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Davis v. Montgomery County Detention Facility

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

March 5, 2019

ALBERT DAVIS, #175 321, Plaintiff,
v.
MONTGY. COUNTY DETENTION FACILITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GRAY MrTORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Albert Davis, is an indigent inmate incarcerated at the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama.[1] He brings this pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action for injunctive relief and damages alleging Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his safety during his incarceration at the Montgomery County Detention Facility in May 2015 by failing to protect him from an inmate assault. Davis maintains the inmate assault resulted from a lack of security at the facility and a failure to supervise and train subordinates. Davis names as defendants the Montgomery County Detention Facility, Sheriff Derrick Cunningham, Correctional Officers Latasha Campbell and Amber Fitts, and Director Wanda Robinson.[2] Docs. 1 & 38.

         Defendants have filed an amended answer, special reports, a supplemental special report, and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Davis' claims for relief. Docs. 18, 19, 27, 28, 44, 46, 47 & 50. In these filings, Defendants deny they acted in violation of Davis' constitutional rights. Upon receipt of Defendants' special reports, the court issued an order directing Davis to file a response, including sworn affidavits and other evidentiary materials, and specifically cautioning Davis that “the court may at any time thereafter and without notice to the parties (1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment.” Docs. 30 at 2 & 48 at 2.

         Davis responded to Defendants' special reports. Docs. 37, 56, 84 & 85. Davis has not sworn to the truthfulness of the statements in his responses, however, and thus they do not meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e)(1) that an affidavit “be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on the matters stated.” This failure on Davis' part means that these responses are not evidence that could be deemed to create a genuine issue of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(1); Holloman v. Jacksonville Housing Auth., 2007 WL 245555, *2 (11th Cir. Jan. 30, 2007) (holding that “unsworn statements, even from pro se parties, should not be considered in determining the propriety of summary judgment”); Pfeil v. Rogers, 757 F.2d 850, 859 (7th Cir. 1986); Dickinson v. Wainwright, 626 F.2d 1184, 1185 (5th Cir. 1980). The court will treat Defendants' reports as motions for summary judgment, and resolves these motions in favor of Defendants.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “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); 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. at 322-24.

         Defendants have met their evidentiary burden. Thus, the burden shifts to Davis 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, 593-94 (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 also will consider “specific facts” pleaded 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 factfinder 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).

         Although 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). Davis' pro se status alone does not compel this court to disregard elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. The Montgomery County Detention Facility

         Defendants argue that the Montgomery County Detention Facility is not a legal entity capable of being sued. Doc. 18. The court agrees.

         To allege a viable § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must name as a defendant an entity subject to being sued. Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992). The capacity of a party to be sued is “determined by the law of the state in which the district court is held.” Id. Both federal and state law are settled that a county sheriff's department is not a legal entity subject to suit or liability. Id.; White v. Birchfield, 582 So.2d 1085, 1087 (Ala. 1991). It follows that a building or structure utilized by a sheriff's department is not a legal entity subject to suit. Accordingly, Davis' claims against the Montgomery County Detention Facility are dismissed.

         B. Official Capacity

         The individual defendants assert that Davis' official-capacity claims against them are due to be dismissed based on the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution Docs. 18 & 47. The Eleventh Amendment bars suits for money damages against a state by the citizens of that state, unless the state waives its Eleventh Amendment immunity or Congress abrogates said immunity. See Carr v. City of Florence, Ala., 916 F.2d 1521, 1524 (11th Cir. 1990). Congress has not abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity in § 1983 cases, nor has the State of Alabama consented to suit. Id. at 1525. Moreover, Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to state officials sued in their official capacities when “‘the state is the real, substantial party in interest.'” Id. at 1524 (quoting Pennhurst St. Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101 (1984)). Under Alabama law, because sheriffs are deemed “executive officers of the state, ” lawsuits against sheriffs in their official capacities are, in essence, lawsuits against the state. Id. at 1525 (citation omitted). Thus, the Eleventh Amendment provides absolute immunity to sheriffs sued in their official capacities. Id.; Turquitt v. Jefferson Cnty., 137 F.3d 1285, 1288 (11th Cir. 1998) (“[A]n Alabama sheriff acts exclusively for the state rather than for the county in operating a county jail.”). This immunity extends to deputy sheriffs because of their “traditional function under Alabama law as the Sheriff's alter ego.” Carr, 916 F.2d at 1527. Accordingly, the individual defendants are entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for claims seeking monetary damages against them in their official capacities. Lancaster v. Monroe Cnty., 116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997); Jackson v. Ga. Dep't of Transp., 16 F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994); Parker v. Williams, 862 F.2d 1471 (11th Cir. 1989).

         C. Injunctive Relief

         Davis is no longer incarcerated at the Montgomery County Detention Center. 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 even 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). As it is clear from the pleadings and records before the court that ...


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