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Craig v. Headley

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

September 29, 2017

MICHAEL JAMES CRAIG, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH HEADLEY, WARDEN, Et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

          L. Scott Coogler, United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Michael James Craig (“Craig” or “Plaintiff”) is an inmate incarcerated by the Alabama Department of Corrections (“ADOC”). He filed a pro se complaint and amended complaints seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his rights under the Constitution or laws of the United States and state law. (Docs. 1, 3, 13.) The named defendants who have not already been dismissed from this lawsuit are all ADOC employees: Warden Joseph Headley at St Clair Correctional Facility (“St. Clair”)[1]; Warden Carter Davenport at St. Clair; Chaplain Ossie Brown at St. Clair; Warden Gary Hetzel at Holman Correctional Facility (“Holman”); Classification Specialist Supervisor William DeSpain at Holman; Classification Specialist Hayden Glass Sizemore at Holman; Captain Kevin White at Holman; Warden Lloyd Hicks at W. E. Donaldson Correctional Facility (“Donaldson”); Warden Angela Miree at Donaldson; Warden Cedric Specks at Donaldson; Classification Specialist Supervisor Lisa Bonner at Donaldson; ADOC Regional Coordinator Grantt Culliver, and ADOC Prison Commissioner Kim Thomas.[2] For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion for summary judgment (doc. 35) is due to be granted in its entirety and this case dismissed with prejudice.

         II. Procedural History

         In his three complaints totaling 118 pages, Plaintiff originally named as defendants twenty-eight different ADOC employees located at four different Alabama prisons and described events taking place over a period of four years, from 2011 through 2015. Plaintiff demanded monetary and injunctive relief from ADOC and the corrections personnel in their official and individual capacities. (Doc. 1 at 4; Doc. 3 at 18-24; Doc. 13).

         On December 5, 2016, the magistrate judge assigned to this action entered a Report & Recommendation recommending all claims against all defendants be dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, with the exception of three claims:

(1) First Amendment retaliation claims against defendants Chaplain Brown and Warden Headley at St. Clair,
(2) First Amendment conspiracy to retaliate claims against defendants Chaplain Brown, Captain Sanders, and Warden Richie at St. Clair, and
(3) Procedural Due Process claims against Holman defendants Classification Specialist Sizemore, Classification Specialist Supervisor DeSpain, Captain White, and Warden Hetzel, and against Donaldson defendants Classification Specialist Supervisor Bonner, Ms. Stinson, Warden Hicks, Warden Specks, and Warden Miree.

(Doc. 19.) Plaintiff filed objections to the Report & Recommendation. (Doc. 20.) On March 27, 2017, this Court entered a Memorandum of Opinion and Order adopting and accepting the magistrate judge's Report & Recommendation in all respects except with regard to the magistrate judge's recommendation to dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment, negligence, and negligent supervision claims against St. Clair defendants Captain Sanders, Warden Headley, Warden Davenport, as well as ADOC Regional Coordinator Culliver and ADOC Commissioner Thomas. (Doc. 22.) Accordingly, this Court dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim all claims against all defendants except:

(1) First Amendment retaliation claims against St. Clair defendants Chaplain Brown and Warden Headley,
(2) First Amendment conspiracy to retaliate claims against St. Clair defendants Chaplain Brown, Captain Sanders, and Warden Richie,
(3) Procedural Due Process claims against Holman defendants Classification Specialist Sizemore, Classification Specialist Supervisor DeSpain, Captain White, and Warden Hetzel and against Donaldson defendants Classification Specialist Supervisor Bonner, Ms. Stinson, Warden Hicks, Warden Specks, and Warden Miree, and
(4) Eighth Amendment, negligence, and negligent supervision claims against St. Clair defendants Captain Sanders, Warden Headley, Warden Davenport, as well as ADOC Regional Coordinator Culliver and ADOC Commissioner Thomas.

(Id.)

         On April 10, 2017, the Court entered an Order for Special Report directing the Clerk to forward a copy of the complaint to the remaining defendants and directing the defendants to file a special report(s) addressing the plaintiff's factual allegations. (Doc. 23). The Court advised the defendants that the special reports could be submitted under oath or accompanied by affidavits and, if appropriate, the Court would consider them as motions for summary judgment filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id.) On August 4, 2017, the defendants filed a special report, supplemented by affidavits and other evidence, including prison records and internal memoranda. (Doc. 35). On August 16, 2017, the Court notified the parties that it would construe the special report as a motion for summary judgment and notified the plaintiff that he had twenty-one (21) days to respond to the motion for summary judgment by filing affidavits or other material. (Doc. 37). The Court also advised the plaintiff of the consequences of any default or failure to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (Id.) See Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985). That deadline has expired and the Court has received no response from the plaintiff.

