United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
GARY W. YOUNGBLOOD, Plaintiff,
ALABAMA DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS,, Defendants.
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE I.
Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge
Gary W. Youngblood is a former inmate of the Alabama Department
of Corrections at Easterling Correctional Facility
(“Easterling”) in Clio, Alabama. He filed this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that prison
officials unconstitutionally prevented him from using money
in his prison account to pay a patent application fee, did
not mail the complaint in this case in time to meet a patent
application deadline, and prevented him from using the law
library. Docs. 1, 2, 14, 15. Plaintiff names as
defendants the Alabama Department of Corrections, Willie
Bryant, Carter Davenport, Derrick Carter, Nathaniel Lawson,
Gerald Wagner, and Phelix Woods, in their official and
individual capacities. Id. He requests injunctive
relief and damages. Doc. 1 at 1, 13-14; Doc. 14 at 3.
filed an answer, special report, supplemental reports, and
evidentiary materials addressing Plaintiff's claims for
relief. Docs. 18, 25, 31, 55, 91, 115. Upon receipt of the
defendants' reports, the court directed Plaintiff to file
a response, including sworn affidavits and other evidentiary
materials, and specifically cautioning Plaintiff that
“at some time in the future the court may treat the
defendants' reports and the plaintiff's response as a
dispositive motion and response.” Doc. 33. Plaintiff
responded to the defendants' reports and materials. Docs.
21, 22, 28, 29, 32, 36, 40, 41, 44, 47, 48, 107, 116, 117,
118. The court denied Plaintiff's requests to file a
motion for summary judgment, but advised that prior to
disposition of the case, the court would reconsider
Plaintiff's motion. Docs. 101, 109.
court now reconsiders Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment, and it will also treat the defendants' reports
as a motion for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the
motions, the parties' responses, and the evidentiary
materials filed in support and in opposition to the motion,
the court concludes that Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment is due to be denied, and the defendants' motion
for summary judgment is due to be granted.
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). The movant may
meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is
no dispute of material fact or by showing 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.
defendants 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. Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6
(11th Cir. 1997) (per curiam). 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 genuine
dispute of material fact so as to preclude summary judgment
on his claims against the defendants. See
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.
SUMMARY OF MATERIAL FACTS
purposes of considering the defendants' motion for
summary judgment, the court views the facts in the light most
favorable to Plaintiff, the nonmoving party.
was an inmate at Easterling in 2015. He now resides at an
address outside the custody of the Alabama Department of
Corrections. Docs. 1, 119. During the time relevant to his
claims, the defendants were employed by the Alabama
Department of Corrections at Easterling. Davenport was a
Correctional Warden III, Carter was a Correctional Warden I,
Woods was a Correctional Lieutenant, Lawson and Bryant were
Correctional Captains, and Wagner was a Correctional Officer.
Docs. 25-1, 25-2, 25-4, 25-5, 25-6, 26-7.
verified complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he developed an
idea he wanted to patent while he was at Easterling, and he
filed an application for a patent with the United States
Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”),
application number 62/125, 184, on October 31,
2014. Docs. 1 at 17, 2 at 1. Plaintiff's
patent “would allow First Responder, wrecker, escort,
and road work vehicles, stopped school buses, even trains
to give motorist in vicinity advance notice of their presence
and or approach, using radio frequency technology.”
Id. at 4. “Due to the substantial impact to
public safety possible from such a system, ” Plaintiff
tested his theory using electronics he purchased at
Easterling. Id. Plaintiff states that he desired to
protect his patent, which he views as his personal
intellectual property. Id. at 4-5. He wanted to
ensure that prison personnel, other inmates, and others could
not steal it. Doc. 21-1 at 1. Plaintiff believes that his
invention may have commercial potential, but he also
indicates that his patent application is a means to protect
his personal intellectual property. Doc. 1 at 11. Plaintiff
says that “patent could prove to be extremely valuable
to plaintiff and public safety as well, ” and
represents that he is not subject to any forfeiture
proceedings that would permit his property to be taken. Doc.
14 at 3.
tried to obtain a waiver of the fees for the patent, but the
agencies he contacted wanted to be involved in development,
and Plaintiff did not want to share the idea until he had
patent protection. Doc. 1 at 5-6. He asked his sentencing
court to alter his consecutive sentences to run concurrently
so that he could prosecute and fund his patent application
and process. Id. at 6. Plaintiff did not pay all the
filing fees for his patent, and he states that his patent was
subject to abandonment for failure to pay the fees on April
3, 2015. Doc. 1 at 2.
March 3, 2015, the USPTO sent Plaintiff a Notice of
Incomplete Reply (Provisional), indicating that he was
required to pay an $80 balance for fees within two months to
avoid abandonment of the application. Doc. 1 at 17. On March
7, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a request to the Easterling
business office to deduct money from his Prisoners' Money
on Deposit (“PMOD”) account for the filing fees
and send it to the USPTO in a stamped envelope that Plaintiff
provided. Doc. 21-3 at 1-2. Plaintiff states that Lieutenant
Woods verified and approved the request on March 9, 2015.
