Thompson v. Upshaw et al (INMATE 1)
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge Susan Russ Walker on 11/30/2011. (wcl, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
) CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:09-CV-214-SRW
SHERIFF LEROY UPSHAW,
Joseph Thompson [“Thompson”], an indigent inmate, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983
action on March 16, 2009. The complaint is pending before the court on Thompson’s
challenge to the validity of a two-day period of imprisonment in the Barbour County Jail
related to a detainer lodged against him by the Sheriff’s Department of Broward County,
Florida.1 Specifically, Thompson maintains that a jail official advised him that Broward
County had fourteen days after his date of release from the Barbour County Jail to obtain
custody pursuant to the detainer, and argues that his confinement for two days after
expiration of the stated fourteen-day time period deprived him of due process and
constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
The defendant filed a special report and supporting evidentiary materials addressing
Thompson does not challenge the validity of the detainer.
Thompson’s claims for relief. Pursuant to the orders entered in this case, the court deems
it appropriate to treat this report as a motion for summary judgment. Order of April 28,
2009 - Court Doc. No. 12. Thus, this case is now pending on the defendant’s motion for
summary judgment. Upon consideration of this motion, the evidentiary materials filed in
support thereof and the plaintiff’s response, the court concludes the defendant’s motion for
summary judgment is due to be granted.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
“Summary judgment is appropriate ‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is
no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.’” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258,
1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (citation to former rule omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule
56(a) (“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.”).2 The party moving for summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility
of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
Effective December 1, 2010, Rule 56 was “revised to improve the procedures for presenting and
deciding summary-judgment motions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 Advisory Committee Notes. Under this revision,
“[s]ubdivision (a) carries forward the summary-judgment standard expressed in former subdivision ©, changing
only one word -- genuine ‘issue’ becomes genuine ‘dispute.’ ‘Dispute’ better reflects the focus of a summaryjudgment determination.“ Id. “‘Shall’ is also restored to express the direction to grant summary judgment.” Id.
Thus, although Rule 56 underwent stylistic changes, its substance remains the same and, therefore, all cases citing
the prior versions of the rule remain equally applicable to the current rule.
the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue [– now dispute –] of material fact.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by
presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the
nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on
which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-324.
The defendant has met his evidentiary burden and demonstrated the absence of any
genuine dispute of material fact. Thus, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish, with
appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case
exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S.
at 324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3) (“If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or
fails to properly address another party’s assertion of fact by [citing to materials in the
record including affidavits, relevant documents or other materials] the court may ... grant
summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials -- including the facts considered
undisputed -- show that the movant is entitled to it.”) A genuine dispute of material fact
exists when the nonmoving party produces probative and admissible evidence that would
allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263.
In civil actions filed by inmates, federal courts
must distinguish between evidence of disputed facts and disputed matters of
professional judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord
deference to the views of prison authorities. Unless a prisoner can point to
sufficient evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail
on the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage.
Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530, 126 S.Ct. 2572, 2578, 165 L.Ed.2d 697 (2006) (internal
citation omitted). Consequently, to survive the defendant’s properly supported motion for
summary judgment, Thompson is required to produce “sufficient [favorable] evidence”
which would be admissible at trial supporting his claims of constitutional violations.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Rule 56(e), Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. “If the evidence [on which the nonmoving party relies] is merely
colorable ... or is not significantly probative ... summary judgment may be granted.” Id.
at 249-250. “A mere ‘scintilla’ of evidence supporting the opposing party’s position will
not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the [trier of fact] could reasonably find
for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L.Ed.2d
202 (1986).” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1576-1577 (11th Cir. 1990). Conclusory
allegations based on subjective beliefs are likewise insufficient to create a genuine issue
of material fact and, therefore, do not suffice to oppose a motion for summary judgment.
Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Associates, Inc., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001);
Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11th Cir. 1997) (plaintiff’s “conclusory
assertions ..., in the absence of [admissible] supporting evidence, are insufficient to
withstand summary judgment.”); Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 916 (11th Cir. 1995) (grant
of summary judgment appropriate where inmate produces nothing beyond “his own
conclusory allegations” challenging actions of the defendants); Fullman v. Graddick, 739
F.2d 553, 557 (11th Cir. 1984) (“mere verification of party’s own conclusory allegations is
not sufficient to oppose summary judgment....”). Hence, when a plaintiff fails to set forth
specific facts supported by requisite evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to his case and on which the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at
trial, summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the moving party. Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322 (“[F]ailure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party’s
case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.”); Barnes v. Southwest Forest
Industries, Inc., 814 F.2d 607, 609 (11th Cir. 1987) (If on any part of the prima facie case
the plaintiff presents insufficient evidence to require submission of the case to the trier of
fact, granting of summary judgment is appropriate).
For summary judgment purposes, only disputes involving material facts are relevant.
