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Gladys v. Norman

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

January 25, 2018




         Plaintiff, an Alabama prison inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72(a)(2)(R), and is now before the undersigned on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 23). After careful review of the pleadings, and for the reasons set out below, it is ordered that the motion be GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.

         I. Factual Background.

         Plaintiff Maurice Gladys brings this suit against Officer Vincent Norman with claims of retaliation and excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In his complaint, Gladys alleges that while housed at Holman Correctional Facility, on February 6, 2016, [1] Defendant Officer Vincent Norman cut him with a pocketknife or box cutter and repeatedly beat him while he was lying face down, compliant on the floor. (Doc. 10).

         According to Gladys, on February 6, 2016, he was involved in minor and quickly ended altercation with another inmate. (Id. at 4). Following the incident, Sergeant Christopher Earl ordered Gladys be taken to the infirmary to receive a body chart. (Id.). Defendant Vincent Norman and Officer Chris Quarles escorted Gladys to the infirmary, and it is during this escort that Gladys alleges Defendant Norman used excessive force against him in retaliation for the “longstanding beef” between the two men. (Id. at 4-5).

         Gladys submits that inmates taken to the infirmary "must be handcuffed in the front, " but that on this escort, Defendant Norman attempted to handcuff Gladys to the rear by screaming, "hands behind your back motherfucker". (Id. at 5). Gladys claims that as he questioned Defendant Norman regarding the words he used and the necessity of being cuffed behind the back, and Defendant Norman responded, “shut up bitch” and went “into a rage, ” using further profanity. (Id.). Defendant Norman radioed for the population gate to be closed and then turned toward Gladys with a pocketknife or box cutter in his hand. (Id.). Gladys claims Officer Quarles, who had been attempting to secure handcuffs on Gladys' left hand, released him and Defendant Norman "picked the Plaintiff up in the air and slammed the Plaintiff face down to the floor, stomping the plaintiff in the back of the head, and neck area, " and at some point during the incident, Defendant Norman cut Gladys with the blade he was holding in his hand. (Id.). According to Gladys, additional officers arrived at the scene and witnessed the force used by Defendant Norman, and the responding officers restrained Defendant Norman, and Gladys was taken to the infirmary where he received a body chart. (Id.). Gladys claims he suffered pain from the assault as well as a cut on his neck and a "close black eye." (Id.).

         Gladys brings this suit against Defendant Norman, in his individual capacity and seeks a jury trial and relief in the amount of $150, 000.00 in the form of punitive, compensatory, and mental damages. (Id. at 7).

         Defendant Norman has answered the suit, denied all allegations against him, and further asserted the defenses of absolute and qualified immunity.[2] (Docs. 20, 21). In support of his defense, Defendant Norman has filed a Special Report, which includes his personal affidavit, as well as affidavits of four witnessing officers, and the medical, disciplinary, and internal investigation records related to the February 6, 2016 incident complained of in this action. (Docs. 20-22). The Court has converted Defendant's pleadings into a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 23), and Plaintiff Gladys has responded to the motion. (Doc. 26). After a review of the record in its entirety, the Court has determined this motion is ripe for consideration.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard.

         In analyzing the propriety of a motion for summary judgment, the Court begins with these basic principles. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure grant this Court authority under Rule 56 to render "judgment as a matter of law" to a party who moves for summary judgment. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that "[t]he 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 bears the "initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for [their] motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which [they] believe[] demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (bracketed text added) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). If the moving party does not have the burden of proof at trial, they may show that "there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428, 1437 (11th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). Alternatively, the moving party may support its "motion for summary judgment with affirmative evidence demonstrating that the nonmoving party will be unable to prove its case at trial." Id. If the moving party meets this burden, the non-movant, as the party bearing the burden of proof at trial, must set forth specific facts, supported by citation to the evidence, to support the elements of the case at trial, and therefore, establish that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

         Overall, the Court must "resolve all issues of material fact in favor of the [non-movant], and then determine the legal question of whether the [movant] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law under that version of the facts." McDowell v. Brown, 392 F.3d 1283, 1288 (11th Cir. 2004) citing Durruthy v. Pastor, 351 F.3d 1080, 1084 (11th Cir. 2003). "[A]ll reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant." Citizens Trust Bank v. Lett, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90849, 2015 WL 4254561, at *1 (N.D.Ala. 2015). The Court is obligated to construe the record, including all evidence and factual inferences, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Skop v. City of Atlanta, 485 F.3d 1130, 1136 (11th Cir. 2007).

