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Brown v. Bufkin

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

July 17, 2019




         Before the Court is [59] Defendants' February 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19 motion for summary judgment in this prisoner civil rights lawsuit filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1983. Movants assert they are entitled to summary judgment based on sovereign immunity, qualified immunity and state law immunity. Although the pro se Plaintiff moved for and was granted an extension of time until April 5, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19 to respond to the summary judgment motion, he has filed no response and the matter is now ripe for ruling. All parties consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the United States Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 at the omnibus/screening hearing held on July 25, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18, and the case was reassigned to the undersigned for all purposes. [35], [38] At the hearing, Defendants provided Brown copies of over 600 pages of his prison institutional records, including medical records, for the time period surrounding his complaint. [59-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]

         Facts and Procedural History

         When he filed this lawsuit in October 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, Antonio Sanchez Brown was a Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) inmate housed at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility at Woodville, MS, serving ten years for a March 24, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10 Lauderdale County conviction of statutory rape. All the events of which Brown complains in his lawsuit occurred in 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17 while he was housed at South Mississippi Correctional Institution (SMCI) in Leakesville, MS. At all times pertinent to this case, all Defendants were MDOC employees at SMCI. Brown was released from custody in November 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18.

         Brown alleges the Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights and were negligent in failing to protect him from assault by other inmates. Specifically, Brown asserts that on February 22, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17 he was in the prison Area 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 administration building awaiting a housing transfer after being interviewed about problems in Unit 9; Brown testified he told mental health counselor Franklin that he did not feel safe on Unit 9 because gang members there were trying to make him hide their contraband for them. While he had not been assaulted on Unit 9, he had been threatened by inmates there and he had requested and been granted a transfer from that housing unit. [59-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 9] Counselor Franklin contacted CID (Corrections Investigation Division) Officer Bufkin, and Brown was told to stay in the administration building. As he waited to be transported to his new housing assignment, K-9 officers came to the building and Brown heard them say they were going to do a shakedown in Unit 9 as well as something about finding five cell phones during a shakedown there. Because he was not in the Unit for the shakedown, Brown feared he would be accused of snitching.

         Brown testified Lieutenants Frost and Robinson told him that some Unit 9 inmates said Brown could not return to Unit 9, that they were going to kill him or put a hit on him because they believed Brown had snitched on where their contraband was hidden. [59-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17] He alleges he told Ms. Franklin this, and that he feared for his life and felt suicidal. Brown asked for protective custody (PC) and was told he was being transferred to Area 3. Captains Lockhart and Smith responded to his protective custody request, “You should have stayed on PC when you was on PC.”[1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" name="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" id="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] Brown was moved from SMCI 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 to SMCI 3 on February 22, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, and was never returned to Unit 9. [59-2, p. 2] In an amended complaint [5] filed November 6, 21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">107, Brown alleged he wrote Deputy Warden Barnes on March 22, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17 asking about PC, but Barnes found no reason to place him on protective custody since he had been moved away from the Area 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 Compound, and told him if he had issues with his new housing assignment he should advise administration staff. [59-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 27] Brown alleged he filed a grievance concerning his safety and requesting protective custody on April 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, but Bufkin denied the request.

         On May 21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, three months after his removal from Unit 9, Brown was stabbed by inmate Fredrick Smith. Brown alleged Smith is a Vice Lord gang member, but he testified he did not know Smith and that he had no notice that Smith was going to attack him before the attack occurred. [59-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, 23-24] Brown testified he heard Smith say the attack was for snitching. According to Brown, Smith has been indicted for attacking him. [59-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 23, 25]

         Defendants urge they are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity as to any official capacity claims against them. Defendants further contend they are entitled to qualified immunity on Brown's § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1983 failure to protect claims against them individually since Brown cannot show they acted in an objectively unreasonable manner, and that Brown's state law negligent failure to protect claim is barred by the Mississippi Tort Claims Act.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P., requires that summary judgment be granted if the movants show there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and they are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. A material fact is one that might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law; a genuine dispute exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 242');">477 U.S. 242, 248 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1986). The Court views the evidence and draws reasonable inferences most favorable to the non-moving party on a motion for summary judgment. Abarca v. Metropolitan Transit Authority, 404 F.3d 938, 940 (5th Cir. 2005). The burden of proof at the summary judgment stage rests on the party who has the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17');">477 U.S. 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, 322-323 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1986). One moving for summary judgment must identify those portions of the pleadings and discovery on file and any affidavits which he believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id., at 325. Once the movants carry this burden, the non-movant must show summary judgment should not be granted. The non-movant cannot meet his burden by resting upon mere allegations or denials, but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial by either submitting opposing evidentiary documents or referring to evidentiary documents already in the record which show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324-325; Reese v. Anderson, 26 F.2d 494');">926 F.2d 494, 498 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1991');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1); Howard v. City of Greenwood, 2d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">131');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">783 F.2d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">131');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">131');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1986) (non-movant “must counter factual allegations by the moving party with specific, factual disputes; mere general allegations are not a sufficient response.”). See also, Duffie v. United States, 2');">600 F.3d 362, 371');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (5th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10). Conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions or the presence of a scintilla of evidence will not suffice to create a real controversy regarding material facts. Johnson v. Bernstein, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">547 Fed.Appx. 41');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, 41');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13 (5th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13) (citing Hathaway v. Bazany, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">507 F.3d 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19 (5th Cir. 2007)); Hopper v. Frank, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16 F.3d 92');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16 F.3d 92, 97-98 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1994); Davis v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1082, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1086 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1994).

         Sovereign Immunity

         Movants first urge that sovereign immunity entitles them to dismissal of any official capacity claims Brown may be asserting against them. The 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. U.S. Const. Amend. XI; Board of Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 U.S. 356');">531');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 U.S. 356, 363 (2001');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1); College Sav. Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 27 U.S. 666');">527 U.S. 666, 670, (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1999). Congress did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity in enacting § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1983. Quern v. Jordan, 2');">440 U.S. 332, 341');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1979). And Mississippi has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity. Miss. Code Ann.' 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-46-5(4) (“nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to waive the immunity of the state from suit in federal courts guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”).

         Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit for monetary damages protects not only the state, but also state agencies deemed to be “an arm of the state, ” and employees of such agencies who are sued in their official capacities. See American Bank and Trust Co. of Opelousas v. Dent, 2 F.2d 91');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17');">982 F.2d 91');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, 921');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1993) (citing Will v. Mich. Dept. of State Police, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 U.S. 58');">491');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 U.S. 58, 71');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1989) (“suit against a state official in his or her official capacity ... is no different from a suit against the State itself.”). The Mississippi Department of Corrections is an arm of the State of Mississippi and is protected from suit by the Eleventh Amendment. See Williams v. Mississippi Dept. of Corrections, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12 WL 20521');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">101');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, at *1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-2 (S.D.Miss. June 6, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12); Dandridge v. Mississippi, 2009 WL 49401');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">105, at *7 (S.D.Miss. December 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, 2009). The Defendants, as employees of the MDOC and thus of the State of Mississippi, are protected by sovereign immunity from Brown's' 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1983 monetary damage claims against them in their official capacities, and any such claims will be dismissed.

         Qualified ...

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