Autin v. Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections et al
ORDER AND REASONS: IT IS ORDERED that the 12 Motion for Summary Juddgment is GRANTED IN PART, DISMISSING WITH PREJUDICE plaintiff's state claims against Warden Robert Tanner, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, and Rayburn Correctional Center;IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion is DENIED IN PART, retaining plaintiff's Section 1983 claims against Sergeant Robert Goings and Sergeant Lance Wallace. Signed by Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle on 3/30/2021. (pp)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC
SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS ET AL
ORDER AND REASONS
Judgment” (Rec. Doc. 12), plaintiff’s response in opposition (Rec.
Doc. 14), and defendants’ reply (Rec. Doc. 17). For the reasons
IT IS ORDERED that the motion (Rec. Doc. 12) is GRANTED IN
PART, DISMISSING WITH PREJUDICE plaintiff’s state claims against
Warden Robert Tanner, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and
Corrections, and Rayburn Correctional Center;
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion is DENIED IN PART,
retaining plaintiff’s Section 1983 claims against Sergeant Robert
Goings and Sergeant Lance Wallace.
FACTS OF THE CASE AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Correctional Center (“RCC”) in Angie, Louisiana. Rec. Doc. 14 at
Sergeant Robert Goings entered Wind 2 dormitory and observed Autin
engaging in “suspicious behavior” and ordered the latter to open
his hand. 1 Rec. Doc. 12-1 at 1. Plaintiff complied and said, “I
have nothing but Bible paper” while a small object fell out of his
hand as he opened it. Id. Goings noticed the fallen item but was
unable to locate the object before escorting plaintiff to the Wind
Unit Lieutenant’s Office. Id. After the parties entered the Wind
Unit Lieutenant’s Office, Goings asked plaintiff if he was carrying
any contraband, and plaintiff responded, “I have some pills on
me.” Id. Goings ordered the plaintiff to hand over the pills, and
plaintiff bent over and retrieved a balled-up piece of paper from
his right sock. Id. at 2. While doing this, plaintiff dropped
another piece of paper out of his sock which fell on the floor
behind him. Id. Upon realizing what happened, Autin attempted to
grab the paper against Goings’ direct verbal orders to stop. Id.
According to defendants, plaintiff disobeyed these orders when he
grabbed the second piece of paper and placed it in his mouth. Id.
While Goings attempted to call for assistance, he sought to take
control of plaintiff’s upper torso. Id. Plaintiff managed to pull
away from Goings’ hold and punched him in the neck and shoulder
area, causing Goings to lose his balance and drop his radio to the
In his state complaint, plaintiff alleges that on the date of the
incident defendant Goings approached the former and asked him to sell
drugs for him at RCC. When plaintiff refused, he claimed that Goings
“lost his temper and beat [him] resulting in broken ribs, damage to his
neck, and two blackened eyes.” Rec. Doc. 14 at 2. This incident was not
mentioned in defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
According to the state complaint, Goings was the aggressor
and placed plaintiff in a choke hold as an attempt to prevent him
from swallowing the object. Rec. Doc. 14 at 3. As Goings did this,
he allegedly told plaintiff he was going to kill him because
plaintiff was a “n*gger lover.” Id. Further, plaintiff alleged
plaintiff in the face with his walkie talkie until he dropped the
walkie talkie. Id.
Per defendants’ motion, plaintiff aggressively approached
Goings and struck his upper torso with his palm. Rec. Doc. 12-1 at
2. Goings then regained control of plaintiff and directed him to
the floor. Id. After Goings called for assistance a second time,
he applied pressure to plaintiff’s hypoglossal pressure point,
after which plaintiff spat out the unknown object. 2 Id. According
Goings’ orders by physically resisting and attempting to get up
until Lieutenant Jonathan Stringer responded to Goings’ call. Id.
