United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Mikel Hammonds ("Plaintiff) is an inmate of the Alabama
Department of Corrections ("ADOC"), currently
incarcerated at Fountain Correctional Facility. He brings
this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that
he was subjected to cruel and unusual conditions of
confinement while he was an inmate in Unit C-l of the
Restrictive Privilege Dorm at Easterling Correctional
Facility ("Easterling"). Doc. 1-1 at 3; Doc. 25 at
3-5. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as
well as damages. Doc. 1-1 at 5; Doc. 25 at 10-11.
sues the defendants in their individual and official
capacities, and he names as defendants former Commissioner
Kim Thomas, Warden Karla Jones, Warden Derrick Carter, Warden
Kenneth Sconyers, Captain Willie Bryant, Lieutenant Larry
Peavy, Sergeant Dominic Jones, and Sergeant Kevin Teal
(collectively "Defendants"). Doc. 1 at 1. Plaintiff
also sues Warden Carter Davenport as a Defendant, though
Plaintiff does not clarify whether Davenport is sued in his
official or individual capacity. Docs. 24, 26.
to the orders of this court, the remaining Defendants filed
answers, special reports, supplemental special reports, and
evidentiary materials addressing the claims for relief raised
in the complaint. Docs. 40, 44, 45, 48, 50, 71, 73. In their
various reports, Defendants assert, among other things, that
Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief, respondeat
superior is not a basis for relief, there is no merit to
Plaintiffs claims, they are entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity and qualified immunity, and Plaintiff cannot recover
damages for mental or emotional injury because he does not
allege a physical injury as required by 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(e). Docs. 40 at 3-5, 45 at 2.
court directed Plaintiff to respond to Defendants'
reports. Docs. 52, 67. The court advised Plaintiff it would,
in the future, treat Defendants' report and Plaintiffs
response as a dispositive motion and response. Doc. 52 at 2.
The court advised Plaintiff that his response should be
supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of
perjury or appropriate other evidentiary materials, and it
advised him of the proper manner in which to respond to the
reports. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff filed one response,
Doc. 55, and Plaintiff did not respond to Defendants'
latest supplemental report.
case is now pending before the court on Defendants'
motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56. Upon consideration of the motion, Plaintiffs
response, and the evidentiary materials filed in support of
and in opposition to the motions, the court concludes that
Defendants' motion for summary judgment is due to be
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD OF REVIEW
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."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "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 [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) (citation to former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56
omitted; "issue" altered to "dispute" to
reflect the stylistic change in the current rule). 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) (alterations
added). The movant may meet this burden by presenting
evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or
by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present
evidence in support of some element of its case on which it
bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-24.
have met their evidentiary burden and demonstrated the
absence of any genuine dispute of material fact. Thus, the
burden shifts to Plaintiff to establish, with appropriate
evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute
material to the case exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at
324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3) ("If a party fails to
properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly
address another party's assertion of fact [by citing to
materials in the record including affidavits, relevant
documents or other materials], the court may . . . grant
summary judgment if the motion and supporting
materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that
the movant is entitled to it . . . ."); see also
Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d
1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014) (court considers facts pled in a
plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his
opposition to summary judgment"). A genuine dispute of
material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces
evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return
a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263.
The evidence must be admissible at trial, and if the
nonmoving party's evidence "is merely colorable ...
or is not significantly probative . . . summary judgment may
be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). "A mere
'scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing
party's position will not suffice . . . ."
Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir.
1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). Conclusory
allegations based on subjective beliefs are likewise
insufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact.
Holifieldv. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11th Cir.
1997) (per curiam) (plaintiff's "conclusory
assertions . . ., in the absence of [admissible] supporting
evidence, are insufficient to withstand summary
judgment"). Only disputes involving material facts are
relevant, and what is material is determined by the
substantive law applicable to the case. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248. To demonstrate a genuine dispute of material
fact, the party opposing summary judgment "must do more
than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to
the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole
could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the
nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine [dispute] for
trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all
justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Although factual
inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal
interpretation by the court, a pro se litigant does not
escape the burden of sufficiently establishing a genuine
dispute of material fact. Brown v. Crawford, 906
F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Thus, a plaintiff's pro
se status alone does not mandate this court's disregard
of elementary principles of production and proof in a civil
case. In this case, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate a
requisite genuine dispute of material fact so as to preclude
summary judgment. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.
Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
s requests for declaratory and injunctive relief against
Defendants are due to be dismissed as moot because Plaintiff
is no longer incarcerated at Easterling. The transfer or
release of a prisoner renders moot any claims for injunctive
or declaratory relief. See County of Los Angeles v.
Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631 (1979); see also Jacoby v.
Baldwin Cty., 835 F.3d 1338, 1342 n.l (11th Cir. 2016)
("since Mr. Jacoby is no longer an inmate at the Baldwin
jail, his claims for injunctive relief are moot");
Cotterall v. Paul, 755 F.2d 777, 780 (11th Cir.
1985) (case or controversy requires "continuing present
injury or real and immediate threat of repeated injury")
(quotation marks and citation omitted). Consequently,
Plaintiffs requests for equitable relief are due to be
dismissed as moot.
Suit Against Defendants in Their Official Capacities
seeks money damages against Defendants, who were state actors
during the time relevant to the complaint, and he sues them
in their official capacities. Official capacity lawsuits are
"in all respects other than name, . . . treated as a
suit against the entity." Kentucky v. Graham,
Al?> U.S. 159, 166 (1985). State officials may not be
sued in their official capacity for money damages unless the
state has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity or unless
Congress has abrogated the state's immunity, and neither
has occurred in this case. See Lancaster v. Monroe
County, 116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing
Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 59 (1996)
(discussing abrogation by Congress); Pennhurst State
School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100
(1984) (discussing Eleventh Amendment immunity); Carr v.
City of Florence, 916 F.2d 1521, 1525 (11th Cir. 1990)
(Alabama has not waived Eleventh Amendment immunity)). In
light of the foregoing, Defendants are entitled to sovereign
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for Plaintiff's
claims seeking monetary damages from them in their official
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) and Damages
also assert that Plaintiff does not allege "a prior
showing of physical injury;" consequently, he cannot
obtain compensatory damages "for mental or emotional
injury." See 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(e); Doc. 71 at 6. Section 1997e(e) is a limit
on relief, consequently Plaintiff cannot obtain punitive
damages and compensatory damages for simply mental or
emotional injury. SeeAl-Amin v. Smith, 637 F.3d
1192, 1198 (11th Cir. 2011) (holding prior case law
"forecloses the punitive damage relief sought by
Al-Amin, given that his constitutional claim does not meet
§ 1997e(e)'s physical injury requirement").
Nevertheless, if Plaintiff can show a physical injury, §
1997e(e) does not bar relief. In addition, to the extent
Plaintiff requests nominal damages,  they "'are
appropriate if a plaintiff establishes a violation of a
fundamental constitutional right, even if he cannot prove
actual injury sufficient to entitle him to compensatory
damages.'" Williams v. Brown, 347 Fed.Appx.
429, 436 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Hughes v. Lott,
350 F.3d 1157, 1162 (11th Cir. 2003)); see also Brooks v.
Warden, 800 F.3d 1295, 1307-08 (11th Cir. 2015) (holding
that nothing in § 1997e(e) prevents a prisoner from
recovering nominal damages for a constitutional violation
without a showing of physical injury); Hughes, 350
F.3d at 1162 ("Nominal damages are appropriate if a
plaintiff establishes a violation of a fundamental
constitutional right, even if he cannot prove actual injury
sufficient to entitle him to compensatory damages.").
Eighth Amendment Claim ...