United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
OPINION AND ORDER
PERCY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
February 13, 2018, Michael Dean Carroll, an inmate in the
custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections
(“MDOC”) who is currently housed at the Central
Mississippi Correctional Facility (“CMCF”),
appeared before the Court for a hearing pursuant to
Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir.1985), to
determine whether there exists a justiciable basis for his
claim filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A plaintiff's
claim will be dismissed if “it lacks an arguable basis
in law or fact, such as when a prisoner alleges the violation
of a legal interest that does not exist.” Martin v.
Scott, 156 F.3d 578 (5th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted).
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) applies
to this case because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he
filed this lawsuit.
Plaintiff's Allegations & Parties to Suit
to Carroll's complaint and subsequent Spears
hearing testimony, he was working in the kitchen at the
Mississippi State Penitentiary (“MSP”) on April
15, 2016, when he was assaulted by inmate Stanley White.
Carroll contends that the altercation in the kitchen was the
second of the day between himself and White. Earlier the same
day, he alleges, an unidentified correctional officer
witnessed the two fighting and issued each a Rule Violation
Report (“RVR”). Later, Carroll claims, he was
stacking trays in the kitchen when White approached him,
called him a racist, and then struck him with a broom.
Carroll alleges that he then struck White. As the two
continued to fight, the broom broke across Carroll's arm.
Carroll maintains that White used the broken broom handle to
stab him in the finger, chest, and stomach before backup
officers arrived and helped separate the two inmates.
to Carroll, he received stitches in his hand, and the
Criminal Investigation Division (“CID”)
photographed his injuries. Carroll claims that Captain
Moffett later issued him an RVR for assault, as he accepted
White's statement that Carroll was the instigator of the
fight. Carroll contends that White did not receive an RVR,
and that Captain Moffett told White that he “should
have killed that white racist boy, ” meaning Carroll.
Carroll was found guilty of the RVR, and his privileges were
Spears hearing, Carroll stated that he and White got
into one more “scuffle” after the fight in the
kitchen, though the altercation did not result in an injury
or in an RVR. Carroll claims that after the fight, staff
members continued to put him and White in the same holding
tanks, etc., for a period of time, despite the fact that they
knew the pair had previously fought. Carroll stated, however,
that he “red-tagged” White after the kitchen
incident and conceded that he has been kept separate from
White since the red-tag was issued. Carroll is now housed at
CMCF, and according to him, White is not housed at the same
October 2017, Carroll filed the instant suit against MDOC
employees Superintendent Earnest Lee, Warden Timothy Morris,
Captain Moffett, CID Rogers, and Deputy Warden Mills,
alleging that they unfairly punished him and failed to
protect him from harm.
complaint, Carroll requests as relief that the Court order
Defendants to move him away from MSP and/or separate him from
White. However, Carroll is no longer at MSP, and White is not
housed at the facility where Carroll is currently located.
Therefore, these requests are moot. See Herman v.
Holiday, 238 F.3d 660, 665 (5th Cir. 2001) (holding
transfer from unit rendered prisoner's claims for
declaratory and injunctive relief moot).
Failure to Protect
claims that Defendants are liable for failing to protect him
from harm at the hands of White. At his Spears
hearing, Carroll stated that after his fight with White in
the prison kitchen, he wrote Superintendent Earnest Lee,
Warden Timothy Morris, CID Rogers, and Deputy Warden Mills
and requested that he either be put in protective custody or
moved to another section of the prison. According to Carroll,
each Defendant refused his requests.
the Eighth Amendment, prison officials have a duty to protect
inmates from violence by other inmates and to take reasonable
measures to protect their safety. Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 832-33(1994). Liability attaches to an
officer's failure to protect an inmate only where the
inmate demonstrates that he was “incarcerated under
conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm and that
the prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to
the inmate's safety.” Id. at 834;
Johnson v. Johnson, 385 F.3d 503, 524 (5th Cir.
2004). “Deliberate indifference” means that a
prison official is liable only where he knows that the inmate
faces a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards the
risk. Id. at 837 (quotation marks omitted). Because
of the subjective component necessary to establish
failure-to-protect liability, an officer cannot be
deliberately indifferent when an inmate is a victim of an
unforeseeable attack. Tucker v. Evans, 276 F.3d 999,
1001 (8th Cir. 2002). Therefore, neither negligence nor
dereliction of duty can be the basis of a failure-to-protect
claim. See Adames v. Perez, 331 F.3d 508, 514 (5th
Cir. 2003); see also Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S.
327 (1986) (holding negligence does not state §1983
cause of action).
Carroll concedes that he never had any altercation with White
prior to the day the two fought in the prison kitchen, and he
stated at his Spears hearing that one unidentified
correctional officer was the only staff member who was aware
of his fight with White earlier the same day. Additionally,
Carroll admits that once White was properly red-tagged, he
was kept separate from White. Therefore, by Carroll's own
testimony, none of the named Defendants had any knowledge, or
reason to know, prior to April 15, 2016, that Carroll was at
risk of serious harm by being housed near White. Defendants
cannot be held constitutionally liable for a failure to
protect Carroll from injury based on an after-the-fact
knowledge of the fight between the two men, and none of the
injuries Carroll received as a result of the kitchen fight
can be legally attributed to Defendants. Accordingly, Carroll
has failed to state a constitutionally cognizable
failure-to-protect claim against any named