Ricks v. Hutton et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge James H Hancock on 3/26/2015. (JLC)
2015 Mar-26 AM 09:38
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
RUFUS RICKS, Jr.,
CAPTAIN JOHN HUTTON, et al.,
Case No. 7:13-cv-00952-JHH-JEO
Plaintiff, Rufus Ricks, Jr., filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that he had been deprived of rights, privileges, or immunities afforded him
under the Constitution or laws of the United States of America during his
incarceration at the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama. Named as
defendants in the amended complaint are Captain John Hutton; Lieutenant Felicia
Ford; and Sergeant Robert Rutledge. The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and
I. CASE HISTORY
Because the initial complaint in this matter named fictitious defendants, the
plaintiff was ordered on June 28, 2013, to amend his complaint by naming defendants
who are subject to suit under 42 U. S. C. § 1983, identifying all defendants by name
and/or other identifying information, and showing specifically how each named
defendant acted under color of state law to violate his federal rights. The plaintiff
filed an amended complaint on July 19, 2013. (Doc. 8). On November 25, 2013, the
court entered an Order for Special Report directing that copies of the initial and
amended complaints be forwarded to the defendants and requesting they file a special
report addressing the plaintiff’s factual allegations therein. The parties were advised
that the special report, if appropriate, might be construed as a motion for summary
judgment filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The
defendants filed their special report on January 24, 2014, accompanied by affidavits
and copies of certain administrative and medical records pertaining to the plaintiff
and another inmate, Patrick Crenshaw. (Doc. 13). On August 22, 2014, the parties
were notified that the court would construe the defendants’ special report as a motion
for summary judgment, and the plaintiff was notified that he would have twenty days
to respond to the motion by filing affidavits or other material if he so chose. The
plaintiff was advised of the consequences of any default or failure to comply with
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. See Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985).
When the plaintiff failed to respond, the court entered an order on December
30, 2014, notifying the parties that the matter would be deemed submitted on January
12, 2015. (Doc. 16). The plaintiff responded by seeking appointment of counsel and
advising the court that he wished to proceed with this matter. (Doc. 17). Although
his motion for appointment of counsel was denied, the plaintiff was afforded an
additional ten days to respond to summary judgment on January 15, 2015. (Doc. 18).
The plaintiff submitted a response on January 29, 2015. (Doc. 19). The plaintiff was
afforded an additional ten days on February 4, 2015, to submit a further response.
(Doc. 21). However, he has failed to file anything further. Accordingly, this matter
is now before the court on the defendants’ special report (doc. 13) which is being
construed as a motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff’s response thereto.
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Because the special report of the defendants is being construed as a motion for
summary judgment, the Court must determine whether the moving parties, the
defendants, are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment may be
granted only if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. In making that
assessment, the Court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The burden of proof is upon the
moving party to establish his prima facie entitlement to summary judgment by
showing the absence of genuine issues and that he is due to prevail as a matter of law.
See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604 (11th Cir. 1991). Once that initial
burden has been carried, however, the non-moving party may not merely rest upon
his pleading, but must come forward with evidence supporting each essential element
of his claim. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986); Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923 (11th Cir. 1989).
Unless the plaintiff, who carries the ultimate burden of proving his action, is able to
show some evidence with respect to each element of his claim, all other issues of fact
become immaterial, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d 1530
(11th Cir. 1990). As the Eleventh Circuit has explained:
Facts in dispute cease to be “material” facts when the plaintiff fails to
establish a prima facie case. “In such a situation, there can be ‘no
genuine issue as to any material fact,’ since a complete failure of proof
concerning an essential element of the non-moving party’s case
necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” [citations omitted]. Thus,
under such circumstances, the public official is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law, because the plaintiff has failed to carry the burden of
proof. This rule facilitates the dismissal of factually unsupported claims
prior to trial.
898 F.2d at 1532.
III. PLAINTIFF’S FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
The following facts are undisputed or, if disputed, taken in a light most
favorable to the plaintiff, who is a state prisoner currently confined at the Donaldson
Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama. His complaint deals with events
occurring at the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama, at which John Hutton
is a Correctional Captain, Felicia Ford is a Correctional Lieutenant, and Robert
Rutledge is a Correctional Sergeant.