United States v. One Piece of Real Property Located at 5800 SW 74th Avenue, Miami,
Florida, 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). What is material is determined by the
substantive law applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Lofton v. Secretary of
the Department of Children and Family Services, 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004) (“Only
factual disputes that are material under the substantive law governing the case will
preclude entry of summary judgment.”). “The mere existence of some factual dispute will
not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting
the outcome of the case.” McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243
(11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). To demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact, the
party opposing summary judgment “must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not
lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine [dispute]
for trial.’” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
In cases where the evidence before the court which is admissible on its face or which can
be reduced to admissible form indicates that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and
that the party moving for summary judgment is entitled to it as a matter of law, summary
judgment is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-324 (Summary judgment is appropriate
where pleadings, evidentiary materials and affidavits before the court show there is no
genuine dispute as to a requisite material fact); Waddell, 276 F.3d at 1279 (To establish a
genuine dispute of material fact, the nonmoving party must produce evidence such that a
reasonable trier of fact could return a verdict in his favor).
Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts,
a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine
dispute of material fact. Beard, 548 U.S. at 525, 126 S.Ct. at 2576; Brown v. Crawford,
906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Thus, the plaintiff’s pro se status alone does not
mandate this court’s disregard of elementary principles of production and proof in a civil
case. In this case, Thompson fails to demonstrate a requisite genuine dispute of material
fact in order to preclude summary judgment. Matsushita, supra.
A. Absolute Immunity
With respect to any claims Thompson lodges against defendant Upshaw in his
official capacity, the defendant is entitled to absolute immunity from monetary damages.3
Official capacity lawsuits are “in all respects other than name, ... treated as a suit against
the entity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U. S. 159, 166 (1985). “A state official may not be
sued in his official capacity unless the state has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity,
see Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100, 104 S.Ct. 900,
908, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984), or Congress has abrogated the state’s immunity, see Seminole
Tribe v. Florida, [517 U.S. 44, 59], 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1125, 134 L.Ed.2d 252 (1996).
Alabama has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Carr v. City of Florence,
916 F.2d 1521, 1525 (11th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted), and Congress has not abrogated
Alabama’s immunity. Therefore, Alabama state officials are immune from claims brought
against them in their official capacities.” Lancaster v. Monroe County, 116 F.3d 1419,
1429 (11th Cir. 1997).
In light of the foregoing, it is clear that defendant Upshaw is a state actor entitled
Under all facets of Alabama law, a county sheriff and his correctional staff act as state officers “when
supervising inmates and otherwise operating the county jails.” Turquitt v. Jefferson County, Alabama, 137 F.3d
1285, 1289 (11th Cir. 1998); see Ala. Const. Art. V, § 112 (designates sheriff and, by extension, his staff as
members of State’s executive department); see also Parker v. Amerson, 519 So.2d 442 (Ala. 1987) (county
sheriff is executive officer of the State).
to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for claims seeking monetary
damages from him in his official capacity. Lancaster, 116 F.3d at 1429; Jackson v. Georgia
Department of Transportation, 16 F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994). Thus, the defendant
is entitled to absolute immunity from any claims for monetary relief presented against him
in his official capacity. Parker v. Williams, 862 F.2d 1471 (11th Cir. 1989).
B. Relevant Factual History4
On May 27, 2008, Barbour County law enforcement officials arrested Thompson
pursuant to a warrant for first degree rape and placed him in the Barbour County Jail. On
October 22, 2008, the Sheriff of Broward County, Florida lodged a detainer against
Thompson for third degree theft of property. Defendant’s Exhibit E - Court Doc. No. 8 at
35. The detainer contained copies of capias warrants issued by the Circuit Court of
Broward County, Florida against Thompson for third degree grand theft (two counts) and
carrying a concealed weapon. Id. at 36-37.
On December 17, 2008, Thompson posted bail on the Barbour County rape charge
and executed a waiver of extradition before the District Court of Barbour County, Alabama
The pleadings before the court indicate that the alleged actions which form the basis of the instant
complaint occurred during Thompson’s incarceration pursuant to a detainer lodged against him by the Sheriff of
Broward County, Florida and prior to his conviction on a pending charge of first degree rape lodged against him
by the Circuit Court of Barbour County, Alabama. Nevertheless, regardless of Thompson’s status in the jail,
either as a pre-trial detainee or sentenced inmate, the applicable standard of review remains the same. Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S.Ct. 1861 (1979); Lancaster v. Monroe County, Ala., 116 F.3d 1419, 1425 n.6 (11th
Cir. 1997); Cottrell v. Caldwell, 85 F.3d 1480, 1490 (11th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted) (“[T]he applicable
standard [of reviewing claims by pre-trial detainees or convicted prisoners under the Fourteenth Amendment’s
Due Process Clause] is the same, so decisional law involving prison inmates applies equally to cases involving
arrestees or pretrial detainees.”)
