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West v. Hooks

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

July 21, 2015

JOSEPH STEPHEN WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
TED HOOKS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, District Judge.

This civil action was filed on December 11, 2013, by the pro se plaintiff, Joseph Stephen West, against the defendant, Ted Hooks, the former clerk of court of the Circuit Court of Calhoun County, Alabama. (Docs. 1, 9). The Amended Complaint is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, and alleges that the defendant

violated [the plaintiff's] constitutional right to seek redress against his previous attorneys, Mr. Jake Matthews, Jr. and Mr. William Broome, by erroneously booking a civil action against Mr. Matthews as a criminal action, by losing the substantial hardship form attached to the complaint, and by losing the whole complaint against Mr. Broome.

(Doc. 9 at 4).

The case comes before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 29).[1] For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) ("[S]ummary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The party requesting summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings in answering the movant. Id. at 324. By its own affidavits - or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file - it must designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

The underlying substantive law identifies which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant. Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1023. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. If the evidence presented by the non-movant to rebut the moving party's evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may still be granted. Id. at 249.

How the movant may satisfy its initial evidentiary burden depends on whether that party bears the burden of proof on the given legal issues at trial. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). If the movant bears the burden of proof on the given issue or issues at trial, then it can only meet its burden on summary judgment by presenting affirmative evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact - that is, facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. Id. (citation omitted). Once the moving party makes such an affirmative showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce "significant, probative evidence demonstrating the existence of a triable issue of fact." Id. (citation omitted) (emphasis added).

For issues on which the movant does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it can satisfy its initial burden on summary judgment in either of two ways. Id. at 1115-16. First, the movant may simply show that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-movant's case on the particular issue at hand. Id. at 1116. In such an instance, the non-movant must rebut by either (1) showing that the record in fact contains supporting evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion, or (2) proffering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency. Id. at 1116-17. When responding, the non-movant may no longer rest on mere allegations; instead, it must set forth evidence of specific facts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358 (1996). The second method a movant in this position may use to discharge its burden is to provide affirmative evidence demonstrating that the non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial. Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. When this occurs, the non-movant must rebut by offering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict at trial on the material fact sought to be negated. Id.

II. FACTS

In his affidavit, the plaintiff states:

On or about November 8, 2012[, ] I mailed two (2) formal complaints to my mother, Betty West, at West Insurance Agency, Oxford, Alabama with instructions to copy the documents and send each in its own separate envelope via certified mail to each of the defendants and to the Circuit Court Clerk at the Calhoun County Courthouse.
Each complaint included the actual complaint which was notarized by Sgt. Cheryl Watson at Elmore Correction Center in Elmore, Alabama. Each complaint also had attached to it a substantial hardship form which was provided by the law library at Elmore Correction ...

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