After a series of disciplinary infractions, all but one of which was resolved by
a guilty plea (doc. 13-2), the plaintiff was placed in the disciplinary segregation unit
on April 23, 2013, where he was placed in cell E2-3A with inmate Patrick Crenshaw.1
(Doc. 1 at 3-4).2 In the weeks leading up to this time, Crenshaw had been involved
in several incidents at the prison, which the plaintiff contends put the defendants on
notice that Crenshaw was too dangerous to have as a cellmate.3
On April 7, 2013, Crenshaw is reported to have stabbed two inmates. (Doc.
13-4 at 2). An investigation of the incident revealed that the stabbing “stemmed from
Inmate Crenshaw being involved in a homosexual relationship with [the victims].”
Id.4 Two days later, an officer conducting a check in the segregation unit noticed
blood on the floor of Crenshaw’s cell and alerted a Sergeant who escorted Crenshaw
The plaintiff alleges he was placed in the unit per the order of Captain Hutton. (Doc. 1 at
3). However, he was charged with two separate disciplinary infractions on that same day; (1)
Failure to Obey a Direct Order (doc. 13-2 at 41), and (2) Indecent Exposure/exhibitionism/lewd
conduct. Id. at 46. He eventually pled guilty to both charges. Id. at 44 and 49.
The Bibb Correctional Facility has a limited amount of segregation space, therefore
“inmates cannot be housed in single cells unless they are close custody.” Affidavit of Captain
John Hutton, doc. 13-3.
The plaintiff contends that the defendants specifically targeted him for placement with
Crenshaw “in retaliation for [his] speaking out against injustices that takes (sic) place at [the
prison].” (Doc. 1 at 8).
The incident report indicates Captain Hutton was notified of this incident. (Doc. 13-4 at
to the medical unit. Id. at 6. The body chart prepared by a nurse indicated “several
superficial abrasions and cuts to [Crenshaw’s] left wrist.” Id. at 6. According to the
incident report, Crenshaw admitted to the Sergeant that he had cut himself “because
he wanted to leave Bibb County.” Id. at 6. On the advice of a nurse in the mental
health unit, Crenshaw was placed in a “crisis cell with suicide mat and blanket
smock.” Id. at 6.
On April 13, 2013, Crenshaw was back in the E-dorm segregation unit, where
he started a fire in his cell by lighting his blanket on fire. (Doc. 13-4 at 7). Crenshaw
was again placed on suicide watch after he told a nurse in the medical unit that he
“felt like hurting himself.” Id. Two days later, a rover conducting a security check
in the infirmary noticed that Crenshaw had flooded his cell, and was being “disruptive
and combative.” Id. at 9. Crenshaw was seen by a member of the mental health unit
and reassigned living quarters “pending disciplinary action.” Id. at 9. At that point
he was placed back in the segregation unit in cell E2-3A, where the plaintiff would
be placed a few days later. Id. at 9. Captain Hutton testifies that “an inmate that is
on Mental Health must be housed in the Health Care Unit in cells G-1 or G-2.” (Doc.
13-3). Therefore, after these incidents, and before he was placed back in the
segregation unit, inmate Crenshaw was “cleared by Mental Health.”5 Id.6
Lieutenant Ford confirms that Crenshaw had been “cleared by Mental Health” and was
not under “Mental Health Observation” at the time he was housed with the plaintiff. (Doc. 13-5).
Ford states that mental health inmates are placed in crisis cells within the medical unit, and are
The next incident involving Crenshaw is the subject of the plaintiff’s complaint
in this action. On the morning of April 25, 2013, the plaintiff was awakened from
sleep “coughing and choking” because his cell was full of smoke. (Doc. 1 at 5).7
Crenshaw had started a fire in the cell making it difficult to breath. Id at 5-6. Other
inmates in the unit were kicking their cell doors in an attempt to alert officers, who
finally arrived and evacuated the plaintiff, Crenshaw, and three other inmates. (Doc.
13-4 at 10). Two officers and a nurse became sick because of smoke inhalation and
were transported to the hospital. Id. The plaintiff was taken to the prison medical
unit where he was immediately given oxygen and breathing treatments, but was
refused transport to the hospital despite a nurse’s recommendation. (Doc. 1 at 60).
A chest x-ray taken that day found no serious issues with the plaintiff’s lungs.
(Doc.13-7 at 5).
The plaintiff now alleges he was placed in the cell with Crenshaw in retaliation
for his having spoken out against injustices in the prison and that the defendants
“wanted something bad to happen to [him].” (Doc. 1 at 7-8). He also states the
never placed in the segregation unit. Id.