Upon Stringer’s arrival, Goings advised that the plaintiff
was attempting to swallow an object, and the unknown object was
laying on the floor near plaintiff’s head. Id. At this time,
plaintiff moved his head and placed the object in his mouth. Id.
at 2-3. Stringer took control of plaintiff’s right hand and moved
Plaintiff alleged that the pressure Goings applied to Autin’s neck
caused him to pass out. Rec. Doc. 14 at 3.
it away from his mouth, but plaintiff placed his left index finger
inside his mouth to push the object to the back of his mouth. Id.
secured plaintiff’s left hand with the former’s right knee and
plaintiff’s head with Stringer’s left hand. Id. Plaintiff then
shouted, “It’s gone. It’s gone,” appearing as if he swallowed the
ordered plaintiff several times to place his hands behind his back,
but plaintiff allegedly resisted these orders by tucking his hands
under his body. Id. Lieutenant James Seal, Jr. also responded and
assisted by maintaining control of plaintiff’s legs while ordering
him to stop resisting. Id. At this time, Goings retrieved a set of
shackles, and Dillon placed them on the plaintiff’s ankles. Id.
According to defendants, once Autin was properly restrained, he
stopped resisting and all use of force ceased. Id. After plaintiff
was assisted to his feet, he was escorted to Sun Unit by Stringer,
Seal and Amacker to be placed in investigative segregation. Id.
As plaintiff was being escorted to the Sun Unit on the Sun
midsection. Id. Stringer used plaintiff’s momentum and directed
him to the walk while giving orders to stop physically resisting.
Id. Per defendants, as plaintiff continued to resist, Seal took
control of plaintiff’s legs, and Amacker called for assistance via
radio. Id. While the officers awaited assistance, Amacker directed
plaintiff several times to stop physically resisting which were
all ignored by plaintiff. Id. at 3-4.
Christopher Dughdrill responded to the scene, Wallace assisted
Stringer in securing plaintiff’s upper torso while Seal, Amacker
and Daughdrill secured his legs. Id. at 4. Per defendants, once
resisting and was brought to his feet. Id. According to plaintiff,
once Wallace approached the scene, he began kicking plaintiff’s
ribs and spine and tried to “rip [plaintiff’s] left arm out of
[its] socket.” Id. He further alleged that Wallace and Goings
“viciously stomped” on plaintiff, tried to break plaintiff’s back
and collar bone, broke plaintiff’s ribs, gave plaintiff two black
eyes, and caused his face to swell. Id.
Plaintiff was ordered to walk to Sun Unit, but plaintiff
refused and was placed in a reverse transport wristlock by Stringer
and Wallace. Rec. Doc. 12-1 at 4. After plaintiff continued to
refuse to comply with the officers’ orders to walk, Stringer and
applying pressure to the wristlock, plaintiff began to walk, and
Stringer and Wallace released pressure. Id. Plaintiff was escorted
to Sun Unit and was placed in a kneeling position at the Sun Unit
Triage door. Id. Once plaintiff was in a kneeling position and
complied with orders, defendants state that all use of force
Plaintiff alleges to have suffered loss of blood, broken ribs
on both sides, numbness in his arms and legs, back pain, two black
eyes, and swelling in the right side of his face as a result of
the September 24, 2019 incident. Rec. Doc. 14 at 4. Plaintiff also
claims that he experienced organ failure and was unable to walk or
As a result of the incident in the Lieutenant’s Office,
Contraband, rule #3 Defiance and Rule #5 Aggravated Disobedience.
Rec. Doc. 12-1 at 4. Likewise, as a result of the incident on Sun
Walker, plaintiff received a rule violation report for rule #3
Defiance and rule #5 Aggravated Disobedience. Id. After a PostUse of Force Exam was administered on the officers and plaintiff,
it was discovered that the balled up piece of paper that plaintiff
retrieved from the floor contained a Neurontin capsule and stripes
of white paper that tested positive for synthetic cannabinoids.
According to defendants, Autin pled guilty to violations of
Rules #1, #3, and #5 3 for his actions in the Lieutenant’s Office
and was consequently sentenced to a forfeiture of 30 days of good
time, transferred to extended lockdown for 90 days, and ordered to
Plaintiff was also found guilty for violating Rules #3 and #5 for
his actions during the walk to Sun Unit. Id. As a result of his
conviction, he was sentenced to a forfeiture of 120 days of good
Colonel Jody Knight reviewed the incident and concluded that
all officers involved used the minimum amount of force necessary
to gain plaintiff’s compliance. Id. Knight also concluded that the
promulgated by RCC and the DPSC.” Id.
