Young v. Board of Supervisors of Humphreys County, Mississippi et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 40 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Michael P. Mills on 8/23/17. (lpm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
Civil Action No.: 4:16-cv-00066-MPM-JMV
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF HUMPHREYS
COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court for consideration on Plaintiff Carl Young’s Motion
for Summary Judgment on the Issue of Defendants’ Liability (the “Motion”) . Defendants
Board of Supervisors of Humphreys County, Mississippi (“the Board”) and Board president
“Dickie” Stevens have each filed a Response to the Motion , to which Plaintiff filed a
Rebuttal . The Court has considered the Motion, Responses, and Rebuttal, as well as
relevant case law and evidence, and is now prepared to rule.
Young commenced this action by filing his Complaint against Humphreys County Board
of Supervisors, Board President “Dickie” Stevens, and unknown John Does 1-5, based upon
what he argues was the unlawful condemnation and subsequent taking of three of his properties
in Humphreys County. Young claims a violation of his due process under the 14th Amendment,
further claiming that Defendants are in violation of state law and are liable under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Plaintiff asserts claims of trespass to property and conversion of property against the
Defendants. Defendant Stevens has offered qualified immunity as a defense to the claims against
him. On June 1, 2017, Plaintiff moved for Summary Judgment on the issue of the Defendants’
liability, which is the instant motion before the Court.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is proper “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.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the court must
“draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133,
150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). Once the moving party shows there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact, the nonmoving party “must come forward with specific facts
showing a genuine factual issue for trial.” Harris ex rel. Harris v. Pontotoc Cty. Sch. Dist., 635
F.3d 685, 690 (5th Cir. 2011). “[A] party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory
allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or ‘only a scintilla of evidence.’” Turner v. Baylor
Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37
F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)).
B. Qualified Immunity Standard
The doctrine of qualified immunity shields a governmental official from civil liability for
damages based upon the performance of discretionary functions if the official's acts did not
violate clearly established constitutional or statutory law of which a reasonable person would
have known. Easter v. Powell, 467 F.3d 459, 462 (5th Cir. 2006). It is well established that a
defendant who “pleads qualified immunity and shows he is a governmental official whose
position involves the exercise of discretion” thereby places the burden on the plaintiff to “rebut
this defense by establishing that the official's allegedly wrongful conduct violated clearly
established law.” Pierce v. Smith, 117 F.3d 866, 871-72 (5th Cir.1997). The defendant “need
only plead his good faith, which then shifts the burden to the plaintiff[…].”Michalik v. Hermann,
422 F.3d 252, 262 (5th Cir. 2005)(internal citations omitted). The plaintiff must then “rebut the
defense by establishing that the officer's allegedly wrongful conduct violated clearly established
law.” Id. at 262. Further, “[t]he plaintiff bears the burden of negating the defense and cannot rest
on conclusory allegations and assertions but must demonstrate genuine issues of material fact
regarding the reasonableness of the officer's conduct.” Id. at 262.
Returning to the motion at hand, the Plaintiff must show that there is no genuine issue of
material fact in order to prevail. In addition, the inferences drawn from the circumstantial
evidence “must be the only ones which reasonably could be drawn from the evidence presented.”
Mississippi Valley Gas Co. v. Estate of Walker, 725 So. 2d 139, 145 (Miss. 1998). In his motion,
the Plaintiff argues that Charles Edwards informed Mr. Young “that he could do no further work
on his properties until Mr. Young met with the Board of Supervisors on October 5, 2015.”
(emphasis added). However, Defendant Humphreys County asserts in their Response that
“Defendant Stevens then instructed Mr. Edwards to post a sign on the properties that work could
not continue until the owner contacted the Board of Supervisors.” (emphasis added). Defendant
adds that Young did not contact the Board after speaking with Mr. Edwards. This difference,
between stopping work until October 5th or stopping work until speaking with the Board, is
material to understanding if the stop in work was brief, and also if the Plaintiff did anything to
mitigate his alleged damages. This material fact is not the only dispute between the parties, as
other conflicting material facts are also at issue.
Further, in his Rebuttal, the Plaintiff insinuates that Defendant Stevens operated
maliciously, acting against the Plaintiff because they were political rivals. It appears this claim is
unsubstantiated and amounts to a mere conclusory allegation, upon which this court cannot grant
summary judgment. In addition, the Motion concludes that “Defendant Stevens had no legal
right to take such actions.” Although Stevens has not filed any Motion for Summary Judgment
on the basis of his qualified immunity, he has asserted qualified immunity as a defense, and
represents that his actions were in the service of the public. Once qualified immunity is asserted
as a defense, “the plaintiff bears the burden of negating the defense and cannot rest on
conclusory allegations” and must “demonstrate genuine issues of material fact regarding the
reasonableness” of the conduct at issue. Michalik v. Hermann, 422 F.3d 252, 262 (5th Cir. 2005).
As the Plaintiff relies on conclusory allegations and the material facts of this case are in conflict,
this Court denies the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
“[S]ummary judgment for the moving party is only proper when a rational jury, looking
at the record as a whole, could not find for the nonmoving party.” Simmons v. Ford Motor Co.,
2006 WL 3760521, at *2 (S.D. Miss. Dec. 15, 2006) (citing Matshushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)). Based on the
evidence provided, the Court finds that a rational jury could rule in Defendants’ favor, making
summary judgment improper.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that Young’s Motion for Summary Judgment  is
SO ORDERED, this the 23rd day of August, 2017.
/s/ MICHAEL P. MILLS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
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