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Jones v. Gentle

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

July 25, 2019

JOSEPH GENTLE ADC Correctional Officer, FAUST Warden ADC Ouachita River Unit. WENDY KELLY ADC Director, RAYMOND NAYLOR ADC Disciplinary Hearing Officer, DANIEL W. GOLDEN ADC Hearing Officer, DOE[1] ADC Ouachita River Unit Sergeant DEFENDANTS



         This is a civil rights action provisionally filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3)(2011), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey, Chief 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. 51). Also, before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 62). Both Motions are addressed herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 29, 2018, in the Eastern District of Arkansas. (ECF No. 2). His Complaint was screened and served in the Eastern District. (ECF No. 8). On July 11, 2018, his Complaint was transferred to this District. (ECF No. 14).

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 9, 2018, Defendant Gentle violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by falsifying a behavior report and disciplinary charge in retaliation for Plaintiff's request for a grievance form. (ECF No. 2 at 5). Plaintiff then appeared before Defendant Golden for a disciplinary charge hearing on January 19, 2018. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Golden violated his due process rights by refusing to review camera footage which showed Defendant Gentle's fabrication and by ignoring Corporal Butler's witness statement in his behalf. He alleges Defendant Golden found him guilty based on “no evidence.” (Id.). Plaintiff alleges his appeals were denied by Defendants Faust, Naylor, and Kelley, who also declined to review the camera footage or the witness statement by Corporal Butler. (Id. at 5-7).

         Plaintiff also alleges that, as a result of the disciplinary charge conviction, he was placed in punitive segregation, where his Eighth Amendment rights were violated by the conditions of confinement. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges: (1) 24-hour isolation (2) constant cell illumination; (3) mat extraction for “obtuse hours;” (4) loss of the ability to shower; and (5) constant excessive noise (“banging on walls, vents or yelling and screaming for hours throughout the night”). (Id. at 7). Plaintiff alleges that the combination of these “liberty infringements” caused him to suffer sleep deprivation, anxiety, loss of appetite, hallucination, emotional disconnection, headaches, eye pain, and back and knee pain. (Id.).

         Plaintiff proceeds against all Defendants in both their official and personal capacity. (Id. at 2). He seeks compensatory relief, punitive relief from Defendant Gentle, injunctive relief concerning the excessive noise and constant illumination in the punitive isolation area, court costs and legal fees, and expungement of his disciplinary conviction. (Id. at 9).

         On July 17, 2018, Defendants Faust, Golden, Kelley, and Naylor filed their Answer. (ECF No. 18). Plaintiff was directed to provide additional information to serve Defendant Gentle. (ECF No. 21). On September 19, 2018, the Court received the last-known address for Defendant Gentle from the Eastern District of Arkansas, and service was ordered using that address. (ECF No. 32, 33). Defendant Gentle filed his Answer on October 8, 2018. (ECF No. 39).

         Defendant filed their Summary Judgment Motion on December 17, 2018. (ECF No. 51). On December 18, 2018, the Court entered an Order directing Plaintiff to file his Response to the Motion. (ECF No. 54). Plaintiff did so on January 7, 2018. (ECF No. 59).

         Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on May 2, 2019. (ECF No. 62). Defendants filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion on May 16, 2019. (ECF No. 64, 65). Plaintiff Replied to their Response on May 22, 2019. (ECF No. 66).


         Summary judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986), the record "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). "Once a party moving for summary judgment has made a sufficient showing, the burden rests with the non-moving party to set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists.” National Bank of Commerce v. Dow Chemical Co., 165 F.3d 602, 607 (8th Cir. 1999).

         The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. "They must show there is sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in their favor." National Bank, 165 F.3d at 607 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)). "A case founded on speculation or suspicion is insufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment." Id. (citing, Metge v. Baehler, 762 F.2d 621, 625 (8th Cir. 1985)). “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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Court will first address Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on May 2, 2019. (ECF No. 62). Defendants filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion on May 16, 2019. (ECF No. 64, 65). The Initial Scheduling Order for this case set the dispositive motion deadline for December 17, 2018. (ECF No. 23; 64 at 1). Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 62) was filed over four months past the deadline for dispositive motions. The Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 62) should be DENIED as untimely filed.

         For their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants argue: (1) Plaintiff's claims for monetary and injunctive relief are barred by sovereign immunity: (2) Plaintiff did not exhaust his Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims prior to filing this lawsuit; (3) Defendants are protected from Plaintiff's personal capacity claims by qualified immunity because Defendant did not violate his due process rights and Plaintiff failed to state an Eighth Amendment claim against them. (ECF No. 52.)

         Plaintiff disputes several facts relied upon by Defendants. (ECF No. 59). Most notably, Plaintiff argues: (1) he plead not guilty to all four of the disciplinary charges at his disciplinary hearing; and (2) he exhausted his administrative remedies concerning his Eighth Amendment claims, even though he received no response at each level. (ECF No. 59 at SOF 28); 59 at SOF 116-117).

         A. Official Capacity Claims

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against Defendants for his claims. “Claims against individuals in their official capacities are equivalent to claims against the entity for which they work.” Gorman v. Bartch, 152 F.3d 907, 914 (8th Cir.1998). The Defendants in this case are all employees of the ADC. Thus, Plaintiff's official capacity claims against the Defendants is a claim against the ADC. Id. The ADC is a state agency. See Fegans v. Norris, 351 Ark. 200, 206, 89 S.W.3d 919 (2002). States and state agencies are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983. Howlett v. Rose, 496 U.S. 356 (1990); Will v. Mich. Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989); McLean v. Gordon, 548 F.3d 613, 618 (8th Cir. 2008). “This bar exists whether the relief sought is legal or equitable.” Williams v. Missouri, 973 F.2d 599, 599 -600 (8th Cir. 1992) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 276 (1986)). “Congress did not abrogate constitutional sovereign immunity when enacting the law that was to become section 1983.” Burk v. Beene, 948 F.2d 489, 493 (8th Cir. 1991) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979)).

         The Defendants in this case are all employees of the State of Arkansas. As such, the official capacity claims against them for monetary damages are barred by sovereign immunity. Plaintiff's claim for prospective injunctive relief as to the alleged noise and constant illumination in punitive isolation, however, is not barred. See Monroe v. Arkansas State University, 495 F.3d 591, 594 (8th Cir. 2007) (Under the exception set forth in Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), “ state officials may be sued in their official capacities for prospective injunctive relief without violating the Eleventh Amendment.”). As discussed below, however, there were no violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights and thus no need for prospective injunctive relief.

         Defendants are therefore entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law as to Plaintiff's official capacity claims.

         B. Disciplinary Charge - First ...

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