         This matter is thus now before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         III. Standard of Review

         Because the court has construed the defendants' special reports as motions for summary judgment, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 governs the resolution of the motions. Under Rule 56(a), summary judgment is proper “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.” In making that assessment, the court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and must draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000). The burden of proof is upon the moving party to establish his prima facie entitlement to summary judgment by showing the absence of genuine issues of material fact and that he is due to prevail as a matter of law. See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). Unless the plaintiff, who carries the ultimate burden of proving his action, is able to show some evidence with respect to each element of his claim, all other issues of fact become immaterial, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d 1530, 1532-33 (11th Cir. 1990). As the Eleventh Circuit has explained:

Facts in dispute cease to be “material” facts when the plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie case. “In such a situation, there can be ‘no genuine issue as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” [citations omitted]. Thus, under such circumstances, the public official is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, because the plaintiff has failed to carry the burden of proof. This rule facilitates the dismissal of factually unsupported claims prior to trial.

Bennett, 898 F.2d at 1532.

         However, any “specific facts” pled in a pro se plaintiff's sworn complaint must be considered in opposition to summary judgment. See Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Perry v. Thompson, 786 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1986)). Additionally, because the plaintiff is pro se, the court must construe the complaint more liberally than it would pleadings drafted by lawyers. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). “Pro se pleading are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.” Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006).

         IV. Summary Judgment Facts[3]

         Craig is serving a life sentence for murder and a fifteen-year concurrent sentence for assault in the second degree. The assault conviction involved Craig attacking another inmate with a weapon. In his twenty years of incarceration, Craig has received thirty-nine disciplinaries with ten involving attacks upon or fights with other inmates. (Doc. 35-9.)

         A. Events at St. Clair

         Craig was incarcerated at St. Clair from September 13, 2005, until January 16, 2013. (Doc. 35-9.) He alleges that on October 15, 2011, inmate Jabari Bascomb was murdered by other inmates at St. Clair, but he does not say that he saw it happen or that it occurred in his dorm. He further alleges that around 3:30 a.m. on April 27, 2012, Craig witnessed inmates at St. Clair strangle inmate John Abraham Rutledge to death in “Dorm Q1, 18 cell.” (Doc. 1 at 5).[4] Some of the inmates were not assigned to Q1 dorm, and entered the dorm by breaching security. (Id. at 24). Craig explains that “the only dorms at [St. Clair that are] heavily secured are H-Dorm-drug program, and the predominately white inmate housed ‘faith based character honor dorm[s], J-K, which [have] a rover at [a] desk in the hall at all times, [and] rovers who frequent the floors.” (Id. at 6). By contrast, Q1 dorm, which “hous[es] 80% black inmates, ha[s] zero hall rovers at a desk 24 hours per day, and floor rovers only come through to conduct shakedowns for contraband, count, [and] occasionally . . . dorm security walk through.” (Id.). This leaves “Q1 dorm residents . . . vulnerable to periodic, unchecked violence” such as that suffered by Rutledge. (Id. at 5-6).

         Craig alleges that St. Clair Warden Headley and the “ADOC hierarchy, ” or St. Clair Warden Davenport, ADOC Regional Coordinator Culliver and ADOC Commissioner Thomas, “became fully aware” of the lack of security “after acknowledgment of back to back periodic violent incidents, ” including these two murders in 2011 and 2012. (Doc. 1 at 23-24, 59; Doc. 13 at 11). But Warden Headley “and his superiors” were deliberately indifferent because, unlike inmates in the drug program and honor dorms, they did not station a rover at a desk in the hall of Q1 dorm at all times, and the rovers did not frequent the floors as often. (Doc. 1 at 6, 24).[5] Craig also declares Commissioner Thomas's response to the unsafe conditions at St. Clair was to tour the facility with the press in March 2012, and issue a press release in June 2012 declaring that budget cuts and underfunding were the cause of the conditions. (Id. at 59-60). Craig makes no mention of any particular response from Warden Headley, Warden Davenport or ADOC Regional Coordinator Culliver. Craig claims lack of funding is an overused excuse to cover up mismanagement and to convince voters to allocate funding to the prison through legislation. (Id. at 60). ADOC Commissioner Thomas's press bid for funding was somewhat successful because during 2012, the Alabama Legislature transferred millions from the “Alabama Trust Fund” to the “General Fund” for allocation to the prisons. (Id.). Even so, Craig declares there were “zero significant changes in the areas of understaffed, undersecured dorms.” (Id.).

         About one week after Rutledge's murder, all inmates in the St. Clair Q1 dorm were interviewed by an Internal Investigations (“I & I”) Officer. (Id.). Because the interviews were taking place in clear view of the dorm's residents, Craig was tape recorded stating to the investigator that he had information to share with her, but could not do so at that time because of the risk of being labeled a snitch. (Id.). He asked to be interviewed confidentially at a “proper location.” (Id.). “[C]ountless” other inmates did come forward as “informants, ” and the perpetrating inmates were “found guilty [of the murder] at an institutional level in their disciplinaries.” (Id. at 51).