In addition to the incidents which are the subject of reports submitted with the special
report, the plaintiff also alleges Crenshaw had attacked another cellmate named “Bonner” who
had to be moved to another cell. (Doc. 1 at 4). However, he provides no specific facts regarding
this event, or the motives behind the alleged attack.
The plaintiff places the incident on April 27 (doc. 1 at 8), but prison documentation
indicates the event happened on April 25. (Doc. 13-4 at 10). The difference is not significant
under the circumstances.
defendants have continued to retaliate against him by denying him certain privileges
that are afforded other inmates, such as the opportunity to order shower shoes, and
by charging him with “false disciplinaries.” (Doc. 8 at 7-8).
Failure to Protect
Although prison officials have a duty to protect inmates from violence by other
prisoners, they are not the guarantors of a prisoner’s safety. Purcell ex rel. Estate of
Morgan v. Toombs Co., Ga., 400 F.3d 1313, 1321 (11th Cir. 2005). The Eighth
Amendment is violated only when a prisoner is incarcerated under conditions which
expose him to a “substantial risk of serious harm” and only when prison officials are
“deliberately indifferent” to that risk. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).
The Eleventh Circuit has interpreted Farmer as setting forth both objective and
subjective components of an Eighth Amendment claim. Doe v. Georgia Department
of Correction, 248 F. App’x 67, 70 (11th Cir. 2007). The objective component
requires a prisoner to show that he was exposed to “an objectively substantial risk of
serious harm,” and that the prison official responded to that risk “in an objectively
unreasonable manner.” Id. The subjective component requires that a prison official
“be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm exists,” and the prison official “must also draw the inference.” Id.8 In
other words, a prison official “must actually (subjectively) know that an inmate is
facing a substantial risk of harm, yet disregard that known risk by failing to respond
to it in an (objectively) reasonable manner. Losey v. Thompson, — F. App’x —, 2015
WL 25061 at *5 (11th Cir. Jan. 2, 2015) (quoting Rodriguez v. Sec’y for Dep’t of
Corr., 508 F.3d 611, 617 (11th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(alterations omitted)).9 Accordingly, in order to survive summary judgment, “the
plaintiff must present some evidence of prison officials’ subjective awareness of a
substantial risk of harm to [him].” Goodman v. Kimbrough, 718 F.3d 1325, 1333-34
(11th Cir. 2013).
When examined in light of the above parameters, it is clear that the defendants
are entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim. The
basis of the plaintiff’s claim is that inmate Crenshaw’s behavior during the weeks
prior to the April 25 incident demonstrates the defendants knew “or should have
known” that he faced a substantial risk of harm from being housed with Crenshaw.
However, as explained above, the standard is not whether the defendants “should
Because the Eighth Amendment only outlaws cruel and unusual punishments, a prison
official who fails to perceive a substantial risk of harm does not violate the Amendment because,
under that circumstance, no punishment is imposed. Doe, 248 F. App’x at 70.
In order to impose constitutional liability, it must be shown that the official’s failure to
adequately respond to the risk was the result of “conduct that is more than gross negligence.”
Losey, 2015 WL 25061, at *5. In other words, “[m]erely negligent failure to protect an inmate
from attack does not justify liability under § 1983.” Id., quoting Goodman, 718 F.3d at 1332.
have” recognized a danger, but whether or not they had an actual subjective
awareness of a specific (and substantial) danger to the plaintiff. The Eleventh Circuit
has directly rejected the argument that an Eighth Amendment claim can be based
upon what a defendant should have surmised from particular circumstances. In
Goodman, supra, the court stated:
“[I]n other words, [the plaintiff] cannot say ‘Well, they should have
known.’ Were we to accept that theory of liability, the deliberate
indifference standard would be metamorphosed into a font of tort law a brand of negligence redux - which the Supreme Court has made
abundantly clear it is not.”
Goodman, 718 F.3d at 1334.
