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Goodwin v. Despain

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

March 7, 2018

SHARONE GOODWIN, #191831 Plaintiff,
WILLIAM DESPAIN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Sharone Goodwin, an Alabama prison inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] This action has been referred to the undersigned for appropriate action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and S.D. Ala. GenLR 72(a)(2)(R). After careful review, it is recommended that Summary Judgment be GRANTED in favor of Defendants Walter Myers, Terry Raybon, and William DeSpain, and that Plaintiff Sharone Goodwin's action be DISMISSED with prejudice in its entirety.

         It is further ORDERED that Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Production of Documents (Doc. 48) is DENIED for the reasons as set out in the Court's previous order, dated January 24, 2018 (Doc. 47).

         I. Summary of Allegations and Background.

         Plaintiff Sharone Goodwin brings this suit alleging multiple due process and Eighth Amendment violations occurring while housed at Holman Correctional Facility. (Doc. 22). According to Plaintiff, the defendants, on numerous occasions, failed to protect him from inmate attacks and held him in segregated housing without the proper hearings. (Id.).

         Plaintiff claims that on May 15, 2015, five inmates attacked him outside of the dining hall. (Id. at 4). One inmate attempted to stab Plaintiff in the eye (causing his glasses to shatter) and then the five inmates “escorted” Plaintiff to the shift office and warned him “to get out of population.” (Id.). Plaintiff entered the shift office and reported the incident to Lieutenant Brown, who instructed that Plaintiff be taken to the medical unit, where Plaintiff alleges he received treatment for “Plexiglas in his left eye.” (Id.). Plaintiff subsequently reported the incident (and identified the attackers by their names and nicknames) to Wardens Myers and Raybon; yet, the wardens failed to take action against the inmate attackers. (Id. at 4-5). Plaintiff further alleges that Classification Supervisor William DeSpain is responsible for the attack because of his “error of accepting [Plaintiff] to Homan Correctional Facility from St. Clair without insuring that he had no validated enemies” at the prison. (Id. at 5).

         After the attack, Wardens Myers and Raybon moved Plaintiff to segregated housing in Q-side and told Plaintiff that he would be transferred to another prison after Classification Supervisor DeSpain identified a known enemy or life threat. (Doc. 22 at 5). According to Plaintiff, the wardens further arranged for Plaintiff to meet with the Montgomery Gang Taskforce (“the Taskforce”), who interviewed Plaintiff, took photographs of Plaintiff, and recorded his statement on video. (Id.; Doc. 48 at 3). Plaintiff informed the Taskforce that the May 15, 2015 attack was “a hit on his life and [that] he doesn't feel safe at Holman.” (Id.; Doc. 37 at 1). Plaintiff claims that Defendants have knowledge of this interview and the “hit on his life” and, yet, failed to transfer him or take action to protect him. (Doc. 22 at 5). Additionally, Plaintiff challenges that the segregation detention paperwork presented to him on May 15, 2015, stated that his segregation holding was for “being in an altercation with unknown inmates”, despite that he informed the defendants of the names of his attackers. (Id.).

         Around June of 2015, Warden Myers moved Plaintiff from Q-side segregation to “the main lockup unit” or “segregation annex”, where Plaintiff alleges inmates as well as officers are “cut on an almost daily basis.” (Id.; Doc. 48 at 2). While housed in segregation annex, Plaintiff contends he was assaulted twice in June of 2015, “several more times” in August and September of 2015, and again on April 1, 2016. (Id. at 5-6). Plaintiff asserts that he was afraid for his life while incarcerated at Holman and alleges he communicated this fear to the Segregation Review Board, which included Warden Myers and Classification Supervisor DeSpain, weekly. (Id. at 6). Yet, Defendants did nothing. (Id.).

         Despite oral and written requests (by Plaintiff and by his family members) to be transferred, Plaintiff remained held in segregation until June 11, 2016, when he was moved to Limestone Correctional Facility. (Id. at 6-7). Plaintiff claims his holding in segregated custody without a hearing for administrative custody and the failure to transfer Plaintiff to an enemy free prison violated his Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id.). Plaintiff is suing Defendants William DeSpain, Walter Myers, [2] and Terry Raybon for these alleged constitutional violations and is seeking monetary relief in the amount of $50, 000.00 from each defendant for compensatory and punitive damages and any other relief to which this Court finds he is entitled.[3] (Doc. 22 at 10).