On March 19, 2020, Autin filed a “Petition for Damages/Use of
Force” in the 22nd Judicial District Court for Washington Parish,
Louisiana. Rec. Doc. 1-2. Plaintiff alleged to have sustained
negligent supervision and hiring. Id.
On April 16, 2020, defendants removed the matter to this
Court, claiming that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction
Plaintiff states in his pleading, “The State Defendants are well aware
that Mr. Autin specifically denied pleading guilty to violations of Rule
3 and 5 but appear to be contending the fact that he plead guilty to
those charges is undisputed.” Rec. Doc. 14 at 6, n. 1.
over plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1331 and 1441(a). Rec. Doc. 1 at 1-2.
On November 10, 2020, defendants filed the instant motion for
summary judgment, generally arguing that plaintiff’s claims are
barred by the Supreme Court’s decision in Heck v. Humphrey. Rec.
Doc. 12-1 at 6. Additionally, defendants assert that Sergeant
Goings, Sergeant Wallace, and Warden Tanner cannot be sued in their
1983. Id. at 12.
defendants argue that Warden Tanner cannot be held vicariously
Louisiana Civil Code article 2320 nor can Tanner be found at fault
for negligent hiring and/or negligent supervision because he is
not their employer. Id. at 14-15.
On November 29, 2020, plaintiff timely filed an opposition to
summary judgment. Rec. Doc. 14. In general, plaintiff alleges that
Heck does not bar his claims because he did not allege that his
disciplinary charges resulted in a forfeiture of any good time
credits or otherwise affected the length of plaintiff’s sentence.
disciplinary reports is inadmissible hearsay. Id. at 16. Moreover,
plaintiff argues that Goings and Wallace are “persons” that may be
defendant are for their own individual acts and failures to act.
Id. at 17.
On December 8, 2020, defendants were granted leave to file a
reply to plaintiff’s opposition to address two of plaintiff’s
plaintiff’s argument against Heck are misplaced because he cites
to Gunnels wherein the plaintiff’s Section 1983 claims did not
duration of his sentence. Id. at 2. Second, defendants argue that
because they are only offered to show that the plaintiff was
convicted of rule infractions, plaintiff lost good time credit,
and the reasoning for the convictions. Id. at 4-5.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
a. Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). A genuine issue of material
fact exists if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return
a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). As such, the court should view all facts
and evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
United Fire & Cas. Co. v. Hixon Bros. Inc., 453 F.3d 283, 285 (5th
“demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact” using
competent summary judgment evidence. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
However, “where the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial,
the movant may merely point to an absence of evidence.” Lindsey v.
Sears Roebuck & Co., 16 F.3d 616, 618 (5th Cir. 1994). Should the
movant meet its burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who
must show by “competent summary judgment evidence” that there is
a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.,
Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Lindsey, 16
F.3d at 618. However, “a party cannot defeat summary judgment with
scintilla of evidence.” See Sec. & Exch. Comm’n v. Arcturus Corp.,
912 F.3d 786, 792 (5th Cir. 2019).
b. Heck Bar to Section 1983 Claim
A claimant who pursues a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must
“(1) allege a violation of rights secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States and (2) demonstrate that the alleged
deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of law.”
Southwestern Bell Telephone, LP V. City of Houston, 529 F.3d 257,
260 (5th Cir. 2008); see 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To determine whether a
genuine issue of material fact exists in a Section 1983 claim, the
court must assess if plaintiff’s claims are barred by Heck v.
Humphrey. Williams v. Lowe, No. 18-916, 2019 WL 1199100, at *2
(E.D.La. March 13, 2019). If the Heck bar applies, then the court
must grant summary judgment as there are no genuine issues of
material fact. Id.
In Heck, the Court held that a plaintiff may not challenge
the constitutionality of his conviction under Section 1983 unless
the conviction has been reversed, expunged, declared invalid or
called into question by federal habeas corpus. Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). “Thus, when a state prisoner seeks
damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether
a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the
invalidity of his conviction of sentence[.]” Id. at 487. If so,
determines that the plaintiff’s action, even if successful, will
judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to
A court’s determination on whether to apply the Heck bar is
“analytical and fact-intensive, requiring [the court] to focus on
whether success on the excessive force claim requires negation of
an element of the criminal offense or proof of a fact that is
conviction.” Bush v. Strain, 513 F.3d 492, 497 (5th Cir. 2008).