In this instance, although inmate Crenshaw had been involved in violent and
destructive behavior, there is no evidence that those behaviors pointed to a specific
danger to the plaintiff. It is undisputed that the April 7 stabbing incident was the
result of homosexual relationship between Crenshaw and the two victims, and that
the other behaviors were attempts by Crenshaw to harm himself or to be generally
disruptive.10 There is no evidence that Crenshaw had a specific intent to harm the
While it is true that after at least two of the incidents Crenshaw was placed on suicide
watch, the defendants testify that Crenshaw had been “cleared by Mental Health before he was
placed in segregation.” (Doc. 13-3). In that regard, the defendants correctly point out that they
are “entitled to rely on medical judgments made by medical professionals responsible for
prisoner care.” Williams v. Limestone County, Ala., 198 F. App’x 893, 897 (11th Cir. 2006)
(citing Durmer v. O’Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 69 (3rd Cir. 1993) and White v. Farrier, 849 F.2d 322,
327 (8th Cir. 1988)). It therefore was not objectively unreasonable for Crenshaw to be placed
back into the segregation unit.
plaintiff, or that he had threatened the plaintiff in any way.11 Even if the defendants
were aware of Crenshaw’s disruptive actions prior to housing him with the plaintiff,
“a general awareness of an inmate’s propensity for being violent does not satisfy the
subjective awareness requirement.” Oliver v. Harden, 587 F. App’x 618, 620 (11th
Cir. 2014).12 Our courts recognize that such situations are “easily distinguished from
cases where the individual defendants had a clear awareness of specific danger of an
inmate-on-inmate attack,” such as when prison officials are aware of the specific
“targeting” of one inmate by another, or of an inmate expressing fear for his life.
Losey, 2015 WL 25061, at *6 (emphasis added). Here, the plaintiff presents no facts
which demonstrate the defendants possessed knowledge that he faced a specific and
direct danger from Crenshaw. Absent such evidence, he fails to establish the
subjective component of his Eighth Amendment claim.
It is also undisputed that the plaintiff made no effort to notify the defendants, or any
other prison official, that he feared being housed with Crenshaw. See Document 1 at 4-5. In
fact, he made no attempt to notify prison authorities even after noticing that Crenshaw was in
possession of a razor blade. Id. at 4.
See also Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1101-02 (11th Cir. 2014)
(“We stress that [the plaintiff] must show more than a generalized awareness of risk and much
more than mere awareness of [an inmate’s] generally problematic nature”) (internal quotation
marks omitted). The Eleventh Circuit has recognized that finding prison officials culpable in
situations where they merely possess an awareness of an inmate’s generally propensity for being
problematic, “would unduly reduce awareness to a more objective standard, rather than the
required subjective standard set by the Supreme Court.” Carter v. Galloway, 352 F.3d 1346,
1350 (11th Cir. 2003).
Furthermore, the court recognizes that jails and prisons are inherently
dangerous places. Therefore, in order to impose constitutional liability on a prison
official, “the known risk of injury must be a strong likelihood, rather than a mere
possibility.” Doe, 248 F. App’x at 71. In making this determination, the court “will
not allow the advantage of hindsight to determine whether conditions of confinement
amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.” Id. (quoting Purcell, 400 F.3d at 1320).
As stated above, the Eighth Amendment standard is not negligence, but actual
subjective knowledge of substantial risk of serious harm. In this instance, hindsight
might lead to the conclusion that inmate Crenshaw should have been housed alone
or in a suicide cell, but without more, that does not demonstrate that the defendants
were aware of a strong likelihood of injury to the plaintiff.
Finally, the plaintiff has failed to establish a genuine issue of fact with regard
to the causation requirement of his Eighth Amendment claim. “[S]ection 1983
requires proof of an affirmative causal connection between the actions taken by a
particular person under color of state law and the constitutional deprivation.”
LeMarca v. Turner, 995 F.2d 1526, 1538 (11th Cir. 1993) (quoting Williams v.
Bennett, 689 F.2d 1370, 1380 (11th Cir. 1982)). In other words, the plaintiff must
prove that a defendant’s acts or omissions were the proximate cause of any injuries.
Id. In that regard, the defendants correctly point to the speculative nature of the
plaintiff’s contention that he would have avoided injury by being placed in one of the
other cells in the segregation unit.13 The plaintiff acknowledges that when the fire
was set by Crenshaw on April 25, other inmates in the unit were “trying to get the
attention of officers because it (sic) was so much smoke in this little poorly ventilated
area that they could barley breath.” (Doc. 1 at 5-6). Therefore, other inmates in the
nearby cells, along with the plaintiff, required evacuation as a result of the fire. In
reviewing a § 1983 claim against government officials, this court must focus its
inquiry “on whether an official’s acts or omissions were the cause - not merely a
contributing factor - of the constitutionally infirm condition.” LaMarca, 995 F.2d at
1538. It seems evident therefore that the plaintiff cannot cite his placement in the cell
with Crenshaw as the proximate cause of his alleged smoke inhalation injuries. It
would be pure speculation for the court to infer that the plaintiff would have avoided
injury had he been placed in an adjoining cell. While it is true that for purposes of
summary judgment all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, the court “cannot reasonably base an inference on mere supposition.”