         The same month (May 2012), Craig was robbed of his store goods by two inmates “who didn't sleep in Q1 Dorm.” (Id. at 7). There were no security rovers present in Q1 dorm at that time. (Id.). Craig “had to validate as enemies” these inmates before Warden Headley, a prison captain, and a prison classification specialist. (Id.). The inmates were punished by being placed in isolation. (Doc. 13 at 16). While in Warden Headley's office, Craig “fully informed” Warden Headley and the prison captain that he witnessed Rutledge's murder, heard Antonio Nichols and Lil Yo' Hawkins discuss why they “called the hit' on Rutledge, ” (doc. 1 at 49), and he stated he was willing to testify at trial (id. at 7). Warden Headley stated would “get back” with the plaintiff, and “‘I & I would probably re-interview [him], just not now.'” (Id. at 7).

         In July 2012, Craig wrote to Warden Headley to express his concern about the undersecured conditions in Q1 dorm, and asked to be accepted into the St. Clair Faith Honor Dorm. (Id.). The request was denied at that time due to a clause in the Honor Dorm Regulations. (Id.). In late October 2012, Craig informed Warden Headley in writing that he had completed a “re-entry workshop” and inquired about the Rutledge investigation. (Id.). Warden Headley determined that Craig had earned the privilege to live in the honor dorm and Craig was transferred to it. (Id. at 7-8).

         Conditions in the honor dorm were more secure, but Craig “continued to fight mental debilitation, and thrive for progress” because of two minor incidents. (Id. at 8). Once, an inmate attempted to manipulate him into “switching cell assignments.” (Id.). Craig reported this incident to Chaplain Brown and a prison captain, and the manipulative inmate “was moved.” (Id.). On another occasion, a “white inmate racist” physically threatened him “‘over a country music program.'” (Id.). This time, Craig reported the matter to Chaplain Brown and a lieutenant. (Id.). The racist inmate was moved and signed a living agreement with Craig. (Id.).

         On December 28, 2012, Chaplain Brown conducted an on-the-spot honor dorm meeting to resolve racial conflict concerning control of television programming. (Id.). Chaplain Brown allowed inmate dorm representative McKinney to co-chair the meeting, whereupon McKinney “was allowed to manipulate the honor dorm handbook” and “flat out lie, claiming the inmates could actually control t.v. programming -via cable box, without the warden's consent.” (Id. at 8-9). At the meeting, Chaplain Brown granted Craig permission to speak, and Craig stated the dorm reps were lying to Chaplain Brown and manipulating regulations to wield “false authority” over black inmates and deny them access to black programming. (Id. at 9). When McKinney, still acting as co-chair, continued to repeat his lies, Craig walked out of the meeting and went back to his dorm. (Id.).

         In his dorm, Craig drafted a complaint about the matter addressed to, among others, Wardens Headley and Davenport. (Id.). He asked for inmate signatures as witnesses to the unfair politics in the dorm. (Id.). Craig asserts one of the dorm representatives informed Chaplain Brown that he was preparing the complaint and collecting signatures, but does not provide any factual detail. (Id.). Later, the prison captain approached Craig and asked to him to go into the hallway. (Id.). When he did, Chaplain Brown was waiting and told Craig he was going to have to move from the dorm because “it look like you gon' be trouble[.]” (Id.).

         Craig asked what he had done, but was instructed to pack his belongings. (Id. at 9-10). Upon arriving at the shift office, Craig again asked why he was being moved. (Id. at 10). He informed the prison captain that the real reason he was being kicked out of the dorm was because Chaplain Brown's dorm reps were manipulators and were using the honor dorm as a front to traffic heroin and cell phones, as well as keep the dorm predominantly Caucasian. (Id.).

         Craig also asked to see the warden who was the honor dorm's administrating liaison. (Id.). Before her, Craig explained how inmate McKinney had been given improper authority to co-chair the dorm meeting, and then manipulated the meeting “to hide the fact [that] he [and] other inmates had been illegally controlling the institution[‘]s programming-cable box.” (Id.). Craig does not allege he repeated to this warden his accusations concerning drug and cell phone trafficking or the race-motivated-behavior by the dorm reps. The warden called Chaplain Brown into her office and asked him who gave the inmates the authority to manipulate the cable box at will, to which he responded that he had just been notified of it and was investigating the matter. (Id.).

         She also asked Chaplain Brown what problem he had with Craig, and Chaplain Brown replied, “I ain't got no problem with Craig, it's just that he walked out of the dorm meeting.” (Id. at 10-11). Craig responded, “After Destry McKinney lied to your face, while ...


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