The Fifth Circuit further held, “a ‘conviction,’ for purposes
of Heck, includes ruling in a prison disciplinary proceeding that
results in a change to the prisoner’s sentence, including the loss
of good-time credits.” Clarke v. Stalder, 154 F.3d 186, 189 (5th
Cir. 1998) (citing Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 644 (1997)
(applying Heck to prisoner’s Section 1983 challenge to prisoner’s
administrative process because it could affect plaintiff’s good
time credit)). However, the Supreme Court clarified that Heck does
not categorically apply to all Section 1983 challenges to prison
disciplinary proceedings. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 84
(2005). The Court guided that the Heck may bar a prisoner’s suit
procedures but rather because nullification of the disciplinary
procedures would lead necessarily to restoration of good-time
credits and hence the shortening of the prisoner’s sentence.” Id.
officers’ descriptions of what occurred in the Lieutenant’s Office
and the Sun Walk. See Rec. Docs. 12-4; 12-5. However, plaintiff
hearsay. Rec. Doc. 14 at 15. Therefore, before we can determine
whether the Heck bar applies, we must assess the admissibility of
the defendants’ summary judgment evidence.
Admissibility of the Disciplinary Reports
inadmissible hearsay in violation of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Rec. Doc. 14 at 15. “Hearsay” refers to an out-of-court statement
that a party may offer to “prove the truth of the matter asserted.”
See Fed. R. Evid. 801(c). However, there are several exceptions to
the inadmissible hearsay rule, including public records containing
“factual findings from a legally authorized investigation.” See
Fed. R. Evid. 803(8)(A)(iii); see also Henderson v. Turner, No.
11-39, 2013 WL 442683, at *2 (M.D.La. Feb. 5, 2013).
“only as to the fact findings contained therein that are based on
the knowledge or observations of the investigating officer.” Mack
v. Benjamin, No. 13-552-JWD-RLB, 2015 WL 7313869, at *2 (M.D.La.
Nov. 20. 2015). Such reports will be excluded if they indicate a
lack of trustworthiness, meaning they were prepared in a manner
that suggests the conclusions therein cannot be relied upon. Id.
(citing Moss v. Ole South Real Estate, Inc., 933 F.2d 1300 (5th
Cir. 1991)). However, the court noted that disciplinary reports
prepared by officers who are also named defendants “do not fit
within the [hearsay] exception because they are often self-serving
and are inherently untrustworthy.” Id.
In Johnson v. Cain, the court determined that the disciplinary
reports prepared by the defendant prison officers did not fit
within the exception of Rule 803(8)(c) because of their selfserving and inherently untrustworthy nature. No. 09-0454-BAJ-CN,
2011 WL 2437608, at *2 (M.D.La. June 17, 2011). Additionally, the
court found that the reports also contained assertions on events
that were not personally witnessed by him. Id.
Additionally, in White, the court excluded the disciplinary
reports prepared by the defendant prison officers as inadmissible
hearsay due to their inherent untrustworthiness. White v. Rheams,
No. 15-502-JJB-RLB, 2016 WL 707431, at *3, n. 7 (M.D.La. Feb. 22,
2016); see Abbott v. Babin, No. 12-631-JJB-SCR, 2014 WL 173742, at
*3 (M.D.La. Jan. 13, 2013)(excluding the physical disciplinary
reports related to the plaintiff’s excessive force claims). The
court further found that the reports written by another prison
investigation but for the purpose of documenting the events giving
disciplinary reports did not appear to be untrustworthy because
they were solely based on the officers’ observations at the scene.
Gilbert v. Lessard, No.:16-00440-BAJ-RLB, 2018 WL 3969950, at *3
(M.D.La. Aug. 20, 2018)(holding that the disciplinary reports fall
under the hearsay exception in 803(8)(c)).
If the court excludes the disciplinary report, the report’s
author may nevertheless testify on “what he personally observed
[on the day of the incident],[ ]what he was told by the plaintiff
(as non-hearsay admissions by a party-opponent),[ ]fact that the
plaintiff was charged with [any] disciplinary violation. . .on
that date, and[ ]the matters within their personal knowledge.”
