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Cheatham v. Does

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

January 19, 2017

DENNIS J. CHEATHAM, ADC #136117 PLAINTIFF
v.
JOHN DOES 1-4, unknown Varner Unit Warden and Correctional Officers; and CHERYLE JOHNSON, Captain, Varner Unit, ADC DEFENDANTS

          RECOMMENDED PARTIAL DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Partial Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of the entry of this Recommendation. The failure to timely file objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff, Dennis J. Cheatham ("Cheatham"), is a prisoner in the North Central Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"). He has filed this pro se § 1983 action alleging that, while he was in the Varner Unit, Defendants Captain Cheryle Johnson ("Johnson") and John Does, who are unknown members of a Security Response Team and the warden of the Varner Unit, failed to protect him from being attacked by two other prisoners. Docs. 2, 6, & 24.

         Johnson has filed two Motions to Dismiss and two Briefs in Support arguing that: (1) she is entitled to sovereign and qualified immunity; (2) Cheatham has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; and (3) Cheatham has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Docs. 12, 13, 25, & 26. Cheatham has filed a Response to the Motions to Dismiss and supporting Exhibits. Docs. 18 & 22.

         II. Relevant Facts

         Cheatham's failure to protect claims are based on the following facts as contained in his pleadings:[1]

1. On April 27, 2016, Cheatham lived on the top floor of 4 Barracks, a two-story open barrack at the Varner Unit. Docs. 2, 6, & 24.
2. Around 11:00 p.m., Cheatham was on the second floor of 4 Barracks when two prisoners beat and stabbed him multiple times, and left him in a semiconscious state on the floor. Cheatham admits this was a "surprise attack" and that he had no prior problems with his two attackers. Id.
3. Cheatham's two attackers then went to the first floor of 4 Barracks and attacked another prisoner ("the first floor prisoner"). After being stabbed multiple times, the first floor prisoner broke free from the two attackers and banged on the door to 4 Barracks. The officer outside of 4 Barrack rescued the first floor prisoner, and immediately called for back-up. Id.
4. Johnson and the Security Response Team answered the call. They spoke to the first floor prisoner, who was in the hallway outside of 4 Barracks, and took him to the infirmary for medical treatment. Johnson and the Security Response Team did not enter 4 Barracks to apprehend the attackers, seize their weapons, or otherwise secure the barracks. Id.
5. After Johnson and the Security Response Team left, the two attackers returned to the second floor of 4 Barracks, found Cheatham, and stabbed him several more times. In total, Cheatham was stabbed twenty-three times. Id.

         III. Discussion

         A. Sovereign Immunity

         Cheatham has sued Johnson in both her official and individual capacity. Johnson correctly argues that the doctrine of sovereign immunity prohibits Cheatham from obtaining monetary damages against her, in her official capacity.[2]See Zajrael v. Harmon, 677 F.3d. 353, 355 (8th Cir. 2012); Larson v. Kempker, 414 F.3d 936, 939-40 (8th Cir. 2005). Thus, Cheatham's ...


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