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Shutes v. Pendleton

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

October 11, 2016

JUSTIN ANTHONY SHUTES PLAINTIFF
v.
JAILER KEVIN PENDLETON; STEVE FAULKNER; and KENNETH FRAZIER DEFENDANTS

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action filed pro se by the Plaintiff, Justin Anthony Shutes, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the Arkansas Department of Correction - East Arkansas Unit in Marianna, Arkansas. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3)(2011), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey, United States District Judge, referred this case to the undersigned for the purpose of making a Report and Recommendation.

         Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 24. I held a hearing on September 7, 2016, at which time I heard Plaintiff's sworn testimony via video conference in response to the Motion for Summary Judgment. After careful consideration, I enter the following Report and Recommendation.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on June 23, 2014. ECF No. 1. The Plaintiff's claims relate to incidents that occurred during the time he was incarcerated in the Union County Detention Center (“UCDC”). In his Complaint, Plaintiff names Kevin Pendleton, Steven Faulkner and Kenneth Frazier as Defendants. Plaintiff's Complaint is not clear as to whether he sued Defendants in their official capacity, individual capacity or both. Plaintiff alleges his constitutional rights were violated when Defendants tampered with his outgoing mail. ECF No. 1. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on August 15, 2016. ECF No. 24. In this Motion Defendants deny they tampered with Plaintiff's mail and they argue there has been no conduct resulting in a violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT RECORD

         Counsel for Defendants waived appearance at the hearing. Defendants submitted the following exhibits for the Court's consideration: (1) May 20, 2014 Grievance (ECF No. 25-1); (2) Inmate Mail History (ECF No. 25-2); (3) Plaintiff's Extra Sheet (ECF No. 25-3); Affidavit of Kevin Pendleton (ECF No. 25-4); and (5) Union County Detention Center Mail Policy (ECF 25-6). Plaintiff appeared via video conference. He did not submit any exhibits.[1] I asked Plaintiff to provide a sworn statement detailing how he believes his constitutional rights were violated in response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Below is a summary of his sworn testimony:

         Plaintiff claims on May 16, 2014 he gave correction officer Defendant Frazier two sealed envelopes to be placed in the outgoing mail. One was addressed to 111 N. Madison and the other to P.O. Box 56. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Frazier took the mail to the booth where Defendant Pendleton changed the addresses to P.O. Box 912 and P.O. Box 431 and left the letters to be logged by the next shift. Plaintiff stated Defendant Faulkner and other staff members were aware of the tampering. However, Plaintiff acknowledged he did not see Defendant Pendelton tamper with his mail and the two letters sent out on May 16, 2014 were never returned to Plaintiff as undelivered.

         Plaintiff also claims on May 20, 2014 to have sent another sealed envelope to 111 N. Madison - the address for the local newspaper. Plaintiff stated the envelope contained a police report he wanted to send to the newspaper to inform them of issues he was having with the UCDC. Plaintiff asserts the UCDC stamped it, opened it, held it and wrote return to sender on the envelope. Plaintiff believes Defendant Faulkner was responsible for this because it had green ink on it used by Defendant Faulkner. Plaintiff also alleges he attempted to mail another police report to the El Dorado Police Department on May 23, 2014 and it was tampered with as well.

         Plaintiff stated he could not say for sure who changed the addresses. He also stated he requested a mail log from Defendants and was provided with a print off with various addresses Plaintiff where he had sent mail. Plaintiff stated the addresses were different than what he initially wrote on the letters. Other than the three dates in May of 2014, Plaintiff acknowledged he was able to send letters out as often as he wanted while he was incarcerated in the UCDC. Plaintiff is requesting damages in the amount of $50, 000. He claims he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and he felt he was being held captive and could not reach out to the outside world because his mail was not delivered in May of 2014.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[A] genuine issue of material fact exists if: (1) there is a dispute of fact; (2) the disputed fact is material to the outcome of the case; and (3) the dispute is genuine, that is, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party.” RSBI Aerospace, Inc. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 49 F.3d 399, 401 (8th Cir. 1995). The moving party has the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, but the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere denials or allegations in the pleadings and must set forth specific facts to raise a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

         The Court must view all evidence and inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See McCleary v. ReliaStar Life Ins. Co.,682 F.3d 1116, 1119 (8th Cir. 2012). However, “[w]hen 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 ...


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