United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
M. VIRDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the court on the pro se prisoner
complaint of Marshall Phillips, 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 the 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 during his incarceration in the Bolivar County Regional
Correctional Facility (“BCRCF”) the lights in his
living area would not turn off at night. According to the
plaintiff, the nighttime lights disrupted his sleep and made
the “nerves” in his eyes hurt. The defendants
have moved  for summary judgment, and the plaintiff has
responded. The matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons
set forth below, the defendants' motion for summary
judgment will be granted, and judgment will be entered for
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 Cir.
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
(5th Cir. 2000); Ragas v. Tennessee Gas
Pipeline Company, 136 F.3d 455, 458 (5th Cir.
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, there 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 (5thCir. 1992).
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., 177 F.3d 351, 161 (5th Cir.
1999); Banc One Capital Partners Corp. v. Kneipper,
67 F.3d 1187, 1198 (5th 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 the nonmoving party could
or would prove the necessary facts.” Little,
37 F.3d at 1075 (emphasis omitted).
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, “[t]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
(5th 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).
considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must
determine whether the non-moving party's allegations are
plausible. Matsushita, supra. (emphasis
added). “[D]etermining 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.P. 12(b)(6)).
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.
Phillips is currently serving a 30-year sentence for armed
robbery and aggravated assault. (See deposition of Plaintiff
Marshall Phillips, p. 17, attached to Motion for Summary
Judgment as Exhibit A.) When he first arrived at the BCRCF in
2015, he was housed in general population. In 2016, he got in
a fight with a fellow inmate and was struck on the head by a
metal lock. As a result, he underwent surgery to repair a
skull fracture. Mr. Phillips alleges that the injury damaged
his eyesight. Id. at 39.
later transferred to zone S-1, a dormitory-style barracks.
Mr. Phillips alleges that beginning in February of 2017, the
lights in S-1 would not dim at night. Id. at 27. He
claims that the continuous lighting made the
“nerves” in his eyes hurt. Id. at 40. In
his deposition, however, he testified that the ceilings of
S-1 were 20-30 feet high - and that he slept in a bottom
bunk. Id. at 51-52. No. medical evidence in this
case supports a link between the continuous lighting in S-1
and Mr. Phillips' alleged eye pain. There is also no
evidence in this case that his alleged intermittent sleep
loss caused him to suffer injury. Mr. Phillips also testified
that he never asked to be transferred out of S-1 to a new
housing unit. Id. 36-37.
defendants acknowledge that there was a problem with the
lights not dimming in S-1, and the problem was not repaired
until after Phillips was transferred out of the BCRCF in
September of 2017. However, the Sheriff and the Warden
provided affidavits stating that they did not become aware of
the problem with the continuous lighting in S-1 until after
Phillips left the BCRCF. See Affidavit of Sheriff
Kelvin Williams, attached to Motion for Summary Judgment as
Exhibit B; see also Affidavit of Warden Ora Starks, attached
to Motion for Summary Judgment as Exhibit C.
Warden Starks learned of the problem, she took steps to fix
it. See Exhibit C. (See also emails between
Warden and “B & E Communications, ” attached
to Motion for Summary Judgment as Exhibit D; “B & E
Communications Purchase Order, ” attached to Motion for
Summary Judgment as Exhibit E.) These affidavits show that
the Warden and the Sheriff were not aware that any prisoner
was complaining that the lights not dimming in S-1 were
having a negative impact on them. Finally, the second
affidavit of Warden Starks identifies a legitimate
penological interest in having at least ...