Johnson, 2011 WL 2437608, at *2.
The two disciplinary reports in dispute are defendant Goings’
report on the events in the Lieutenant’s Office and Lieutenant
Stringer’s report on the events on the Sun Walk. Rec. Docs. 12-4;
admissible because they are only presented to show the plaintiff’s
convictions, his loss of good time credit, and the reasoning for
those convictions. Rec. Doc. 17 at 5.
Lieutenant’s Office incident should be excluded because it was
serving and inherently untrustworthy. Rec. Doc. 14 at 16. Both
officers’ orders necessitated the use of force. Rec. Docs. 12-4,
12-5. In support of his opposition, plaintiff attached two sworn
affidavits by fellow inmates at Rayburn Correctional Center who
both testified that the prison officers often order inmates to
“stop resisting” to justify their use of force even when the
submitting these affidavits, plaintiff seemingly avers that Goings
misrepresented the need to use force against him.
should be excluded for their untrustworthy nature but only one of
these reports was prepared by a named defendant. The disciplinary
report on the Sun Walk incident was written by Lieutenant Stringer,
who is not a defendant in this matter. Plaintiff does not provide
prepared in an untrustworthy manner. Instead, plaintiff suggests
that Stringer’s report should be excluded for the same reasons
against Goings’ report. Rec. Doc. 14 at 17-18.
veracity of Goings’ “stop resisting” order, the Court is not
compelled at this stage to exclude the report as wholly unreliable.
Moreover, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Lieutenant Stringer
is untrustworthy or otherwise prepared his report in an unreliable
manner. Therefore, both disciplinary reports shall be admissible
as reliable, subject to later reconsideration of the admissibility
of Goings’ report.
Whether Heck bars Autin’s claims
disciplinary convictions for the Lieutenant’s Office incident and
his Rules 3 and 5 convictions for the Sun Walk incident, which
subsequently resulted in the loss of good time credit. Rec. Doc.
12-1 at 9-10. Thus, defendants believe that a verdict favoring
plaintiff would affect the length of time served or otherwise
undermine his disciplinary convictions. Id. at 12.
Plaintiff argues Heck does not preclude Section 1983 claims
that omit to challenge the validity of the underlying conviction
or calculation of time to be served. Rec. Doc. 14 at 6. Plaintiff
conviction but maintains that he is neither challenging that loss
nor the due process of the disciplinary proceeding. Id. Therefore,
because he does not seek to invalidate the disciplinary procedure,
his conviction, or duration of his sentence, plaintiff argues that
a favorable judgment would not be at odds with his conviction. Id.
In Muhammad v. Close, the plaintiff brought a Section 1983
injuries upon him during a mandated six-day prehearing detention
for plaintiff’s prison misconduct charge. 540 U.S. 749, 753 (2004)
(per curiam). The Court reversed the Sixth Circuit’s decision to
affirm summary judgment in favor of the defendant 4 because it was
“[T]he Sixth Circuit. . .affirmed the summary judgment for Close,
though not on the basis recommended by the Magistrate Judge and adopted
premised on “the mistaken view” that “Heck applies categorically
to all suits challenging prison disciplinary proceedings.” Id. at
754. The Court acknowledged that the outcome of these proceedings
could affect the plaintiff’s sentence but nonetheless held that
Heck “is not implicated by a prisoner’s challenge that threatens
no consequence for his conviction or the duration of his sentence.”
Id. at 751, 754. Thus, the Court held that a favorable verdict
would not threaten the validity of the plaintiff’s conviction or
sentence because he was only seeking damages for the injuries he
sustained during the mandated lockup. Id.
proper, including whether the excessive force occurred after the
plaintiff ceased resistance and was restrained by officers. See
Bush, 513 F.3d at 500. In Bush, the defendants argued that the
plaintiff’s allegation that “at no time did [she] resist her
arrest” rendered her excessive force claims barred by Heck for
being inapposite to the factual basis of her criminal proceeding.
