Johnson v. Sootsman et al
OPINION AND ORDER APPROVING AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 58 ; granting the motions for summary judgment 45 , 46 as to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims; dismissing Plaintiff's state-law assault and battery claims; signed by District Judge Jane M. Beckering (lep)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:20-cv-1102
HON. JANE M. BECKERING
CLAIR SOOTSMAN, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Joseph Johnson’s lawsuit is based on an incident that occurred on February 14,
2020, while he was being transferred to general population from intake in the Kalamazoo County
Jail where Defendants were employed. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants Clair Sootsman and Chantel Einhardt violated his Eighth Amendment rights by use of
excessive force and that Defendant Taliah Harris violated his rights by failing to intervene to
prevent the use of such force. Plaintiff also alleges supplemental state-law assault and battery
claims against Defendants Sootsman and Einhardt.
Defendants moved for summary judgment. The matter was referred to the Magistrate
Judge, who issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R), recommending that this Court grant
Defendants’ motions as to the Eighth Amendment claims and decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over the assault and battery claims and dismiss them without prejudice. The matter is
presently before the Court on Plaintiff’s objections to the Report and Recommendation.
Defendants have filed responses to the objections. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and
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FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b)(3), the Court has performed de novo consideration of those portions of the
Report and Recommendation to which objections have been made.
The Court denies the
objections and issues this Opinion and Order.
Defendant Sootsman. As a threshold matter, the Magistrate Judge determined that
Plaintiff waived any collateral estoppel argument as to his Eighth Amendment claim against
Defendant Sootsman (R&R, ECF No. 58 at PageID.939–940). The Magistrate Judge concluded
that on the merits of his claim, no reasonable jury could conclude that Sootsman’s use of force
amounted to an Eighth Amendment violation (id. at PageID.944). In pertinent part, the Magistrate
Judge determined that the entire incident involving force “lasted only about seven seconds, and
the evidence—including the video—shows that Johnson suffered no discernible injury, let alone
an injury requiring medical treatment” (id. at PageID.941). Alternatively, the Magistrate Judge
concluded that Defendant Sootsman was entitled to qualified immunity because Plaintiff has
“failed to demonstrate that the law was established with the requisite degree of specificity to put
Sootsman on notice that his actions violated [Plaintiff’s] clearly established rights” (id.). The
Magistrate Judge pointed out that Plaintiff cites “no Eighth Amendment case with a similar fact
pattern in an effort to meet this burden” (id. at PageID.945).
In his objections to the Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff presents a lengthy factual
recitation and argues that the “issue of causation presents a question of fact” and that “Sootsman’s
admission of an assault and battery, at the very least, creates a question of fact as to his use of
excessive force” (Pl. Obj., ECF No. 59 at PageID.955, 959). Plaintiff’s argument lacks merit. The
Magistrate Judge properly indicated that “[w]hen video evidence is presented, witness testimony
will not create a genuine issue of material fact if the video is unambiguous and answers the
pertinent factual questions” (R&R, ECF No. 58 at PageID.936, citing Shreve v. Franklin Cnty.,
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743 F.3d 126, 132 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380–81 (2007)). While
Plaintiff would answer the factual questions differently, his mere disagreement with the Magistrate
Judge’s findings does not serve to demonstrate error.
As to the Magistrate Judge’s qualified immunity analysis, Plaintiff contends, again with no
citation to authority, that Defendant Sootsman “long had fair and clear warning” that his actions
constituted excessive force (Pl. Obj., ECF No. 59 at PageID.960). Plaintiff’s conclusory statement
fails to demonstrate any factual or legal error in the Magistrate Judge’s alternative recommendation
that Defendant Sootsman is entitled to qualified immunity.
Defendant Einhardt. Turning to Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant
Einhardt, the Magistrate Judge found that the “undisputed evidence shows that Einhardt did not
initiate the force but merely reacted to it by getting Johnson to the ground so that he could be
handcuffed” (R&R, ECF No. 58 at PageID.946). The Magistrate Judge determined that “no
reasonable juror could conclude that Einhardt used force in a malicious or sadistic manner” (id.).
The Magistrate Judge further determined that like his claim against Defendant Sootsman,
Plaintiff’s claim against Einhardt fails under the “clearly established prong” of the qualifiedimmunity test because Plaintiff “fails to identify a case that would have given Einhardt fair notice
that her actions violated Johnson’s clearly established rights” (id.).
In his objections, Plaintiff only briefly references his claim against Defendant Einhardt (Pl.
Obj., ECF No. 59 at PageID.963) and does not specifically reference—let alone identify error in—
the Magistrate Judge’s analysis of this particular Eighth Amendment claim. See W.D. Mich.
LCivR 72.3(b) (instructing that an objection to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation
must “specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations, or report to
which objections are made and the basis for such objections”).
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Defendant Harris. Last, as to Plaintiff’s failure-to-intervene claim against Defendant
Harris, the Magistrate Judge found that “the undisputed evidence shows that the incident involving
force was over in a matter of seconds and, like Einhardt, Harris had no reason to believe that
Sootsman intended to use force on Johnson” (R&R, ECF No. 58 at PageID.947). The Magistrate
Judge opined that “[t]he Eighth Amendment does not require that prison officials be prescient”
(id.). Again, Plaintiff’s objections contain only a brief reference to his claim against Defendant
Harris (Pl. Obj., ECF No. 59 at PageID.963), with no reference to, or any developed argument
about, the Magistrate Judge’s analysis of this particular Eighth Amendment claim.
In sum, the Magistrate Judge carefully and thoroughly analyzed Plaintiff’s federal claims,
and Plaintiff’s objections do not support a result other than the recommendation made by the
Magistrate Judge. Because the federal claims over which this Court has original jurisdiction are
properly dismissed, the Court will, in its discretion, decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over Plaintiff’s remaining state-law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); Royal Truck & Trailer
Sales & Serv., Inc. v. Kraft, 974 F.3d 756, 763 (6th Cir. 2020) (citing Gamel v. City of Cincinnati,
625 F.3d 949, 952 (6th Cir. 2010) (“When all federal claims are dismissed before trial, the balance
of considerations usually will point to dismissing the state law claims[.]”)). Accordingly, this
Court adopts the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation as the Opinion of this Court.
Because this Opinion and Order resolves all pending claims, a Judgment will be entered consistent
with this Opinion and Order. See FED. R. CIV. P. 58. Therefore:
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Objections (ECF No. 59) are DENIED and the
Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 58) is APPROVED and
ADOPTED as the Opinion of the Court.
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IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 45 &
46) are GRANTED as to Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims, which are DISMISSED WITH
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state-law assault and battery claims, and the assault and battery claims
are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Dated: September 19, 2022
/s/ Jane M. Beckering
JANE M. BECKERING
United States District Judge
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