         However, the mere existence of any factual dispute will not automatically necessitate denial of a motion for summary judgment; rather, only factual disputes that are material preclude entry of summary judgment. Lofton v. Secretary of Dept. of Children and Family Services, 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004). "An issue of fact is material if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case. It is genuine if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 594 F.3d 798, 807 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). A genuine dispute of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Allen v. Bd. of Public Education for Bibb County, 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007).

         III. Discussion.

         "In order for a plaintiff to establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he must prove (1) a violation of a constitutional right, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law." Martinez v. Burns, 459 Fed.Appx. 849, 850-851 (11th Cir. 2012) (citing Holmes v. Crosby, 418 F.3d 1256, 1258 (11th Cir. 2005)). The parties do not dispute that Defendant, as a correctional officer for the State of Alabama was acting under color of law.

         "The Eighth Amendment, applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, governs the conditions under which convicted prisoners are confined and the treatment they receive while in prison." Id. (citing Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1242 (11th Cir. 2003); Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312, 1316 (11th Cir. 1999)). The Amendment states that "[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." U.S. Const. amend. VIII. "'[T]he unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain ... constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.'" Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 89 L.Ed.2d 251 (1986) (some internal quotation marks omitted). "Among 'unnecessary and wanton' inflictions of pain are those that are 'totally without penological justification.'" Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 2399, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981); Hudson v. McMillian, 112 S.Ct. 995, 998, 503 U.S. 1, 5, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992) ('[T]he unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain ... constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.'") (citations omitted). "Therefore, the "Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officers from using excessive force against prisoners." Pearson v. Taylor, 665 F. App'x 858, 863 (11th Cir. 2016) (citing Thomas v. Bryant, 614 F.3d at 1303-04). Thus, "[t]he 'core judicial inquiry' for an excessive-force claim is 'whether force was applied in a good- faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.'" Id. (quoting Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 37, 130 S.Ct. 1175, 175 L.Ed.2d 995 (2010) (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7).

         The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has "identified five factors to help evaluate whether force was applied maliciously or sadistically." Id. (citing Danley v. Allen, 540 F.3d 1298, 1307 (11th Cir. 2008), overruled on other grounds as recognized by Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 709 (11th Cir. 2010)): "(1) the need for force; (2) the relationship between that need and the amount of force used; (3) the extent of the resulting injury; (4) the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates, as reasonably perceived by the responsible official on the basis of facts known to that official; and (5) any efforts made to temper the severity of the use of force."[3] Id. (citations omitted). The court will review the evidence of record against these factors.

         Defendant Norman declares:

On February 6, 2016, I along with Officer Quarles was escorting Gladys to the shift office, after an officer had asked that Gladys be removed from his area. Inmate Gladys did not want to go to the shift office, which is where inmates are typically taken under these circumstances. Inmate Gladys was not handcuffed when we first started escorting him. However, given how belligerent and angry inmate Gladys was acting, at some point from a safety and security standpoint, Gladys needed to be handcuffed.
Gladys strongly objected to being handcuffed. As Officer Quarrels was trying to handcuff him, inmate Gladys swung at me with his left fist. I avoided contact with inmate Gladys' fist by ducking under it. Around this time a code for assistance was called and other officers came to assist us in getting control of the situation by trying to handcuff inmate Gladys. With other officers' assistance, I placed inmate Gladys face down on the ground, where Gladys continued to actively physically resist being handcuffed. Once inmate Gladys was handcuffed he became compliant and was then taken to the infirmary for a body chart.

(Doc. 20-1 at 2). Officer Quarles corroborates the facts laid out by Defendant but articulates that Gladys was being escorted to the shift office after fighting ...

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