Id. at 498. Although the court acknowledged, “if we were to take
this statement at face value, we might agree with the defendants,”
by the District Court. Instead of considering the conclusion that
Muhammad had produced inadequate evidence of retaliation, a ground that
would have been dispositive if sustained, the Court of Appeals held the
action barred by Heck because Muhammad had sought, among other relief,
the expungement of the misconduct charge from the prison record.”
Muhammad, 540 U.S. at 753 (internal citation omitted)(emphasis added).
it ultimately determined that the statement taken in context with
other evidence demonstrated that the plaintiff was subject to
reversing summary judgment, the court noted that the lower court
made no findings on how long the plaintiff’s resistance lasted or
the cause of her injuries – both of which the Fifth Circuit deemed
were material facts that were pertinent to her claim. Id.
Additionally, in Bourne, after plaintiff was found tampering
with his cell door, the defendant officers allegedly assaulted him
both physically and sexually while attempting to restrain him on
his cell floor. Bourne v. Gunnels. 921 F.3d 484, 488 (5th Cir.
2019)(holding that Heck did not bar the plaintiff’s excessive force
claims). Although the plaintiff’s conviction for tampering with
the cell lock and creating a disturbance resulted in a forfeiture
of good-time credit, the court held that his excessive force claims
were “distinct” from his conviction because the alleged force
occurred after the plaintiff was already restrained. Id. at 491.
Lastly, in Aucoin, the plaintiff obscured the view of the
surveillance camera in his cell, and when he refused to comply
with the defendants’ orders, the defendants allegedly sprayed him
with a chemical agent before restraining the plaintiff. Aucoin v.
Cupil, 958 F.3d 379, 381 (5th Cir. 2020), cert. denied, --- U.S.
---, 141 S.Ct. 567 (2020). The plaintiff further alleged that when
he was taken to the showers, the guards “maced” him and proceeded
to beat and kick him in the prison lobby. Id. The court determined
that Heck barred the plaintiff’s claim of excessive force in his
cell before he was restrained. Id. at 383. The court found that
the plaintiff’s allegation that he was “wholly blameless” for what
validity of his conviction of defiance, aggravated disobedience,
and property destruction. Id. However, because the plaintiff was
restrained and compliant during the events thereafter, the court
held that the alleged assault in the showers and lobby were not
barred by Heck. 5 Id. at 383-84.
In addition to the disciplinary reports, defendants offer
factual basis of his conviction and his factual allegations of his
excessive force claims. See Rec. Doc. 12-6. When asked to recount
the events leading up to the alleged excessive force in the
Lieutenant’s Office, plaintiff indicated the following:
Q: So whenever you were in the room, he asked you to
give him any drugs you might have on your person, right?
A: Yes, ma’am.
Q: And you gave him some drugs that you had on your
A: Yes, ma’am. I gave him some pills.
Q: And then you asked him if you could leave?
A: Yes. He told me give me what I have and I could leave.
Q: All right. You turned to leave?
A: Yes, ma’am.
Q: And then he attacked you?
“The officers have not suggested, and the prison disciplinary hearing
made no finding, that Aucoin was defiant or disobedient while in the
showers or lobby. Had he been resisting throughout the encounter, this
would be a wholly different case.” Aucoin, 958 F.3d at 384, n. 1.
A: Yes, ma’am. He attacked me from the back.
Q: Did you punch him?
A: No, ma’am.
Q: Did you resist any orders at any time?
A: No, ma’am.
. . .
Q: And you obeyed all of his orders –
A: Yes, ma’am. I never once resisted.
Rec. Doc. 12-1 at 9 (emphasis added). Plaintiff also testified on
what occurred on the Sun Walk:
A: They escorted me, and on the walk, Lieutenant Stringer
said that I got blood on his pants, he don’t like getting
blood on his pants. When we got to a certain spot on the
walk, he stepped back or stopped walking or something
and just swung me to the left straight on my face. You
know, I’m – I’m handcuffed and shackled. The only thing
I could do was what they allow me to do. I landed on my
face and they started punching me and kicking me and hit
Q: So you didn’t hit any of these officers on the walk?
A: No, ma’am. I didn’t hit, I didn’t resist. I didn’t do
any – anything like that.
Id. at 10 (emphasis added).
In keeping with the Bush Court’s guidance against viewing
plaintiff’s assertions in isolation, this Court must review them
within the context of other evidence provided by both parties.
