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Doe v. Jefferson County

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

April 6, 2018

JANE DOE, M.L.M. PLAINTIFF
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, ARKANSAS; GERALD ROBINSON, individually and in his official capacity; GREG BOLIN, individually and in his official capacity; TYRA TYLER, individually and in her official capacity; JAMES FERGUSON, individually and in his official capacity; and LAFARIUS HOSKINS, individually and in his official capacity DEFENDANTS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          J. LEON HOLMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The plaintiff alleges that two jailers, James Ferguson and Lafarius Hoskins, sexually assaulted her while she was housed in the W.C. “Dub” Brassell Adult Detention Center. She brings this action against Ferguson and Hoskins as well as Jefferson County, Arkansas, the owner and operator of the jail, Gerald Robinson, the sheriff of Jefferson County, Greg Bolin, the chief jail administrator at the time, and Tyra Tyler, the assistant jail administrator. She alleges claims for violations of the United States and Arkansas constitutions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, Ark. Code Ann. § 16-123-101, et seq., civil liability for commission of a felony under Ark. Code Ann. § 16-118-107, and assault and battery, the tort of outrage, and negligent supervision.

         Jefferson County, Robinson, Bolin, and Tyler have moved for summary judgment on all claims against them. A court should grant summary judgment if the evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party meets that burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts that establish a genuine dispute of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). A genuine dispute of material fact exists only if the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record. Pedersen v. Bio-Med. Applications of Minn., 775 F.3d 1049, 1053 (8th Cir. 2015). If the nonmoving party fails to present evidence sufficient to establish an essential element of a claim on which that party bears the burden of proof, then the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. Where a genuine dispute exists, the facts are set forth in the light most favorable to the plaintiff as the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007).

         The plaintiff was incarcerated in the W.C. “Dub” Brassell Adult Detention Center on or around December 22, 2015, after violating the terms of her probation. On the evening of March 4 or very early hours of March 5, 2016, [1] Ferguson and Hoskins began talking to the plaintiff through the intercom system in sexually explicit terms and eventually told her to exit her cell naked. They threatened her if she refused to comply and further demanded that she follow them to a restroom. Ferguson entered the restroom with the plaintiff, locked the door, and raped her. Ferguson then left and Hoskins entered the restroom and also raped her. The plaintiff was transferred out of the jail on March 9 to an Arkansas Department of Correction's facility in Pine Bluff.

         On Monday March 7, 2016, Captain Terry Peckham, an internal affairs investigator in the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, was assigned to investigate the incident and began investigating that same day. His findings are detailed in a report, which the defendants have attached as an exhibit to their motion for this Court's consideration. See Document #25-6. Through interviews with jail employees, Peckham learned that at least four jailers-Ferguson, Hoskins, Xavion Culclager, and Marco Martinez-used the intercom system to talk with female inmates in sexually inappropriate ways. Martinez was removed from his post in the control room because he had been talking with female inmates over the intercom system. Id. at 92. Culclager replaced Martinez in the control room, but female inmates later complained to jail staff that he too would talk to them over the intercom at night. Culclager's superior warned him to stop immediately, and she reported his behavior to her superior as well.

         A kitchen worker also told Peckham that she witnessed Ferguson and Hoskins interact inappropriately with the female inmates beginning in December 2015. The kitchen worker says that she reported her concerns to two jail employees who are not defendants in this action. The plaintiff testified that Ferguson had been talking to her in sexually inappropriate ways through the intercom system in her cell frequently during her detainment in the jail.

         The plaintiff's cellmate told Peckham that male jailers would watch female inmates dancing nude. She also told Peckham that on approximately February 6, 2016, she reported what was going on with the plaintiff and the male jailers to Major Tyler but nothing was done as far as she knew. When Peckham confronted Tyler about whether she was made aware of the male jailers' actions, she denied any knowledge. Peckham was able to find a video recording showing the plaintiff's cellmate having a conversation with Tyler on February 6, 2016. Peckham showed Tyler the recording and Peckham reports Tyler acknowledging that she “dropped the ball” and “felt terrible about the fact that maybe had she acted on this information, the incident with Hoskins and Ferguson may not have ever had the opportunity to occur.” Document #25-6 at 90. There is no evidence that Robinson or Bolin were made aware of any of this misconduct until after the plaintiff's assault.

         Peckham concluded that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Ferguson, Hoskins, Culclager, and Martinez engaged in conduct unbecoming of an employee between mid-December 2015 and March 5, 2016. Id. at 100. Peckham recommended that each jailer be terminated. Peckham also concluded that Tyler received information of misconduct by jailers but failed to act on it, which constituted inefficiency and neglect of duty and warranted a 15-day suspension without pay. Id. at 100.

         The plaintiff argues that Jefferson County is liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because it has a “longstanding custom and practice to not investigate or even take seriously complaints of sexual misconduct against male employees.” Document #28 at 14. She also argues that this case “involves a distressing failure to train and supervise male prison guards and their interactions with female prisoners.” Id. at 26.

         A municipality may be liable under section 1983 for official policies that violate constitutional rights or for misconduct by its employees that is “so permanent and well settled as to constitute a ‘custom or usage' with the force of law.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2036, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978) (footnote and internal quotation omitted). To establish a “custom or usage” of failing to investigate sexual misconduct, the plaintiff must show:

(1) The existence of a continuing, widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct by the governmental entity's employees;
(2) Deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of such conduct by the governmental entity's policymaking officials after notice to the officials of that misconduct; and
(3) The plaintiff's injury by acts pursuant to the governmental entity's custom, i.e., proof that the custom was the moving force behind the constitutional violation.

Ware v. Jackson Cnty., Mo., 150 F.3d 873, 880 (8th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). For the county to be subject to section 1983 liability for inadequate training, the evidence must show (1) the county's training practices were inadequate, (2) the county was deliberately indifferent to the rights of others in adopting those inadequate policies so that the failure to train reflects a deliberate choice by the county, and (3) the deficiency in the training procedures actually caused the plaintiff's injury. Parrish v. Ball, 594 F.3d 993, 997 (8th Cir. 2010). The test for deliberate indifference by a county is objective, which means that an obvious risk or constructive notice is ...


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