United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
JEROME GREER-EL, #185535, a.k.a., Jerome Greer, #185535, Plaintiff,
ALA. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge.
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY 
U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a
complaint filed by Jerome Greer-El, a state inmate, against
the Alabama Department of Corrections, Leon Forniss, Anthony
Jones, Hunter Futral, Christopher Arrington and Chauncey
Caldwell. In this cause of action, Greer-El alleges that
defendants Arrington and Caldwell used excessive force
against him on June 2, 2014 at the Staton Correctional
Facility. Doc. 1 at 5. He further complains that defendants
Forniss, Jones and Futral failed to protect him from the
force used by Arrington and Caldwell. Doc. 1 at 6-7, 9.
Finally, Greer-El asserts that the actions of these officers
resulted from the failure of defendant Forniss to train and
supervise his staff adequately. Doc. 1 at 7. Greer-El seeks
issuance of a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and
monetary damages for the alleged violations of his
constitutional rights. Doc. 1 at 8.
defendants filed a special report, supplemental special
report and relevant evidentiary materials addressing the
claims for relief raised by Greer-El. In these filings, the
defendants deny they violated Greer-El's constitutional
rights. The defendants further assert they are entitled to
summary judgment as res judicata bars Greer-El from
litigating his claims before this court because of a prior
judgment entered on these same claims by the Circuit Court of
Montgomery County, Alabama in favor of all the defendants
named in this case and other additional defendants in
Greer v. Corrections Dept. State of Alabama, et al.,
No. CV-2015-259-GOG, Circuit Court of Montgomery County,
Alabama (Mar. 8, 2016). Doc. 45 at 1-5.
reviewing the defendants' initial special report, Doc.
17, the court issued an order on July 30, 2015 directing
Greer-El to file a response, supported by affidavits or
statements made under penalty of perjury and other
evidentiary materials, to each of the arguments set forth by
the defendants in their report. Doc. 18 at 1-2. The order
specifically cautioned that “unless within
fifteen (15) days from the date of this order a party
… presents sufficient legal cause why such action
should not be undertaken … the court may at
any time [after expiration of the time for the plaintiff
filing a response to this order] and without further
notice to the parties (1) treat the special report
and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for
summary judgment and (2) after considering any response as
allowed by this order, rule on the motion for summary
judgment in accordance with the law.” Doc. 18 at 2-3.
On August 11, 2015, the defendants supplemented their special
report with a signed declaration from defendant Arrington.
Doc. 19-1. Greer-El filed a response to the defendants'
reports on September 10, 2015. Doc. 24. The court required
submission of an additional special report from the
defendants, Doc. 44, and the defendants filed the requisite
supplemental special report on February 5, 2018. Doc. 45.
Upon receipt of the supplemental special report, the court
provided Greer-El an opportunity to file a response to this
report. Doc. 48. Greer-El filed a response to this order on
February 20, 2018. Doc. 50.
response, Greer-El argues that the order entered on June 30,
2015 denying the defendants leave to file a motion to dismiss
based on abatement forecloses their res judicata defense.
Doc. 50 at 2. Greer-El further alleges that in the
aforementioned order this court determined that he had
dismissed his state case prior to any ruling by the state
court on his claims. Doc. 50 at 2. These arguments are
without factual basis and refuted by the record. Denying the
defendants leave to file a motion to dismiss based on
abatement during the early stages of this case in no way
precluded their ability to raise the bar of res judicata
later on. In addition, contrary to Greer-El's allegation,
the order at issue did not find that Greer-El had dismissed
his state case. Instead, the order merely noted that Greer-El
stated “he would ‘elect to have the state claim
dismissed' so that he may proceed before this court on
his claims.” Doc. 15 at 1 (citation to record omitted).