During the incident in the Lieutenant’s Office, Goings restrained
Autin on the floor of the Lieutenant’s Office and called for
assistance while maintaining control of the plaintiff. See Rec.
Doc. 12-1 at 2. While restrained on the floor, defendants admitted
that Goings applied pressure to the plaintiff’s lower jaw or
“hypoglossal pressure point” to force the plaintiff to spit out
the unknown object. Id. After more officers arrived at the scene,
Goings placed a set of shackles on plaintiff’s ankles, and “once
properly restrained, he stopped resisting and all use of force
ceased” as he was escorted to the Sun Unit. Id. at 3.
When asked about the incident in the Lieutenant’s Office,
plaintiff testified that Goings put him in a chokehold to the point
where he was unable to breathe and momentarily lost consciousness.
Rec. Doc. 12-6 at 27-29. Plaintiff further alleged that Goings
used his walkie-talkie to hit plaintiff in the face and head. Id.
at 28. After he regained consciousness, plaintiff testified that
Goings placed his bodyweight on his back to maintain control of
the plaintiff while continuing to choke and punch him before the
other officers arrived at the scene. Id. at 30.
Directly prior to the events on the Sun Walk, plaintiff
testified that the officers brought him to a doctor to assess his
injuries. Id at 21-22. He was then escorted to the A Building to
underwent a series of tests while both Stringer and Lieutenant
Amacker had their hands on plaintiff’s shoulder and hands behind
his back. Id. at 22. Afterwards, Stringer and Amacker escorted
plaintiff to the Sun Walk wherein Stringer reported that plaintiff
attempted to ram his shoulder into Stringer’s mid-section. Rec.
Doc. 12-1 at 3; Rec. Doc. 12-5 at 2. Stringer reported that he
used plaintiff’s momentum to direct him to continue walking. Id.
While plaintiff was allegedly attempting to twist his body away
from the officers and ignoring verbal orders to stop, various
officers responded to the scene and secured plaintiff’s torso and
legs. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff was ultimately placed in a reverse
transport wristlock and was ordered to get in a kneeling position
before all use of force stopped. Id. at 4.
When asked if he ever tried to escape during the events on
the Sun Walk, plaintiff testified, “there was nothing I could do
but what they allowed me to do,” meaning that his movements were
entirely controlled by Stringer and Amacker. 6 Rec. Doc. 12-6 at
shortly after Stringer swung him to the left and was brought to
the ground wherein the officers allegedly began to punch and kick
him. See id. at 39-42.
Like Bush, at face value, plaintiff’s assertion denying any
resistance to the defendants’ orders appears inconsistent with the
viewed within his deposition in its entirety, plaintiff adequately
alleged a claim for excessive force that occurred after he was
Specifically, during the Lieutenant’s Office incident, the alleged
Autin further testified, “If they twisted me to the left or twist
to the right, that’s the only thing I can do is what they allow me
do. I’m pushed forward, with my hands pulling back, with their arms
each shoulder, walking on my tippy toes. There’s nothing I could do
hurt anybody or resist in any type of way.” Rec. Doc. 12-6 at 40.
force used by Goings to prevent plaintiff from swallowing the
unknown object occurred after Goings already restrained plaintiff
to the ground. Moreover, the evidence indicates that Autin was
restrained throughout the events on the Sun Walk.
There is barely sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the
alleged excessive force occurred after plaintiff was adequately
restrained by the officers. Because genuine issues of material
defendants’ orders and whether the use of force was appropriate,
summary disposition under Heck would not be appropriate at this
c. Persons Capable of Being Sued under Section 1983
Sergeant Goings and Sergeant Wallace
Defendants further argue that each defendant is not a “person”
who can be subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Rec. Doc. 12-1
at 13. The statute imposes personal liability against an individual
who deprives another of his constitutional right, including a
government official for actions taken under color of law. Will v.
Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 58 (1989); Scheurer
v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 238 (1974)(overruled for other reasons).
However, unlike personal capacity suits, Section 1983 official
capacity suits are expressly excluded because “a suit against a
state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit
against the official but rather is a suit against the official’s
office.” Will, 491 U.S. at 71; see Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S.
