to prevail on its motion. Union Planters Nat'l Leasing v. Woods, 687 F.2d 117 (5th Cir. 1982). The movant accomplishes this by informing the court of the basis of its motion, and by identifying portions of the record which highlight the absence of genuine factual issues. Topalian, 954 F.2d at 1131. “Rule 56 contemplates a shifting burden: the nonmovant is under no obligation to respond unless the movant discharges [its] initial burden of demonstrating [entitlement to summary judgment].” John v. State of Louisiana, 757 F.3d 698, 708 (5th Cir. 1985). Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is presented, the nonmoving party must rebut with “significant probative” evidence. Ferguson v. Nat'l Broad. Co., Inc., 584 F.2d 111, 114 (5th Cir. 1978).

         June 17, 2014, Law Library Altercation

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his due process rights in the course of investigating and conducting a disciplinary hearing related to the November 5, 2014, altercation at the law library. He complains that he received 15 days of administrative segregation without a disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff further alleges that the ...

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