Losey, 2015 WL 25061, at *6.
To the extent the plaintiff alleges his placement in a cell with inmate Crenshaw
was retaliation for his having “blown the whistle on [the defendants] about several
The plaintiff asserts that there was “another vacant cell right across from the cell [in
which] [he] was placed.” (Doc. 8 at 5).
negligent incidents,” his claim is due to be dismissed. In the initial complaint in this
matter, filed May 20, 2013, the plaintiff alleged that “[a] little over a month ago”
certain inmates were “negligently placed” in the same living quarters as their
enemies, resulting in serious injury to one of the inmates. (Doc. 1 at 7). The plaintiff
states that he and another inmate brought the situation “to the attention of several
agencies,” implicating Captain Hutton and “ICS Officers.” Id. He therefore contends
Captain Hutton and the ICS Officers “moved [him] into a hazardous situation” in
retaliation for his “speaking out against the injustices that takes (sic) place [at the
prison].” Id. at 7-8.14
It is well settled that “an act in retaliation for the exercise of a constitutionally
protected right is actionable under § 1983 even if the act, when taken for different
reasons, would have been proper.” Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639,644 (7th Cir.
1987). However, it has been recognized that claims of retaliation are subject to abuse
by prisoners. Flaherty v. Coughlin, 713 F.2d 10, 13 (2d Cir. 1983).15 Therefore, a
plaintiff must present facts which show that his exercise of a constitutionally
protected right was a “motivating factor” behind a defendant’s actions against him.
In this same pleading, the plaintiff contradicts himself to some degree by
acknowledging that his placement in the segregation unit was for his having failed to obey a
direct order. (Doc. 1 at 7).
“[B]ecause we recognize both the near inevitability of decisions and actions by prison
officials to which prisoners will take exception and the ease with which claims of retaliation may
be fabricated, we examine prisoners’ claims of retaliation with skepticism and particular care.”
Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 872 (2nd Cir. 1995) (citing Flaherty, 713 F.2d 10).
Mount Healthy City School District Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 287 (1977).
Accordingly, the mere fact that a prisoner has previously filed a lawsuit or grievance
does not alone infer a retaliatory motive on the part of prison officials, especially
where discipline is imposed for actual violations of rules. To maintain otherwise
would invite prisoners to openly flout prison rules on the heels of having filed a
grievance or lawsuit, and then assert a § 1983 claim arguing that they were
disciplined in retaliation for having exercised constitutional rights. See Orebaugh v.
Caspari, 910 F.2d 526 (8th Cir. 1990); Riley v. Evans, 41 F.3d 1507, *2 (Table), 1994
WL 652778 (6th Cir. Nov. 18, 1994).
In light of the above guidelines, it is clear that the defendants are entitled to
summary judgment on the plaintiff’s retaliation claims. It was incumbent upon the
plaintiff to plead specific facts from which the court could, at a minimum, infer a
retaliatory motive on the part of the defendants. In other words, the plaintiff’s
complaint “must contain enough facts to state a claim of retaliation by prison officials
that is ‘plausible on its face.’” Douglas v. Yates, 535 F.3d 1316, 1321 (11th Cir.
2008). In this case, the plaintiff has done nothing more than make the conclusory
allegation that his placement in Crenshaw’s cell was motivated by his having
contacted “several agencies” about events at the Bibb Correctional Facility.16 He
Conclusory allegations do not raise the allegation of retaliatory motive “above the
speculative level.” Smith v. Florida Dept. of Corrections, 375 F. App’x 905, 911 (11th Cir.
makes no showing regarding the specific contents of those complaints, the specific
timing of those complaints, or how the defendants would have been made aware of
the complaints. Additionally, he pleads facts which belie his claim of retaliation by
acknowledging that his placement in segregation on that occasion was in response to
his having failed to obey a direct order from a correctional officer. (Doc. 1 at 7).
Furthermore, he fails to refute Captain Hutton’s statement that, because of limited
space, segregation inmates cannot be housed in single cells unless they are “close
custody.” (Doc. 13-3). The plaintiff points to nothing in the record which would
allow the court to plausibly infer a retaliatory motive on the part of Captain Hutton
or the other defendants. Where, as here, the pleaded facts “do not permit the court to
infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but
has not shown - that the pleader entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
679 (2009) (internal quotations omitted).
