Long v. Holowell et al

Filing 151

RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION recommending that 140 Defendants' MOTION for Summary Judgment be granted and the claims against the Defendants be dismissed with prejudice. Objections to R&R due by 10/24/2008. Signed by Magistrate Judge Beth Deere on 10/10/08. (hph)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT E A S T E R N DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS N O R T H E R N DIVISION J E F F E R Y LONG A D C # 117341 v. C A S E NO.: 1:07cv00026 SWW/BD DEFENDANTS PLAINTIFF E R I C HOLOWELL, et al. R E C O M M E N D E D DISPOSITION I. P r o c e d u r e for Filing Objections: T h e following recommended disposition has been sent to United States District Ju d g e Susan Webber Wright. Any party may file written objections to this re c o m m e n d a tio n . Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal b a sis for the objection. If an objection is to a factual finding, specifically identify that f in d in g and the evidence that supports your objection. An original and one copy of your o b je c tio n s must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk no later th a n eleven (11) days from the date you receive the Recommended Disposition. A copy w ill be furnished to the opposing party. Failure to file timely objections may result in w a iv e r of the right to appeal questions of fact. M a il your objections and "Statement of Necessity" to: C lerk , United States District Court E a ste rn District of Arkansas 6 0 0 West Capitol Avenue, Suite A-149 L ittle Rock, AR 72201-3325 II. I n tr o d u c tio n : N o w pending is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (#140). Plaintiff has re sp o n d e d (#144, 145, 148). For the following reasons, the Court recommends that the D e f e n d a n ts ' Motion for Summary Judgment (#140) be GRANTED. III. B a c k gro u n d : A f ter numerous amendments and dismissals, the only claims that remain in this law su it are: (A) a claim against Defendant Baird in his individual capacity for deliberate in d if f e re n c e in failing to protect Plaintiff; and (B) a claim against Defendant Meinzer in h is individual capacity for separating Plaintiff from another inmate based on race. O n the evening of November 19, 2006, Correctional Officer Holowell cited P la in tif f for a disciplinary violation. Defendant Baird was the shift supervisor that e v e n in g , and reviewed the disciplinary. After talking to both Officer Holowell and P lain tiff , Defendant Baird decided to place Plaintiff in isolation pending disciplinary c o u rt review. The isolation cells at the North Central Unit ("NCU") of the Arkansas Department o f Correction ("ADC") are two-man cells. Plaintiff was assigned to a cell with inmate A n tw o n e Nichols. Inmate Nichols was in isolation for the same charge as Plaintiff, in s o le n c e to a staff member. Plaintiff and Nichols did not previously know each other an d had never had any disputes or altercations (#143, Ex. 2, 3). According to Plaintiff's c o m p la in t, Nichols made lewd comments and sexually propositioned Plaintiff, touched 2 P la in tif f 's clothed buttocks, and masturbated in front of Plaintiff over the next couple of d a ys . On November 23, 2006, Plaintiff complained to Sergeant Peppers about Nichols' c o n d u c t. After reporting Nichols, Plaintiff was moved to a different cell and Nichols was c h a rg e d with a disciplinary violation. Nichols was placed on Plaintiff's separation list, a n d eventually, on his enemy alert list. The NCU has two primary tools for separating inmates who may pose a threat to e a c h other: separation status and enemy alert. Inmates on separation status at the NCU a re not housed in the same barracks, but may be housed in the same end of the unit, and m a y have chow, recreation, and other activities at the same time. Inmates listed as e n e m ie s cannot be housed in the same end of the unit, and cannot attend recreation f u n c tio n s or work together. On June 5, 2006, Plaintiff was caught passing a note to Inmate Parsons (#143, Ex. 8 ). The note made it clear that Plaintiff and Parsons were involved in a sexual re latio n sh ip . Plaintiff readily admits that he and Parsons were sexually and emotionally in v o lv e d . On June 6, 2006, Defendant Meinzer requested that Warden Banks approve the p lac e m e n t of Plaintiff and Parsons on separation status to discourage their relationship (# 1 4 3 , Ex. 8). On June 7, 2006, Warden Banks approved placement of Plaintiff and P a r so n s on separation status. O n July 11, 2006, a notebook titled "Book of Emotion" was seized from inmate M a u st after Maust complained that Parsons and another inmate assaulted him. Plaintiff 3 a d m its that the book contained writings between Plaintiff and Parsons about their re la tio n s h ip . Plaintiff also admits that some of the writings reference potential violence a g a in s t romantic rivals (#143, Ex 9, p. 143; Ex. 10, p. 78). On February 20, 2007, Nichols was mistakenly moved to the same