         Defendants have answered the suit, have denied all allegations against them, and asserted the immunity defenses of sovereign and qualified immunity.[4] (Doc. 33). Defendants have also submitted a Special Report, which includes evidentiary support in the form of affidavits, medical records, and various prison records. (Id.; Doc. 35). The Court converted these pleadings into a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs. 34, 36), to which Plaintiff responded by filing a combined Motion for Extension of Time to Respond and a Motion for Production of Documents (Doc. 37), followed by an Amended Motion for Production of Documents (Doc. 41), a Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. 45), and a Motion to Hold Defendants in Civil Contempt. (Doc. 46).

         The Court granted Plaintiff's request for an extension of time to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 40) and ordered the defendants to respond to Plaintiff's Motion for Production of Documents, which requested the transcription of the May 15, 2015 interview of Plaintiff conducted by the Department of Corrections Gang Taskforce. (Doc. 38). Defendants objected to production of statements contained in the investigative report (Doc. 39), and the Court denied Plaintiff's motion. (Doc. 47). Based on Defendants' response, the Court determined that no transcription existed of the videotaped statement and that Plaintiff, being aware of what he told prison authorities in the statement, could respond to the motion for summary judgment with his own testimony about any statements he made to the Taskforce, and Defendants were not required to provide him with a copy of the video tape of the statement. (Doc. 47 at 2). This same reasoning was used by the Court to deny Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Production of Documents. (See Doc. 47 at 2-3). Additionally, the Court denied Plaintiff's Motion to Hold Defendants in Civil contempt. (Id. at 4).

         In its January 24, 2018 order, the Court declared “that discovery in this matter has CLOSED” (Doc. 47), yet Plaintiff filed an Amended Motion for Production of Documents requesting an updated version of the Alabama Department of Corrections standard operating manual, all documents related to his protective custody placement from May 15, 2015 through April 1, 2016, internal memos regarding his removal from cell Q-15 to segregation annex, and all transcribed statements in the possession of the investigative department created on May 15, 2015, as well as statements regarding Plaintiff's 2007 emergency transfer from Homan Correctional Facility. (Doc. 48). Relying on the reasoning of its previous order, The Court hereby denies Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Production of Documents. (Doc. 48). The Court will, however, consider Plaintiff's affidavit attached to the Amended Motion for Production of Documents as a response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 48 at 3-6).

         After a thorough review of the record, the Court determines this motion is ripe for consideration.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard.

         Summary Judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)[5]; see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (2009) ("[S]ummary judgment is appropriate even if 'some alleged factual dispute' between the parties remains, so long as there is 'no genuine issue of material fact.'"(emphasis omitted)).

         The party asking 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 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing, or pointing out to, the district court 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.

Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(e) "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324. To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party "must do more than show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). On the other hand, the evidence of the nonmovant must be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in its favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, LLC v. United Forming, Inc., 926 F.Supp.2d 1286, 1289-90 (S.D. Ala. Jan. 29, 2013) (citations omitted).

         The requirement to view the facts in the nonmoving party's favor extends only to "genuine" disputes over material facts. A genuine dispute requires more than "some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Garczynski, 573 F.3d at 1165 (internal citations omitted). A "mere scintilla" of evidence is insufficient; the nonmoving party must produce substantial evidence in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. In addition, "[t]here is no burden upon the district court to distill every potential argument that could be made based upon the materials before it on summary judgment." Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995). More importantly, where "opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007); see also Logan v. Smith, 439 Fed.Appx. 798, 800 (11th Cir. Aug. 29, 2011) ("In cases where opposing parties tell different versions of the same events one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record-such that no reasonable jury could believe it-a court should not adopt the contradicted allegations." (citations omitted) (unpublished)).[6]

         II. Discussion.

         To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege an act which deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, committed by a person acting under color of state law at the time the complaint arose. Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 737 (11th Cir. 2010). The defendants in this action, employed as state correctional officers, were no doubt acting under color of state law at the time the complaint arose, and Plaintiff brings his claims pursuant to the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. As such, the undersigned will review each claim in turn.

         a. Failure to Protect.