certifying that he “freely and voluntarily agree[d] to accompany, as a prisoner, any officer
from the State of Florida, to the County of Broward in said State for the purpose of
answering the charge[s] of Grand theft 3rd & Carrying Concealed Weapon there pending
against me.” Defendant’s Exhibit C - Court Doc. No. 8 at 29. Thompson also waived all
formalities regarding his extradition to Florida. Id. (“I hereby waive all formality
including, but not limited to, a Requisition by the Governor of the State of Florida and a
Warrant of Extradition by the Governor of the State of Alabama and any other extradition
proceedings.”). At this time, George Parhan, the chief jailor at the Barbour County Jail,
“explained to Mr. Thompson that the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department typically gives
[other] law enforcement agencies fourteen days to pick up extradited prisoners.... On
December 18, 2008, the Broward County Sheriff’s Department arranged with Con-Link
Transportation Corporation to transport Mr. Thompson from the Barbour County Jail to the
Broward County Jail [and provided notice of this arrangement to the Barbour County
Sheriff’s Department]. Con-Link was not able to pick up Mr. Thompson for transfer until
January 2, 2009. Because the Broward County Sheriff’s Department made reasonable
efforts to pick up Mr. Thompson within fourteen days, they were extended the courtesy of
an additional two days.” Defendant’s Exhibit F (Affidavit of George Parhan) - Court Doc.
No. 8 at 40; Defendant’s Exhibit G (Affidavit of Leroy Upshaw) - Court Doc. No. 8 at 42-43
(“The Barbour County Sheriff’s Department has a general policy of giving law enforcement
agencies fourteen days to pick up extradited prisoners. The fourteen-day policy is based
on practical reasons and courtesy towards other law enforcement agencies. The Barbour
County Sheriff’s Department informs other law enforcement agencies of the fourteen-day
policy to encourage them to timely pick up their prisoners and thus avoiding overburdening
the Barbour County Jail. The Barbour County Sheriff’s Department gives law enforcement
agencies fourteen days to pick up their prisoners because it is a reasonable time limit in
light of the logistics involved in transferring prisoners. Out of courtesy to other law
enforcement agencies, the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department will extend the fourteenday time limit if an agency has made reasonable efforts, but was unable, to comply.”).
The fourteen-day grace period typically allowed by the Barbour County Sheriff’s
Department for the extradition of inmates expired on December 31, 2008. It is undisputed
that Thompson remained incarcerated in the Barbour County Jail for an additional two days
pursuant to a valid detainer lodged against him by the Broward County Sheriff’s
Department before officials employed by Florida authorities gained custody of him.
Thompson argues that the failure to follow the jail’s general policy regarding the time
permitted for extradition of an inmate violated his constitutional rights, and he seeks
monetary compensation for the two days he remained in the Barbour County Jail.
C. Claims for Relief
An essential element of a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is that the conduct complained
of deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States. American Manufacturers Mutual Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S.
40, 119 S.Ct. 977, 985, 143 L.Ed.2d 130 (1999); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981);
Willis v. University Health Services, Inc., 993 F.2d 837, 840 (11th Cir. 1993).
1. Due Process. It is undisputed that Thompson waived any constitutional right to
due process associated with his extradition to the State of Florida. Defendant’s Exhibit C Court Doc. No. 8 at 29. Thus, the failure to transfer Thompson to Florida within the
fourteen-day time period ordinarily required by Barbour County did not infringe on any
federally protected right. In addition, under the circumstances of this case, the departmental
policy at issue did not afford a protected right and, therefore, a breech of the policy did not
violate Thompson’s constitutional rights or federal law. Taylor v. Adams, 221 F.3d 1254,
1259 (11th Cir. 2000) (Correctional officials “failure to follow [administrative policy or]
procedures does not, by itself, raise to the level of [a constitutional violation]....”); Harris
v. Birmingham Board of Education, 817 F.2d 1525 (11th Cir. 1987); cf. Sandin v. Conner,
515 U.S. 472, 484, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2300, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995). Consequently, the
allegations of a due process violation provide no basis for relief and the defendant is
therefore entitled to summary judgment on this claim.
2. Cruel and Unusual Punishment. To the extent that Thompson complains that
his confinement in the Barbour County Jail for the two additional days required to facilitate
his transfer subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment, he is likewise entitled to no
relief. Only actions which deny inmates “the minimal civilized measure of life’s
necessities” are grave enough to violate the Eighth Amendment. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452
U.S. 337, 347 (19891).5 A violation of the Eighth Amendment occurs only when an inmate
is subjected to the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain.” Chandler v. Crosby, 379
F.3d 1278, 1289 (11th Cir. 2004). The mere fact that Thompson remained in the Barbour
County Jail pursuant to a valid detainer for two additional days awaiting transfer fails to
rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment. Thus, summary judgment is due to be
granted in favor of the defendant on this claim.
A separate order will accompany this memorandum opinion.
DONE, this 30th day of November, 2011.
/s/ Susan Russ Walker
SUSAN RUSS WALKER
CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
The Eighth Amendment applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Rhodes, 452 U.S. at
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