United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
U.S.C. Â§ 1983 action is pending before the court on a
complaint filed by Travis Hutchins, an indigent state inmate,
challenging actions which occurred during his incarceration
at the Easterling Correctional Facility. Specifically,
Hutchins complains the defendants acted with deliberate
indifference to his safety when they failed to protect him
from attack by inmate Corderis Thomas on March 6, 2016. Doc.
1 at 3-5. He also alleges this attack occurred because the
defendants disregarded prison policies. Doc. 1 at 4-5. Next,
Hutchins complains âa proper investigation [was not] done.â
Doc. 1 at 3. Finally, Hutchins asserts the defendants acted
with deliberate indifference to his medical needs after the
attack by inmate Thomas. Doc. 1 at 4.
names Warden Walter Myers, Assistant Warden Patrice Richie,
Capt. Camelia Cargill and Capt. Nathaniel Lawson, all
correctional officials employed at Easterling when the
challenged actions transpired, as defendants in both their
individual and official capacities. Hutchins seeks a declaratory
judgment, injunctive relief and monetary damages for the
alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Doc. 1 at 1
defendants filed a special report, supplemental special
report and relevant evidentiary materials in support of their
reports - including affidavits, prison reports and medical
records - addressing the claims presented by Hutchins. In
these filings, the defendants deny they acted with deliberate
indifference to Hutchins' safety or medical needs and
also assert they did not violate any of his constitutional
court issued an order directing Hutchins to file a response
to the arguments set forth by the defendants in their special
report and supplement thereto and advising him that his
response should be supported by affidavits or statements made
under penalty of perjury and other appropriate evidentiary
materials. Doc. 19 at 2. This order specifically
cautioned the parties that “unless within
fifteen (15) days from the date of this order a party files a
response in opposition which 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 the order] and without
further notice to the parties (1) treat the special
report [- as supplemented -] 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. 19 at 3. Hutchins filed an unsworn response
and supporting affidavit in response to this order. Docs. 26
to the directives of the above described order, the court
deems it appropriate to treat the defendants' special
report and the supplemental special report as a motion for
summary judgment. Upon consideration of the defendants'
motion for summary judgment, the evidentiary materials filed
in support thereof, the sworn complaint and the
plaintiff's affidavit in opposition, to the extent it
does not expand on his claims or present a new basis for a
pending claim, the court 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 [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
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). However, “mere 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).
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); Feliciano v. City of Miami
Beach, 707 F.3d 1244, 1253-54 (11th Cir. 2013) (same).
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. Thus, the plaintiff'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 and exhaustive review of all
the evidence contained in the record. After this review, the
court finds that Hutchins has failed to demonstrate a genuine
dispute of material fact in order to preclude entry of
summary judgment in favor of the defendants.
extent Hutchins requests monetary damages from the defendants
in their official capacities, he is not entitled to this
relief. Official 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). As the Eleventh Circuit has held,
the Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from
entertaining suits by private parties against States and
their agencies [or employees]. There are two exceptions to
this prohibition: where the state has waived its immunity or
where Congress has abrogated that immunity. A State's
consent to suit must be unequivocally expressed in the text
of [a] relevant statute. Waiver may not be implied. Likewise,
Congress' intent to abrogate the States' immunity
from suit must be obvious from a clear legislative statement.
Selensky v. Alabama, 619 Fed.Appx. 846, 848-49 (11th
Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Thus, a state official may not be sued in his/her official
capacity unless the state has waived its Eleventh Amendment
immunity, see Pennhurst State School &
Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984), or
Congress has abrogated the State's immunity, see
Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 59 (1996).
Neither waiver nor abrogation applies here. The Alabama
Constitution states that “the State of Alabama shall
never be made a defendant in any court of law or
equity.” Ala. Const. Art. I, § 14. The Supreme
Court has recognized that this prohibits Alabama from waiving
its immunity from suit.
Selensky, 619 Fed.Appx. at 849 (citing Alabama
v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (holding consent is
prohibited by the Alabama Constitution). “Alabama has
not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity in § 1983
cases, nor has Congress abated it.” Holmes v.
Hale, 701 Fed.Appx. 751, 753 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing
Carr v. City of Florence, Ala., 916 F.2d 1521, 1525
(11th Cir. 1990)). In light of the foregoing, the defendants
are entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh
Amendment for claims seeking monetary damages from them in
their official capacities. Selensky, 619 Fed.Appx.
at 849; Harbert Int'l, Inc. v. James, 157 F.3d
1271, 1277 (11th Cir. 1998) (holding that state officials
sued in their official capacities are protected under the
Eleventh Amendment from suit for damages); Edwards v.
Wallace Community College, 49 F.3d 1517, 1524
(11th Cir. 1995) (holding that damages are unavailable from
state official sued in his official capacity). The defendants
are therefore entitled to absolute immunity insofar as
Hutchins seeks monetary damages from them in their official
DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS FOR RELIEF