Id. at 1.
to Woods, Warden Carter asked Woods to question Plaintiff
about the request to withdraw funds, and Plaintiff said he
needed $250.00 to pay legal fees to the USPTO to protect his
personal property. Doc. 25-4. Woods states that he verified
Plaintiff's account and withdrawal slip, then initialed
the request and turned it over to Carter for further review.
Id. Woods maintains that Warden Carter's
decisions are not Woods' responsibility. Doc. 55-4 at 9.
more occasions in March 2015, Plaintiff requested that the
USPTO fees be deducted from his PMOD and mailed. Doc. 1-1 at
1-4. Carter denied the requests. Id. Carter states
that the requests were denied because institutional rules do
not list patent applications among the items that inmates may
purchase, the transaction was not labeled legal mail,
Plaintiff did not follow institutional rules and standard
operating procedures or have prior authorization for an
exception to the rules, and the administrative regulations
“indicate no provisions for incarcerated felons to
engage in business transactions.” Doc. 25-2 at 1. In
his answers to Plaintiff's interrogatories, Carter
reiterates that “[a]ccording to ADOC policies and
procedures, inmates are NOT allowed to engage in business
transactions.” Doc. 55-4 at 3.
states that he briefed Davenport that the transaction was
seen as a business transaction, and that according to ADOC
policy, inmates are not allowed to engage in business
transactions. Doc. 55-4 at 3. Davenport states that he did
not deny Plaintiff's request for a fund withdrawal from
his PMOD account. Doc. 25-1. In his answer to Plaintiff's
interrogatories about the PMOD withdrawal, Davenport says
that he did not have a belief relevant to the matter. Docs.
38-1, 55-4 at 1-2.
April 14, 2015, the USPTO sent Plaintiff a Notice of
Incomplete Reply (Provisional), stating that he was required
to pay an $80 balance for fees within two months. Doc. 116-1
at 4. On April 21, 2015, Plaintiff filed a request to deduct
$265 from his PMOD account and mail it to the USPTO. Doc.
116-1 at 1-6. On May 22, 2015, the USPTO sent Plaintiff a
Notice of Incomplete Reply, indicating that Plaintiff's
May 15, 2015, reply was late and that extensions would not be
granted more than five months after the Notice of Incomplete
Reply. Docs. 36-1 at 4, 116-2 at 4. Plaintiff's Notice
was first mailed February 3, 2015, so the last date for his
extension was September 3, 2015. Id. The May 22,
2015 Notice included a schedule of fees for extensions, from
$50 for a one-month extension, to $750 for a five-month
asserts that the defendants restricted his PMOD account so
that no one could put funds in it. Doc. 21-3 at 1. When a
friend tried to put money in it, he was told the account had
the maximum amount of funds in it. Id. Plaintiff
disputes the statement that his PMOD had the maximum amount
of funds in it. Of the $265.27 then in the account, $265.00
was earmarked for the USPTO. Id. at 2. Plaintiff
believes that the defendants intended Plaintiff to spend some
of his PMOD funds, which would make him unable to pay the
USPTO fee, which would in turn cause him to lose his patent
application and moot his claims. Id.
Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”) D-52 §
III(D)(2), which regulates inmate PMOD accounts, funds may be
deducted from the PMOD account for “[b]ooks, magazines,
newspapers, etc.[, ] [h]obbycraft supplies[, ] [t]ennis
shoes[, and] [o]ccasional personal expenses (attorney fees,
etc.) or expenses of a family member... . ” Docs. 25-2
at 5, 55-2 at 33 (dated Feb. 26, 2003). Regulations also
specifically allow inmates to sell hobbycraft items. Docs.
38-1 at 3, 55-4 at 2, 4. Alabama Department of Corrections
Administrative Regulation (“AR”) 112 regulates
procedures for court-ordered withholding from PMOD accounts.
Doc. 115-2 at 1-7 (dated July 26, 2004). According to the
Inmate Handbook, inmates “are not allowed to enter into
contracts, business agreements or participate in any business
activity while you are an inmate at an ADOC
institution.” Doc. 55-2 at 40 (dated Aug. 1, 2013)
(capitalization and boldface removed).
AR 338 § III(F), which regulates inmate property and
items that inmates may keep as property, “legal
papers” are defined as “[p]leadings and resource
documents relevant to current cases, such as case law, court
rules, statutes, transcripts, or legal forms.” Doc.
25-2 at 8, 55-2 at 2 (dated Sept. 9, 2009). Under AR 448
§ III(G), which regulates inmate mail, “legal
mail” is defined as “[l]etters to and from
attorneys, courts, judges, clerks, and other officials of the
court and government agencies.” Doc. 55-2 at 19 (dated
Oct. 20, 2008). According to the Inmate Handbook,
“‘[l]egal mail' is ...