The defendants are also entitled to summary judgment to the extent the plaintiff
alleges the various disciplinary actions taken against him were in retaliation for his
whistle blowing activities. It is undisputed that none of the defendants were directly
involved in asserting or presiding over the disciplinary charges he faced at Bibb
Correctional Facility.17 There is therefore no showing of a “causal relationship”
From the court’s review of the documentation presented in the special report (doc. 132), it appears the only connection any of the defendants have to the various disciplinary actions is
Felicia Ford’s signature confirming her service of certain of the disciplinary reports on the
between the disciplinary actions and the alleged grievances written by the plaintiff
to the various agencies. See O’Bryant v. Finch, 637 F.3d 1207 (11th Cir. 2011).
More importantly, even if the plaintiff had connected the named defendants to
the disciplinary actions, his complaint would still be subject to dismissal for the
reason that he either pled guilty or was found guilty in all of the disciplinary actions
which are referenced in the record. (Doc. 13-2). Where a prisoner alleges that the
retaliation was in the form of a disciplinary action, his claim is precluded if the
discipline was imparted for an actual violation of prison rules. Henderson v. Baird,
29 F.3d 464, 469 (8th Cir. 1994); Earnest v. Courtney, 64 F.3d 365, 367 (8th Cir.
1995). The Eleventh Circuit has recently addressed this issue and has adopted the
approach taken by the Eighth Circuit in Henderson and Earnest. See O’Bryant,
supra. In O’Bryant, the Eleventh Circuit stated that “an inmate cannot state a claim
of retaliation for a disciplinary charge involving a prison rule infraction when the
inmate was found guilty of the actual behavior underlying that charge after being
afforded adequate due process.” O’Bryant, at 1215. The Court added an additional
requirement that there must be “some evidence” to support the disciplinary hearing
officer’s findings of fact.18 Id. at 1215. Therefore, as long as a prisoner is found
plaintiff. Id. at 10, 19, and 21.
In this regard it is clear that the court is not to “retry” the disciplinary charges or second
guess the findings of the prison administration. To do otherwise “would render the prison
disciplinary system impotent by inviting prisoners to petition the courts for a full retrial each time
guilty of an actual disciplinary infraction after being afforded due process, and there
was some evidence to support the disciplinary findings, a prisoner cannot later state
a claim of retaliation against the officer who reported the infraction.19 Id. at 1215.
In this instance, not only does the plaintiff fail to provide specific facts
regarding the particular disciplinary actions which he claims were asserted for
retaliatory motives, but the prison administrative records submitted by the defendants
show that the plaintiff pled guilty to all but one of the disciplinary charges, and was
found guilty by a hearing officer in the other one, after having been given written
notice of the charges and being afforded the opportunity to present written testimony
and/or submit questions to witnesses. (Doc. 13-2).20 Therefore, the plaintiff’s
admissions of guilt and the finding of guilt by the hearing officer “essentially
checkmates [the plaintiff’s] retaliation claim.” Henderson, supra, at 469; see also
Crittendon v. Campbell, 2007 WL 2853398, at *7 (M.D. Ala. Sept. 27, 2007);
O’Bryant v. Finch, 2008 WL 691689, at *9 (N.D. Fla. March 12, 2008).
they are found guilty of an actual disciplinary infraction after having filed a grievance.”
O’Bryant, 637 F.3d at 1216.
The minimal procedural due process requirements are outlined in Wolff v. McDonnell,
418 U.S. 539 (1974). The holding in Wolff requires: (1) that the inmate be given written notice
of the charges, (2) that the fact-finder issue a written statement outlining the evidence relied upon
and the reasons for any disciplinary action and (3) that the inmate be allowed to call witnesses
and present documentary evidence, provided it will not be unduly hazardous to institutional
safety or correctional goals. 418 U.S. at 564-566.
On the one disciplinary charge where the plaintiff was found guilty by the hearing
officer, the reasons for the finding are set out in a written statement indicating the particular
testimony on which the hearing officer relied. (Doc. 13-2 at 27).
For the reasons stated above, the defendants’ special report is treated as a
motion for summary judgment and, as such, it is due to be granted and this action
dismissed with prejudice. An appropriate order will be entered.
DONE, this the
day of March, 2015.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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