United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
John Patrick Dudley ("Plaintiff) is an inmate of the
Alabama Department of Corrections. He filed this action under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that while he was an inmate
at Staton Correctional Facility ("Staton") in
Elmore, Alabama, Defendants Terrence Calvin and William Tate
failed to protect him from assault by another inmate, Marcus
Brown. Doc. 1. Plaintiff sues Defendants in their
official and individual capacities. Doc. 23 at 1. Plaintiff
requests declaratory relief and damages. Doc. 1 at 3 & 7.
filed an answer, special report, and evidentiary materials
addressing Plaintiffs claims for relief. Docs. 17 & 21.
Upon receipt of Defendants' report, the court directed
Plaintiff to file a response, including sworn affidavits and
other evidentiary materials, and specifically cautioned
Plaintiff that "at some time in the future the court
will treat Defendants' report and Plaintiffs response as
a dispositive motion and response." Doc. 22. Plaintiff
responded to Defendants' report and materials. Doc. 23.
court now will treat Defendants' report as a motion for
summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motion, the
response, and the evidentiary materials filed, the court
concludes that 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 omitted). 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 that 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) (holding that the court should consider
facts pled in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when
considering summary judgment). A genuine dispute of material
fact exists when the nonmoving party produces evidence that
would allow a reasonable factfinder 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). 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; Feliciano v. City of
Miami Beach, 101 F.3d 1244, 1253 (11th Cir. 2013)
("To be sure, [plaintiffs] sworn statements are
self-serving, but that alone does not permit us to disregard
them at the summary judgment stage.. .. 'Courts routinely
and properly deny summary judgment on the basis of a
party's sworn testimony even though it is
self-serving.'") (citation omitted).
"Conclusory, uncorroborated allegations by a plaintiff
in an affidavit or deposition will not create an issue of
fact for trial sufficient to defeat a well supported summary
judgment motion." Solliday v. Fed. Officers,
413 Fed.Appx. 206, 207 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Earley v.
Champion Int'l Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1081 (11th Cir.
1990)); see also Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555,
1564 n.6 (11th Cir. 1997) (holding that conclusory
allegations based on subjective beliefs are likewise
insufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact).
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 plaintiffs pro se status alone
does not mandate this court's disregard of elementary
principles of production and proof in a civil case. Here,
Plaintiff fails to demonstrate a requisite genuine dispute of
material so as to preclude summary judgment on his claims
against Defendants. See Matsushita, 475
U.S. at 587.
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). State
officials may not be sued in their official capacity for
money damages unless the state has waived its Eleventh
Amendment immunity or Congress has abrogated the state's
immunity, and neither has occurred in this case. See
Lancaster v. Monroe Cnty., 116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th
Cir. 1997) (citing Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517
U.S. 44, 59 (1996) (discussing abrogation by Congress);
Pennhurst St. Sch. & Hosp. 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) (finding that Alabama has not waived Eleventh
Amendment immunity)). In light of the foregoing, the court
concludes that Defendants are state actors entitled to
sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for
Plaintiff's claims seeking monetary damages from them in
their official capacities. To the extent Plaintiff sues
Defendants in their official capacities, the claims for money
damages brought against Defendants in their official
capacities are therefore due to be dismissed.
initially sought a declaration that Defendants violated the
United States Constitution and laws. Doc. 1 at 7. But
Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at Staton. Doc. 33. The
transfer or release of a prisoner renders moot any claims for
injunctive or declaratory relief. See Cnty. of Los
Angeles v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631 (1979); see also
Cotterall v. Paul, 755 F.2d 777, 780 (11th Cir. 1985)
(holding that past exposure to illegal conduct does not in
and of itself show a pending case or controversy regarding
injunctive relief if unaccompanied by any continuing present
injury or real and immediate threat of repeated injury).
Consequently, Plaintiffs request for equitable relief is due
to be dismissed as moot.
Deliberate Indifference-Failure to Protect
claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his
safety when they failed to protect him from assault by inmate
Brown. Tate argues that Plaintiff lacks standing and fails to
state a claim against him because Plaintiff suffered no legal
injury caused by him. Doc. 21 at 3. Defendants further argue
Plaintiff cannot show that they had sufficient and knowledge
of a risk of harm to Plaintiff, that they acted unreasonably,
or that they caused Plaintiff harm. Doc. 21 at 4. In
addition, Defendants argue that they are entitled to
qualified immunity on Plaintiffs claim against them in their
individual capacities for monetary damages. Doc. 21 at 4.
immunity offers complete protection from civil damages for
government officials sued in their individual capacities if
their conduct does not violate "clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known." Hope v. Pelzer, 536
U.S. 730, 739 (2002) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald,
457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). Qualified immunity is not merely a
defense against liability but rather immunity from suit, and
the Supreme Court "repeatedly [has] stressed the
importance of resolving immunity questions at the earliest
possible stage in litigation." Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231-32 (2009) (quotation marks
and citations omitted). To receive qualified immunity, the
public official must first prove that he was acting within
the scope of his discretionary authority when the allegedly
wrongful acts occurred. Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d
1188, 1194 (11th Cir. 2002). There is no dispute that
Defendants were acting within the course and scope of their
discretionary authority when the incidents complained of
occurred. Plaintiff must, therefore, allege facts that, when
read in a light most favorable to him, show that Defendants
are not entitled to qualified immunity. Cottone v.
Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1358 (11th Cir. 2003).
satisfy his burden, Plaintiff must show (1) that a defendant
committed a constitutional violation and (2) that the
constitutional right a defendant violated was "clearly
established." Crosby v. Monroe Cnty., 394 F.3d
1328, 1332 (11th Cir. 2004). "To be clearly established,
a right must be sufficiently clear that every reasonable
official would [have understood] that what he is doing
violates that right. In other words, existing precedent must
have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond
debate." Reichle v. Howards, 132 S.Ct. 2088,
2093 (2012) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
"Clearly established law" means (1) "a
materially similar case has already been decided"; (2)
"a broader, clearly established principle that should
control the novel facts of the situation"; or (3)
"the conduct involved in the case may so obviously
violate the constitution that prior case law is
unnecessary." Gaines v. Wardynski, 871 F.3d
1203, 1208-09 (11th Cir. 2017) (quotation marks and citations
omitted). The controlling case law is from "the United
States Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit, or the highest
court in the relevant state." See Id. at 1209.
"Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing
room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments, and protects
all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly
violate the law." Messerschmidt v. Millender,
565 U.S. 535, 546 (2012) (quotation marks and citations
omitted). The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
"has stated many times that if case law, in factual
terms, has not staked out a bright line, qualified immunity
almost always protects the defendant." Gaines,
871 F.3d at 1210. "Exact factual identity with the
previously decided case is not required, but the unlawfulness
of the conduct must be apparent from pre-existing law."
Coffin v. Brandau, 642 F.3d 999, 1013 (11th Cir.
2011). If Plaintiff cannot establish both elements,
Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, and the court
may analyze the elements "in whatever order is deemed
most appropriate for the case." Rehberg v.
Paulk, 611 F.3d 828, 839 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing
Pearson, 555 U.S. at 241-42).