United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge.
Silas Martin, an inmate in the custody of the Alabama
Department of Corrections, files this pro se civil
rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges a claim
of excessive force in violation of his Eighth Amendment
rights during his incarceration at the Kilby Correctional
Facility in Mt. Meigs, Alabama. The complaint is filed
against Officer Irvin Harris. Plaintiff requests compensatory
and punitive damages. Doc. 1.
filed an answer, special report, supplemental special
reports, and supporting evidentiary materials addressing
Martin's claims for relief. Docs. 14, 37, 38. In these
filings, Harris denies that he acted in violation of
Martin's constitutional rights. Id. Upon receipt
of Harris' special report, as supplemented, the court
issued orders directing Martin to file a response, including
sworn affidavits and other evidentiary materials, and
specifically cautioned Martin that “the court may at
any time thereafter and without notice to the parties (1)
treat the special report, supplemental special reports, and
any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary
judgment.” Doc. 15, 39. Martin responded to Harris'
special report, see Doc. 21, but his response does
not demonstrate that there is any genuine issue of material
fact. See Doc. 15 at 2. The court will treat
Harris' report, as supplemented, as a motion for summary
judgment, and will recommend resolution of this motion in his
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine
[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);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (“The 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 “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 non-moving
party has failed to present evidence to support some element
on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id.
has met his evidentiary burden. Thus, the burden shifts to
Martin to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the
pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case
exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d
604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324;
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox,
Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593-594 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding
that, once the moving party meets its burden, “the
non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by
its own affidavits [or sworn statements], or by depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ”
demonstrate there is a genuine dispute of material fact)
(internal quotations omitted). This court will also consider
“specific facts” pled in a plaintiff's sworn
complaint when considering his opposition to summary
judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748
F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute of
material fact exists when the non-moving party produces
evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return
a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263;
Allen v. Bd. of Public Educ., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313
(11th Cir. 2007).
factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable
to the non- moving party and pro se complaints are
entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro
se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing
by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact.
See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 525 (2006);
Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir.
1990). Martin's pro se status alone does not
compel this court to disregard elementary principles of
production and proof in a civil case.
brings suit against Harris in his individual and official
capacities. Regarding the constitutional violations which
Martin alleges against Harris in his official capacity, he is
entitled to absolute immunity from monetary damages. Official
capacity lawsuits are “in all respects other than name,
… treated as a suit against the entity.”
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985).
“A state official may not be sued in his official
capacity unless the state has waived its Eleventh Amendment
immunity, see Pennhurst State School & Hospital v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984), or Congress has
abrogated the state's immunity, see Seminole Tribe v.
Florida, [517 U.S. 44');">517 U.S. 44, 59], 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1125 (1996).
Alabama has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity,
see Carr v. City of Florence, 916 F.2d 1521, 1525
(11th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted), and Congress has not
abrogated Alabama's immunity. Therefore, Alabama state
officials are immune from claims brought against them in
their official capacities.” Lancaster v. Monroe
County, 116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997).
light of the foregoing, it is clear that Harris is a state
actor entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh
Amendment for claims seeking monetary damages from him in his
official capacity. Lancaster, 116 F.3d at 1429;
Jackson v. Georgia Department of Transportation, 16
F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994).
response to Martin's allegation of excessive force,
Harris argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity in
his individual capacity. Qualified immunity offers complete
protection for a government official from suit-provided that
the official was performing discretionary functions and has
been sued in his individual capacity-if the conduct
“does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
818 (1982). The Supreme Court has held that the doctrine of
“[q]ualified immunity balances two important
interests-the need to hold public officials accountable when
they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield
officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when
they perform their duties reasonably.” Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). Qualified immunity
protects public officials from broad-ranging discovery
disruptive to effective government, see id. at 818,
and operates as a shield against civil damages due to
mistaken judgments. See Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S.
335, 343 (1986); Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 507
(1978) (“[Public] officials will not be liable for mere
mistakes in judgment, whether the mistake is one of fact or
one of law.”).
order to receive qualified immunity, Harris must demonstrate
that he was acting within his discretionary authority.
Johnson v. Boyd, 701 Fed. App'x. 841, 847 (11th
Cir. 2017). If Harris establishes that he was performing a
discretionary function, the burden shifts to Martin to show
qualified immunity should not apply. Id.; see
also Bowden v. Stokely, 576 Fed. App'x. 951, 954
(11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (assessing qualified immunity
with respect to Bowden's allegation of excessive force).
To meet his burden, Martin must demonstrate that Harris
violated a constitutional right, and that the right was
clearly established at the time of the violation.
Johnson 701 Fed. ...