United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an Alabama prison inmate proceeding pro se and
in forma pauperis, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. This action was referred to the
undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and
Local Rule 72(a)(2)(R) and is now before the undersigned on
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35). After
careful review of the pleadings, and for the reasons set out
below, it is recommended that the motion be
GRANTED, in part, and
DENIED, in part, and an evidentiary hearing
be scheduled on the excessive force and failure to intervene
claims asserted against Defendants Sims and Thompson.
complaint, Plaintiff James Crandle alleges constitutional
violations occurred while he was incarcerated at Mobile
County Metro Jail (“Mobile Metro Jail” or
“the jail”) awaiting trial for felony
murder. (Doc. 1 at 6). Crandle alleges that on
September 6, 2016, at approximately 6:00 a.m., Officers Sims
and Thompson entered his cell and used unnecessary force
against him and left him bleeding with a bad headache. He
further claims he had to wait 36 hours to see a doctor.
Crandle is suing Correctional Officer Ta'Eric Sims for
“assault and access[sic] force without cause”,
Correctional Officer La'Tre Thompson for “assault
and accessory to access[sic] force without a reason”,
and Lieutenant Tunglia Hawkins for being an “accessory
to assault and unnecessary force and leaving [him] in pain
and suffering.” (Doc. 1 at 5-6). The Court interprets
these allegations as claims of excessive force, failure to
intervene, and delay of medical care, respectively.
defendants have answered the suit, denying Crandle's
allegations, and have submitted a special report in support
their position. (Docs. 13, 14, 33, 34). The Court has
converted these pleadings into a motion for summary judgment
(doc. 35), to which Crandle has not responded. After a
thorough review of the record, the court determines that this
motion is now ripe for consideration.
Summary Judgment Standard.
analyzing the propriety of a motion for summary judgment, the
Court begins with these basic principles. The Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure grant this Court authority
under Rule 56 to render "judgment as a matter of
law" to a party who moves for summary judgment. Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that "[t]he 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 bears the "initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for [their] motion, and identifying those portions of
'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if
any,' which [they] believe demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact." Clark v. Coats
& Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991)
(bracketed text added) (quoting Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d
265 (1986)). If the moving party does not have the burden of
proof at trial, they may show that "there is an absence
of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case."
United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941
F.2d 1428, 1437 (11th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted).
Alternatively, the moving party may support its "motion
for summary judgment with affirmative evidence demonstrating
that the nonmoving party will be unable to prove its case at
trial." Id. If the moving party meets this
burden, the non-movant, as the party bearing the burden of
proof at trial, must set forth specific facts, supported by
citation to the evidence, to support the elements of the case
at trial, and therefore, establish that there is a genuine
issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 252, 106 S.Ct.
2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
the Court must "resolve all issues of material fact in
favor of the [non-movant], and then determine the legal
question of whether the [movant] is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law under that version of the facts."
McDowell v. Brown, 392 F.3d 1283, 1288 (11th Cir.
2004) citing Durruthy v. Pastor, 351 F.3d 1080, 1084
(11th Cir. 2003). "[A]ll reasonable doubts about the
facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of
the non-movant." Citizens Trust Bank v. Lett,
2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90849, 2015 WL 4254561, at *1 (N.D.Ala.
2015). The Court is obligated to construe the record,
including all evidence and factual inferences, in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Skop v. City
of Atlanta, 485 F.3d 1130, 1136 (11th Cir. 2007).
the mere existence of any factual dispute will not
automatically necessitate denial of a motion for summary
judgment; rather, only factual disputes that are material
preclude entry of summary judgment. Lofton v. Secretary
of Dept. of Children and Family Services, 358 F.3d 804,
809 (11th Cir. 2004). "An issue of fact is material if
it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable
substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case.
It is genuine if the record taken as a whole could lead a
rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party."
Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 594 F.3d
798, 807 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). A genuine
dispute of material fact exists "if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Allen v. Bd. of Public Education
for Bibb County, 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007).
response to the allegations of this suit, Defendants have
asserted all available immunity defenses. (Doc. 14 at 1).
extent Crandle's claims are against the correctional
officers in their official capacities, Defendants Sims,
Thompson and Hawkins are immune from suit, as the liability
imposed, in reality, is on the entity the individuals
represent versus the individuals themselves. Brandon v.
Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72, 105 S.Ct. 873, 83 L.Ed.2d
878 (1985). The determination of the entity represented by
the defendants for purposes of determining immunity from suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is determined by reference to
state law. Carr v. City of Florence, 916 F.2d 1521,
1525 (11th Cir. 1990). Alabama law holds that a sheriff is a
state, rather than a county, official for purposes of
immunity from suit. Parker v. Amerson, 519 So.2d 442
(Ala. 1987); Ala. Const. Art. V § 112 (listing county
sheriffs as members of the state's executive department);
see also Taylor v. Adams, 221 F.3d 1254, 1256 (11th
Cir. 2000) ("Alabama sheriffs operating jails are state
officers protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity.").
Similarly, "employees of the sheriff, deputies [and
officers] in their official capacities, are  entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity." Scruggs v. Lee,
256 Fed.Appx. 229, 232 (11th Cir. 2007); Lancaster
Cnty., 116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997)
("[J]ailers are state officials for the purpose of
Eleventh Amendment immunity."). There is no dispute that
Defendants Sims, Thomson, and Hawkins, in their official
capacities as county jail correctional officers, are arms of
the state for Eleventh Amendment Immunity purposes and are
therefore barred from suit for monetary damages in this
action. Defendants further assert the defense of qualified
immunity as a bar from suit against them in their individual
capacities. Qualified immunity offers complete protection for
individual government officials performing discretionary
functions "insofar as their 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, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738,
73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). "Qualified 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, 129 S.Ct.
808, 815, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009). A party is eligible to
claim qualified immunity if he was acting within the line and
scope of his employment. Holloman ex rel. Holloman v.
Harland, 370 F.3d 1252, 1264 (11th Cir. 2004). Based on
Plaintiff's complaint allegations and the record, clearly
the defendants were acting within their discretionary
authority at the time the complaint arose. Thus, the burden
shifts to the plaintiff to establish that qualified immunity
is inappropriate. Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188,
1194 (11th Cir. 2002).
Supreme Court has mandated a two-step analysis for resolving
qualified immunity claims. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S.
194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 2156, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001).
First, a court must decide whether the facts that a plaintiff
has alleged "show the [defendant's] conduct violated
a constitutional right." Id. Second, the court
must decide "whether the right was clearly
established." Id. The determination of these
elements may be conducted in any order. Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d
565 (2009). Therefore, the Court will proceed with its
analysis of whether or not Plaintiff has successfully alleged
a constitutional violation.
James Delester Crandle, at the time relevant to the instant
action, was a pretrial detainee at the Mobile County Metro
Jail. Crandle does not articulate under which constitutional
right he is suing; however, where the use of force is
challenged by a pretrial detainee, rather than a convicted
prisoner, “the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, not the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against
cruel and unusual punishment, governs our analysis."
Jacoby v. Mack, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 31702, *12, __
Fed.Appx. (11th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted); see
Kingsley v. Hendrickson, U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2475,
192 L.Ed.2d 416 (2015) (noting “pretrial detainees
(unlike convicted prisoners) cannot be punished at all . .
Supreme Court in Kinsley identified two separate
state-of-mind questions to consider when evaluating excessive
force claims of pretrial detainees.
first concerns the defendant's state of mind with respect
to his physical acts - i.e., his state of mind with respect
to the bringing about of certain physical consequences in the
world.” Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2472. That is,
a defendant must possess a purposeful, knowing, or reckless
state of mind - negligent conduct will not suffice. In the
current action, Defendants do not dispute that Defendant
officers intentionally punched Crandle with closed fists.
“The second question concerns the defendant's state
of mind with respect to whether his use of force was
‘excessive'.” Id. at 2473. This
requires showing “that the force . . . used against him
was objectively unreasonable.” Id. at 2473.
[O]bjective reasonableness turns on the “facts and
circumstances of each particular case.” Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d
443 (1989). A court must make this determination from the
perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, including
what the officer knew at the time, not with the 20/20 vision
of hindsight. See ibid. A court must also account
for the “legitimate interests that stem from [the
government's] need to manage the facility in which the
individual is detained, ” appropriately deferring to
“policies and practices that in th[e] judgment”
of jail officials “are needed to preserve internal
order and discipline and to maintain institutional
security.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 540,
547, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979).
Considerations such as the following may bear on the
reasonableness or unreasonableness of the force used: the
relationship between the need for the use of force and the
amount of force used; the extent of the plaintiff's
injury; any effort made by the officer to temper or to limit
the amount of force; the severity of the security problem at
issue; the threat reasonably perceived by the officer; and
whether the plaintiff was actively resisting. See,
e.g., Graham, supra, at 396, 109 S.Ct.
1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443. We do not consider this list to be
exclusive. We mention these factors only to illustrate the
types of objective circumstances potentially relevant to a
determination of excessive force.
Id.. In evaluating the objective reasonableness of
Defendants' actions, the court will assess the totality
of the situation, including the factors ...