side of the N C U as Plaintiff. Although not in the same barracks, Plaintiff and Nichols should have re m a in e d on opposite ends of the NCU based on enemy status. On February 22, 2007, P la in tif f complained about Nichols' placement on the same side of the unit as Plaintiff. On the same day, Parsons claimed for the first time that he and Nichols were enemies. Parsons denied being involved in any incident with Niclols, or feeling threatened by N ic h o ls . Based on timing of this request, and the lack of an explanation for it, Defendant M e in z e r believed that Plaintiff and Parsons were attempting to manipulate barracks a ss ig n m e n ts by falsely claiming enemies. Because the NCU has only two ends, having N ic h o ls on both Plaintiff's and Parsons' enemy lists would result in housing Plaintiff and P a rs o n s on the same end of the NCU. In order to prevent placement of Plaintiff and P a rs o n s in close proximity, Defendant Meinzer moved Plaintiff to the other end of the N C U , placed Parsons in isolation, and recommended upgrading Plaintiff's and Parsons' s ta tu s e s from separation to enemy (#143, Ex. 8-E). On March 1, 2007, Plaintiff discovered that inmate Parsons was on his enemy alert list. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Meinzer has "misused his power and position for his 4 o w n personal agenda" in placing inmate Parson on the enemy alert list. According to P la in tif f , this is based on his "sexuality as a homosexual and [having] a white partner." IV. D is c u s s io n : P la in tif f alleges that Defendant Meinzer separated Plaintiff from inmate Parsons b a se d on race and that Defendant Baird was deliberately indifferent in failing to protect P la in tif f from the assault by inmate Nichols. Plaintiff has failed to support his allegations a n d Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A . Equal Protection: T h e Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from in te n tio n a lly discriminating against individuals based on race. Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 6 3 0 , 642, 113 S.Ct. 2816 (1993). "Proof of racially discriminatory intent or purpose is re q u ire d to show a violation of the Equal Protection Clause." City of Cuyahoga Falls v. B u c k e y e Cmty. Hope Found., 538 U.S. 188, 194, 123 S.Ct. 1389 (2003) (citation and in te rn a l quotes omitted). "The heart of an equal protection claim is that similarly situated c la ss e s of inmates are treated differently, and that this difference in treatment bears no ra tio n a l relation to any legitimate penal interest." Weiler v. Purkett, 137 F.3d 1047, 1051 (8 th Cir. 1998) (citing Timm v. Gunter, 917 F.2d 1093, 1103 (8th Cir. 1990). In the present case, Plaintiff has not identified any race-based classification system b y which Defendant Meinzer chose to separate homosexual couples. Plaintiff also has n o t shown that he was treated differently from similarly situated inmates. See Rouse v. 5 B e n so n , 193 F.3d 936, 942 (8th Cir. 1999) (holding that equal protection analysis begins b y asking whether inmate has shown that he has been treated differently than others s im ila rly situated). Plaintiff's claim rests on the allegation that Parsons was placed on P lain tiff 's enemy alert list because Plaintiff is black and Parsons is white. The Court is h a rd pressed to find any support for this allegation. Defendant Meinzer states that he separates inmates based on evidence of h o m o s e x u a l activities, not race. Defendant Meinzer has separated white, black, and m ix e d couples (#143, Ex. 8, p. 7-8). Defendant Mienzer states that most couples placed o n separation status are never upgraded to enemy alert because no further evidence of h o m o se x u a l activity between the inmates is discovered. In one other case, an inmate c o u p le was placed on enemy alert after a physical altercation (#143, Ex. 8). In the present c a se , Defendant Meinzer believed that Plaintiff and Parsons were continuing to pursue th e ir relationship by attempting to manipulate barracks assignments so as to be closer to e a c h other (#143, Ex. 8). To survive summary judgment, Plaintiff must identify affirmative evidence from w h ic h a jury could find proof of a racially discriminatory motive. Lewis v. Jacks, 486 F .3 d 1025, 1028 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600, 118 S .C t. 1584 (1998)). Plaintiff testified that he believed Defendant Meinzer placed Plaintiff a n d Parsons on each other's enemy list based on the "Book of Emotion," letters, and other in f o rm a tio n (#143, Ex. 9, p. 141). In addition, Plaintiff testified that he did not believe 6 th a t race was the main focus of Defendant Meinzer's decision (#143, Ex. 9, p. 142). Instead, Plaintiff stated that Defendant Meinzer placed Parson on Plaintiff's enemy alert lis t due to a personal grudge. Defendant Meinzer never said anything to Plaintiff to make h im believe that race had any impact on Defendant Meinzer's actions (#143, Ex. 13, p. 1 1 3 -1 1 4 , 116). Further, Plaintiff