The order therefore advised Greer-El “that if he seeks
to dismiss his state civil action he should file an
appropriate motion with [the] Circuit Court of Montgomery
County, Alabama.” Doc. 15 at 2.
review of the record of the state court proceedings
demonstrates that Greer-El did not file a motion to dismiss
his state case. The state record further shows that on
March 8, 2016 the trial court granted the defendants'
motion for summary judgment and “entered [judgment] in
favor of Defendants on all claims.” Doc. 45-3 at
Finally, at the time this court entered the June 30, 2015
order, the record did not contain a copy of the
actual complaint filed by Greer-El
in the state civil action. Instead, the exhibit filed by
Greer-El in support of his motion to strike the
defendants' motion for leave to file a dispositive
motion, Doc. 14-1, which Greer-El indicated represented the
complaint filed in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County,
Alabama in No. CV-2015-259, is not a copy of the complaint
filed in that case. The actual complaint filed in the state
case is contained in Doc. 45-1 at 1-7. Thus, the finding by
this court in the June 30, 2015 order “that . . .
[Greer-El's] state complaint requests relief solely
provided by state law[, ]” Doc. 15 at 1, a finding
based on the contents of the complaint submitted by Greer-El
in opposition to the defendants' motion for leave to file
a dispositive motion and erroneously identified by Greer-El
as the actual state complaint, is contradicted by the record
now before the court. Specifically, the current record before
the court demonstrates that the complaint filed by Greer-El
in the state civil action presents claims for relief under
state law and concomitant claims alleging violations of
Greer-El's federal constitutional rights, all arising
from the force used against him on June 2, 2014. Doc. 45-1 at
1-7. Thus, the arguments presented by Greer-El in response to
the defendants' assertion of res judicata as a bar to
this court's review of his claims entitle him to no
relief from the preclusive effect of res judicata.
to the orders entered in this case, the court now treats the
defendants' reports collectively as a motion for summary
judgment and concludes that summary judgment is due to be
granted in favor of the defendants.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
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) (internal quotation marks
omitted); Rule 56(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. (“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 issue [dispute]
of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox,
Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that
moving party has initial burden of showing there is no
genuine dispute of material fact for trial). 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 appropriate evidence in support
of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate
burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24;
Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 (11th Cir.
2011) (holding that moving party discharges his burden by
showing the record lacks evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case or the nonmoving party would be unable to
prove his case at trial).
the defendants meet their evidentiary burden, as they have in
this case, the burden shifts to the plaintiff 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, 64 F.3d at 593-94 (holding that,
once a moving party meets its burden, “the non-moving
party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own
affidavits [or statements made under penalty of perjury], or
by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, ” demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute of
material fact). In civil actions filed by inmates, federal
courts “must distinguish between evidence of disputed
facts and disputed matters of professional judgment. In
respect to the latter, our inferences must accord deference
to the views of prison authorities. Unless a prisoner can
point to sufficient evidence regarding such issues of
judgment to allow him to prevail on the merits, he cannot
prevail at the summary judgment stage.” Beard v.
Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530 (2006) (internal citation
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). “[M]ere conclusions and unsupported factual
allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary
judgment motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d
1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005). 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 such that summary judgment is not warranted.
Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of
Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th
Cir. 2007). “The mere existence of some factual dispute
will not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute
is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the
case.” McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale,
333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).
“[T]here must exist a conflict in substantial evidence
to pose a jury question.” Hall v. Sunjoy Indus.
Group, Inc., 764 F.Supp.2d 1297, 1301 (M.D. Fla. 2011)
(citation omitted). “When 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 (2007).
factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable
to the plaintiff and pro se complaints are entitled to
liberal interpretation, a pro se litigant does not escape the
burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine
dispute of material fact. See Beard, 548 U.S. at
525; Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir.
1990). Thus, Greer-El's pro se status alone does not
compel this court to disregard elementary principles of
production and proof in a civil case.
court has undertaken a thorough review of all the evidence
contained in the record. After this review, the court finds
that Greer-El has failed to demonstrate a genuine dispute of
material fact in order to preclude entry of summary judgment
in favor of the defendants based on res judicata.