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Jones v. Burl

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

December 12, 2017




         The following Proposed Findings and Recommendation have been sent to United States District Judge James M. Moody Jr. 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 this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.


         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Benjamin Muhammad Jones, an inmate in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”), filed this pro se civil rights complaint alleging that certain defendants failed to protect him from a May 17, 2016 assault by another inmate. See Doc. No. 1.[1] Jones' claims against other defendants were later dismissed from this lawsuit. See Doc. Nos. 72 & 94. Additionally, two defendants were awarded summary judgment because Jones failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to his claims against them. See Doc. Nos. 168 & 173. The remaining defendants are Danny Burl, Sterling Kirk, Ruthie Jones, Xavier Cuclager, Gregory Newsom, and LaToya Johnson (the “Defendants”). Jones sues Defendants in both their individual and official capacities, and seeks both monetary and injunctive relief. See Doc. No. 35.

         Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Jones (Doc. No. 172); Defendants' response (Doc. No. 175); and Jones' objection to Defendants' response (Doc. No. 178). Also before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment, supporting brief, and statement of undisputed material facts (Doc. Nos. 201-203); Jones' objection to a declaration (Doc. No. 211); and Jones' response (Doc. No. 212). For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds there are no genuine issues of material fact for trial, and Defendants are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Naucke v. City of Park Hills, 284 F.3d 923, 927 (8th Cir. 2002). The nonmoving party may not rely on allegations or denials, but must demonstrate the existence of specific facts that create a genuine issue for trial. Mann v. Yarnell, 497 F.3d 822, 825 (8th Cir. 2007). The nonmoving party's allegations must be supported by sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in his favor on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy. Id. (citations omitted). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Othman v. City of Country Club Hills, 671 F.3d 672, 675 (8th Cir. 2012). Disputes that are not genuine or that are about facts that are not material will not preclude summary judgment. Sitzes v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 606 F.3d 461, 465 (8th Cir. 2010).

         III. Facts

         Jones was attacked by inmate Robert Joe White on May 17, 2016. The other undisputed facts listed below were submitted by Defendants and are supported by the following documents attached to Defendants' statement of undisputed facts: Jones' status assignment sheet (Doc. No. 203-1); Declaration of Felicia A. Bentley (Doc. No. 203-2); Declaration of Ronald Watson (Doc. No. 205[2]); a memorandum from Lieutenant Maple Adkins, B-Shift Supervisor, to Major Carl Stout, Chief of Security, regarding the May 17, 2016 attack with incident reports and an enemy alert notification attached (Doc. No. 203-4).

         1. On March 9, 2016, Plaintiff Benjamin Jones was transferred from cellblock 7 to cellblock 4 (cell 1) at the Maximum Security Unit. Doc. No. 203-1.

         2. On April 26, 2016, Jones was assigned to cell 7 in cellblock 4. Id.

         3. The cellblock consists of three tiers. Each tier consists of 18 cells. Doc. No. 203-2.

         4. Cell 7 is located on the bottom tier of the cellblock. Id.

         5. As of May 17, 2016, inmate White was also housed in cellblock 7. Doc. No. 35 at 6.

         6. Inmate White was housed in cell 12. Id.

         7. Prior to May 17, 2016, Jones had not complained to staff regarding any threats made by inmate White. Doc. No. 205.

         8. Corporal Ruthie Jones was assigned to the control booth which monitors cellblock 4. Doc. No. 35 at 9.

         9. Security checks are performed every 30 minutes in each of the cellblocks. Doc. No. 203-2.

         10. Policy requires that staff supervise inmates inside the housing areas. This does not mean that an officer must be physically present inside the cellblock. Id.

         11. An officer posted inside the control booth can see into a cellblock, thus providing supervision. Id.

         12. Officers are in and out of cellblocks throughout each shift. Id.

         13. Inmates are allowed out of their cells during certain designated times of the day. Id.

         14. The cellblocks are divided into halves for purposes of allowing inmates out of their cells for recreation and activities. The first half of a cellblock consists of cells 1 through ...

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