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Brown v. Hood

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

October 29, 2019




         Plaintiff Leonard Brown claims Defendants Marshal Turner and Jacquelyn Banks retaliated against him for complaining about an assault and denial of medical care. Turner and Banks, in their individual capacities, moved for summary judgment [82]. Brown opposes the motion. For the reasons explained, the Court finds Defendants' motion should be granted as to Banks and granted in part and denied in part as to Turner.

         I. Background

         In 2015, Brown was incarcerated at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution (“SMCI”). Defendant Turner served as warden of Brown's unit, and Defendant Banks was the superintendent of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”). On July 24, 2015, inmates at SMCI stabbed Correctional Officer Zachary Bolton, and Officer Bolton identified Brown as one of his assailants. See Turner Aff. [82-2] at 3 (Incident Detail). For his part, Brown denies any involvement. Brown Aff. [88] at 2. This lawsuit stems from three events that transpired after that attack.

         First, Brown says that Correctional Officers Keyes and Lucker--in response to the attack on Officer Bolton--beat him, sexually assaulted him with a K-9 stick, and placed him in a cold cell for several days. Brown Aff. [88] at 3-4. When he requested medical attention and basic supplies, prison officials denied his requests. Id. at 4. Brown claims that the officers told him they were following Warden Turner's instructions. Id. at 30.

         Second, MDOC placed Brown in Administrative Segregation, during and after the investigation of the attack on Officer Bolton. Banks Aff. [82-1] at 3-4. According to Brown, officers repeatedly threatened to kill him during this period “for complaining to prison officials about being sexually assaulted.” Brown Aff. [88] at 3. Brown therefore reached out to Defendant Banks in August 2015. He wrote that he “did not feel safe at SMCI” and requested “to be transferred to another correctional facility away from the corrections officers who were torturing and threatening [him].” Id. at 6. Brown says Banks failed to respond. Id.

         Third, MDOC issued a Rule Violation Report (“RVR”) to Brown finding he participated in the attack on Officer Bolton. Brown Aff. [88] at 5; see Banks Aff. [82-1] at 7 (attaching RVR finding Brown assaulted Officer Bolton). Brown appealed, and the appeal was rejected by Warden Turner. Brown Aff. [88] at 5.[1]

         In response, Brown filed this lawsuit against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, Warden Turner, Superintendent Banks, Officer Lucker, Officer Davis, Officer Keys, and Captain Johnson. Brown alleged Defendants violated his rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and also violated state law.

         The disposition of those claims is a little complicated and begins on January 31, 2018. On that day, the Court dismissed the official-capacity and state-law claims against Warden Turner and Superintendent Banks, as well as the claims against Attorney General Hood. Order [51]. The Court also found Warden Tuner was entitled to qualified immunity on Brown's Eighth Amendment delay-in-medical-care claim. Id. at 11. Based on Brown's limited response to Defendants' motion to dismiss, the Court concluded that he had waived the following claims: “(1) Fourth Amendment unlawful arrest claim; (2) claims related to the cold and uncomfortable cell; (3) failure to protect; (4) denial of ARP request; and (5) First Amendment.” Id. at 9 n.2.

         On July 25, 2018, the Court dismissed Brown's claims against Officer Keys in his official and individual capacities but granted Brown an opportunity to seek leave to amend. Order [57]. Brown declined to do so. Then on December 6, 2018, the Court granted Brown's motion for default judgment against Officer Lucker, in his individual capacity, “on the issue of liability alone.” Order [72] at 1 (quoting Pl.'s Mot. [66] at 4). As to Officer Davis, Defendants filed a suggestion of death [70] on November 14, 2018. Finally, it does not appear that Brown ever served Captain Johnson. Unexecuted Summons [7] (noting Johnson no longer works for MDOC); Third Mot. for Extension of Time to Serve Process [44] (filed Oct. 23, 2017) (seeking additional time to serve Johnson).

         That leaves Brown's claim that Warden Turner and Superintendent Banks retaliated against him for complaining about the sexual assault and the lack of medical care. The Court previously denied Defendants' motion to dismiss that claim under Rule 12(b)(6) but noted that they could raise the issue again at the summary-judgment stage. Order [51] at 13. Turner and Banks have done just that; their motion is fully briefed; and the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction.

         II. Standards

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient 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. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The party moving for summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). When such contradictory facts exist, the court may “not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and ...

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