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Cawthon v. Hemingway

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

July 31, 2018

DAVID A. CAWTHON, Plaintiff,
v.
MELISSA HEMINGWAY, et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         David A. Cawthon (“Cawthon”) is before the court on his complaint under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. Doc. No. 1.[1] Cawthon claims a denial of his right of meaningful access to the courts resulting from the alleged inadequacy of materials in the law library at the Federal Prison Camp in Montgomery, Alabama (“FPC Montgomery”), stemming in particular from (1) the removal of the printed set of American Jurisprudence 2d (“ A m . J u r . 2 d ”) from the library and (2) the replacement of two electronic typewriters in the library with three manual typewriters. Defendants named by Cawthon are Melissa Hemingway (former Supervisor of Education at FPC Montgomery); Dennis W. Stamper (Warden at the prison); Martha Underwood (Assistant Warden at the prison); and E. Baskins (Supervisor of Education at the prison).[2] Doc. No. 1 at 2, ¶¶ 5-6; Doc. No. 38. Cawthon seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

         Defendants filed a special report and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Cawthon's claims and arguing that he fails to demonstrate a denial of his right of access to the courts or any other right. Doc. No. 43. Pursuant to orders entered in this case, the court deems it appropriate to treat the report as a motion for summary judgment. See Doc. No. 44 at 3. Thus, this case is pending on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Upon consideration of this motion, the relevant documents, and other materials in the record, the court concludes that Defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         “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 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) (citation to former rule omitted); 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.”).[3] 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 that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence to support some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-24.

         Once this initial burden is met, and the moving party has demonstrated the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact on the claims, the other party must “go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits, or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593-94 (11th Cir. 1995); see also 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) (“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.”). 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. See Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263.

         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). Consequently, to survive a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must produce “sufficient [favorable] evidence” that would be admissible at trial supporting his claims of constitutional violations. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). “If the evidence [on which the nonmoving party relies] is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative . . . summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. “A mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the [trier of fact] could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1576-77 (11th Cir. 1990).

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party 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. Beard, 548 U.S. at 525; Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Consequently, Cawthon's pro se status does not allow this court to disregard elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case. See Mitchell v. Rouse, 2015 WL 893262, at *3 (M.D. Ala. 2015).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Cawthon's Claims

         Cawthon states that on or about May 14, 2014, while he was confined at FPC Montgomery, Defendant Hemingway, acting in her capacity as Supervisor of Education at the prison, removed the printed set of Am. Jur. 2d, a multivolume encyclopedia of the United States law, from the prison law library. Doc. No. 1 at 3. Cawthon maintains that the removal of Am. Jur. 2d from the prison law library denied him the right of access to the courts by hampering his ability to “perform meaningful legal research” and also violated Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) Program Statement 1315.07, which lists the complete set of Am. Jur. 2d among “required main law library materials.” See Id. at 9-11. Cawthon further states that on or about ...


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