stated that his primary complaint was that Parsons was listed as Plaintiff's enemy when Parsons was not an enemy (#143, Ex. 13, p. 117). In response to the motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff stated that while in is o la tio n , Defendant Meinzer failed to keep Plaintiff and Parsons from talking to each o ther at yard call and occasionally showering at the same time (145-2, p. 2). Plaintiff's a lle g a tio n provides support for Defendant Meinzer's decision to upgrade Plaintiff and P a rs o n s ' status to enemy alert lists. As Defendant Meinzer stated, he was concerned that P la in tif f and Parsons were still pursuing their relationship. It is uncontroverted that Defendant Meinzer had the authority to separate Plaintiff a n d Parsons to discourage their sexually and emotionally charged relationship. The u n d i sp u te d facts in this case, along with Plaintiff's deposition testimony and responses, d o not support a cause of action for violation of Plaintiff's right to Equal Protection. See K lin g e r v. Dept. of Corr., 31 F.3d 727, 733 (8th Cir. 1994) (holding that inmate bringing e q u a l protection claim must show intentional or purposeful discrimination). Accordingly, th e Court recommends dismissal of this claim with prejudice. 7 B . Failure to Protect: It is established law that prison officials have a duty to protect inmates from v io le n c e at the hands of other inmates. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833-34 (1994). Claims of failure to protect are governed by a "deliberate indifference" standard. "[D]eliberate indifference entails something more than mere negligence, the cases are a ls o clear that it is satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose o f causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result." Ambrose v. Young, 474 F.3d 1 0 7 0 , 1076 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835 (1994)). Of course, not e v e ry injury "suffered by one prisoner at the hands of another . . . translates into c o n stitu tio n a l liability for prison officials responsible for the victim's safety." Farmer, 5 1 1 U.S. at 834, 114 S.Ct. at 1977. The duty to protect requires only that prison officials " ta k e reasonable measures to abate substantial risks of serious harm, of which the o f f ic ia ls are aware." Reece v. Groose, 60 F.3d 487, 491 (8th Cir. 1995). Claims under the Eighth Amendment include both an objective and a subjective e le m e n t. The objective element requires a showing that the prisoner was "incarcerated u n d e r conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. The subjective component requires a showing that prison officials were "deliberately in d if f e re n t" to the risk of harm. Id. Deliberate indifference exists only where "the o f f ic ia l knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official 8 m u s t both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial ris k of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837. In this case, Plaintiff has not shown either the objective or subjective requirements o f a failure to protect claim. Plaintiff testified that he had no reason to believe Nichols w o u ld harass or assault him before they were placed in the same cell (#143, Ex. 3, p. 19). It is difficult to see how Defendant Baird could or should have known of a risk that P la in tif f himself was not aware of. Nichols had no inmates on his separation or enemy lis t, had not committed any sex offenses, and did not have a record of institutional v io le n c e. As soon as Plaintiff told a NCU staff member about Nichols' conduct, the staff m o v e d Plaintiff to another cell and charged Nichols with a disciplinary violation (#143, E x . 3, p. 29). Before leaving Plaintiff in the other cell, the staff asked both Plaintiff and th e other inmate if they had any issue with the other. Both responded that they did not (#1 4 3 , Ex. 3, p. 30). P lain tiff responds to Defendants' arguments by asserting that Defendant Baird k n e w Plaintiff was a homosexual (#144, 24; #145-2, 8; #148, 8). This assertion m ig h t be relevant if Nichols had a history of assaulting homosexual inmates. The u n d i sp u te d facts remain that neither Plaintiff nor Defendant Baird knew of a potential risk o f harm to Plaintiff from Nichols. Nichols' history did not provide any cause for concern th a t an assault would occur. As soon as staff at the NCU were made aware of the assault b y Nichols, Plaintiff was moved to another cell. Based on the undisputed facts, 9 D ef en d an t Baird is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court re c o m m e n d s dismissal of this claim with prejudice. V. C o n c lu s io n : T h e Court recommends that Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (#140) b e GRANTED and the claims against the Defendants be DISMISSED with prejudice.. DATED this 10th day of October, 2008. ______________________________________ U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 10

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