         The Eighth Amendment imposes a duty on prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates." Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1099 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994)) (alterations and quotations omitted). "It is not, however, every injury suffered by one prisoner at the hands of another that translates into constitutional liability for prison officials responsible for the victim's safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Purcell v. Toombs Cnty., 400 F.3d 1313, 1321 (11th Cir. 2005) ("[A] prison custodian is not the guarantor of a prisoner's safety.") (quotation omitted). To survive this motion, Plaintiff must establish facts necessary to show defendants "disregarded [a] substantial risk by failing to act in an objectively reasonable way to alleviate the risk," and that the defendants "'acted with a state of mind that constituted deliberate indifference.'" Estate of Owens v. GEO Grp., Inc., 660 Fed.Appx. 763, 767 (11th Cir. 2016)(citations omitted).

In this context, deliberate indifference requires: (1) subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm; (2) disregard of that risk; and (3) conduct that amounts to more than mere negligence. [Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 737 (11th Cir. 2010)]; see also Ray v. Foltz, 370 F.3d 1079, 1083 (11th Cir. 2004) ("Deliberate indifference is not the same thing as negligence or carelessness."). Thus, a prison official may have subjective knowledge only if he had both knowledge of specific facts from which an inference of risk of serious harm could be drawn, and he actually drew that inference. Carter[ v. Galloway, 352 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2003)]. And, therefore, a plaintiff's claim will fail as a matter of law in the absence of actual knowledge of the substantial risk, because to hold otherwise would impermissibly vitiate the subjective component of the analysis. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837-38.

Id. Taking as true, for purposes of this motion, Plaintiff's version of the facts alleged in the complaint, the undersigned determines that Plaintiff has failed to carry his burden of establishing a constitutional claim.

         i. Transfer to Holman.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to protect him from being attacked while incarcerated at Holman Correctional Facility because they allowed him to be incarcerated with known enemies at the prison. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant DeSpain violated his constitutional rights by allowing him to be transferred to Holman Correctional Facility in August of 2013 when Plaintiff had documented enemies housed at the prison.

         To the extent that Plaintiff's claim asserts a challenge to his transfer to Holman Correctional Facility (“Holman”), the law is well-settled that prisoners do not have a constitutional right to remain or be housed in any particular prison or region or to be transferred to a penal institution of their choosing. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225, 96 S.Ct. 2532, 49 L.Ed.2d 451 (1976) ("The Constitution does not require that the State have more than one prison for convicted felons; nor does it guarantee that the convicted prisoner will be placed in any particular prison if, as is likely, the State has more than one correctional institution."); Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 103 S.Ct. 1741, 75 L.Ed.2d 813 (1983) (holding that transferring a prisoner from a Hawaii state prison to a California prison did not implicate a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause). Thus, the fact that Plaintiff was transferred from one correctional institution within the State of Alabama to another fails to implicate any constitutional right to which he is entitled.

         To the extent that Plaintiff asserts an Eighth Amendment claim for Defendants' failure to protect him based on his transfer from St. Clair Correctional Facility to Holman, Plaintiff also fails to establish a constitutional claim. Defendant DeSpain affirms that, in accordance with the Alabama Department of Corrections' quarterly segregation rotation of inmates housed in administrative segregation, Plaintiff was transferred to Holman from St. Clair Correctional Facility on August 22, 2013. (Doc. 33-1 at 1). At the time of the transfer, Plaintiff was classified as a Security Level 5 inmate and had documented enemies at multiple facilities, including St.

         Clair Correctional Facility, Donaldson Correctional Facility, and Holman Correctional Facility. (Id.). Due to Plaintiff's inability to live in general population and in order to keep him safe from known enemies, Plaintiff was placed in a single cell housing in the Homan Segregation Unit upon arrival at Homan. (Id. at 2).

         The record shows that Plaintiff attempted multiple times during his incarceration at Holman to have the status of documented enemies changed and declared instead that they were persons with whom he could live peaceably; these requests, however, were consistently denied, mostly due to Plaintiff's confirmed status as a former FBI informant. (Doc. 33-5 at 12-14; Doc. 33-6 at 18-22; Doc. 48 at 4). It was not until validated enemies were removed from general population that Plaintiff was assigned to population; this housing classification however was short lived. (Doc. 33-2 at 1). The evidence before the Court shows that on January 3, 2014, Plaintiff executed a document acknowledging that he could and wanted to enter general population (Doc. 33-6 at 37), but ...

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