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Turner v. Dillard

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

January 19, 2017

WILLIE J. TURNER, #125 701, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at the Bullock Correctional Facility in Union Springs, Alabama, files this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint against Cynthia Dillard [“Dillard”], Executive Director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Plaintiff alleges Dillard violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights regarding matters associated with the denial of his parole in September of 2013. Plaintiff requests trial by jury and seeks declaratory relief and damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Doc. 1.

         Dillard filed a special report and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Plaintiff's claims for relief. Docs. 15, 20, 21. Upon receipt of Dillard's special report, the court issued an order directing Plaintiff to file a response, including sworn affidavits and other evidentiary materials, and specifically cautioning Plaintiff that “the court may at any time thereafter and without notice to the parties (1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment.” Doc. 22 at 2. Plaintiff responded to Dillard's report, see Doc. 26, but his response does not demonstrate there is any genuine issue of material fact. See Doc. 22 at 2. The court will treat Dillard's report as a motion for summary judgment, and resolves this motion in her favor.


         “Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”). The party moving for summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing the non-moving party has failed to present evidence to support some element on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-324.

         Defendants have met their evidentiary burden. Thus, the burden shifts to Plaintiff to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593-594 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that, once the moving party meets its burden, “the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or sworn statements], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ” demonstrate there is a genuine dispute of material fact) (internal quotations omitted). This court will also consider “specific facts” pled in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the non-moving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Public Educ, 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007).

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non- moving party and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 525 (2006); Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff s pro se status alone does not compel this court to disregard elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case.

         II. FACTS

         Plaintiff is serving a 129-year sentence on his convictions for robbery, second degree robbery, and promoting prison contraband in the second degree. The Circuit Court for Madison County, Alabama, entered judgment against Plaintiff on the robbery convictions in March of 1984.[1] The Circuit Court for Limestone County, Alabama, sentenced Plaintiff to a concurrent term of 15 years imprisonment on the promotion of prison contraband conviction in May of 1990. Id. The denial of parole relevant to this cause of action occurred in September of 2013 when parole board members William Wynne, Jr. and Cliff Walker voted to deny Plaintiff parole. Doc. 15, Exh. A, Doc. 20 - Walker Affidavit; Doc. 21, Wynne Affidavit. The board members scheduled Plaintiffs next parole consideration for September of 2018. Doc. 15, Exh. A.


         Plaintiff files this § 1983 action claiming Dillard violated his constitutional rights by failing to properly consider him for parole despite his cooperation with prison officials as instructed in a previous notification informing him he had been denied parole. Plaintiff also complains Dillard has never evaluated him or spoken with him about his future plans in order to assess his suitability for parole, she has failed to inform him what he must accomplish to be released on parole, and she has arbitrarily and maliciously discriminated against him to deny him parole. Dillard's actions, Plaintiff claims, have violated his right to due process and equal protection and subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment. Doc. 1.

         A. Official Capacity Claims

         To the extent Plaintiff seeks to sue Dillard in her official capacity, she is entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for claims seeking monetary damages from her in her official capacity. Lancaster v. Monroe Cnty.,116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997); Jackson v. Ga. Dep't of Transp.,16 F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994); Parker v. Williams,862 F.2d 1471 (11th Cir. 1989). Plaintiff may also not seek a declaratory judgment or injunction against the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, as the State of Alabama, its agencies, and its officials (in their official capacities) are entitled to absolute Eleventh Amendment immunity against these forms of relief. See Edelman v. Jordan,415 ...

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