159, 165 (1985)(quoting Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55 (1989))(“Official-capacity
pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an
Defendants argue that Sergeant Goings, Sergeant Wallace, and
Warden Tanner may not be sued in their official capacity because
they are state employees and that the claims against them should
be dismissed with prejudice. Rec. Doc. 12-1 at 13-14. Plaintiff
contests that he sued the defendants in their official capacity
and responds that the allegations raised against each defendant
are their own individual acts and failures to act. Rec. Doc. 14 at
17. Nonetheless, plaintiff argues that even if official capacity
claims were raised to the extent that the defendants are claiming
Eleventh Amendment immunity, they effectively waived immunity when
they removed the matter to federal court. Id. at 17-18.
When the complaint does not clearly indicate whether the state
defendant is being sued in his individual or official capacity,
“the course of the proceedings and allegations will determine the
applicable capacity.” Graham, 473 U.S. at 167, n. 14. To state a
Section 1983 claim against a government official in his personal
capacity, the claimant must establish that “the defendant was
either personally involved in the deprivation or that his wrongful
actions were causally connected to the deprivation.” James v. Texas
Collin County, 535 F.3d 365, 373 (5th Cir. 2008).
In his state complaint, plaintiff pled that Goings and Wallace
through their “extreme and outrageous” conduct. Rec. Doc. 1-2 at
7. Plaintiff’s factual allegations therein indicate that Goings
choked and beat him outside the Lieutenant’s Office, Wallace kicked
Autin in his ribs and spine on the Sun Walk, and both defendants
stomped on Autin to inflict further injuries. Id. at 4-5.
Based on the factual allegations set forth against Goings and
Wallace in his complaint, plaintiff alleged that Goings and Wallace
acted under color of law as prison officers to use excessive force
against him in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The course of
proceedings and allegations indicate that Wallace and Goings are
being sued in their individual capacities because the complaint
contains allegations that are specific to the defendants’ alleged
actions and not generally aimed at the state entity. Therefore,
the excessive force claims against Goings and Wallace may proceed
at this time.
As an alternative cause of action to his Section 1983 claim,
failing to train and supervise his officers regarding the proper
use of force. 7 Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 8. Defendants argue that Tanner is
supervision and vicarious liability claims because these claims
hold employers liable, which in this matter would be the State of
Louisiana and not Warden Tanner. Rec. Doc. 12-1 at 14. To be clear,
plaintiff’s respondeat superior claim seeks to hold the State
vicariously liable for the negligent actions of its employee Warden
Tanner, who allegedly failed to adequately train and supervise the
correctional officers. Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 8. Goings and Wallace are
not named defendants in these claims.
A claim for negligent hiring and supervision is analyzed under
the same duty-risk standard for all negligence claims in Louisiana.
Kelley v. Dyson, 08-1202 (La. App. 5 Cir. 3/24/09); 10 So.3d 283,
287-88. This standard requires proof of duty, breach of duty,
causation, scope of liability or protection, and damages. Id. at
288. As such, Louisiana courts may hold a supervisory employee
liable “where he negligently created or negligently failed to
correct a dangerous condition of which he was or should have been
aware under the circumstances.” Fabre v. Travelers Ins. Co., 286
So.2d 459, 464 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1973).
Defendants argue that Tanner cannot be sued in his official capacity
under Section 1983, but plaintiff only brought a state claim against
Tanner for negligent hiring and supervision. Rec. Doc. 12-1 at 13; see
Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 7-8. Therefore, defendants’ “official capacity” argument
should be disregarded.
Plaintiff alleges that Tanner’s failure to supervise and
train the correctional officers created an “atmosphere of violence
between guards and inmates.” Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 6. He further claims
that Tanner ignored reports of assaults, which resulted in ongoing
violence at RCC. Id. Although plaintiff offers evidence indicating
a pattern of unprovoked violence by the officers, nothing in his
deposition or sworn affidavits support the allegation that Tanner
was aware of these assaults yet failed to correct the officers’
Because plaintiff failed to provide evidence of Tanner’s
negligent training and supervision, summary judgment is warranted,
prejudice. Furthermore, because Tanner cannot be found negligent
in this matter, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections
respondeat superior claims must also be dismissed with prejudice.
New Orleans, Louisiana this 30th day of March, 2021
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?