Vaughn v. Hollomon
Memorandum Opinion and Order. 61 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants in their official capacities is granted. The claims against Defendants in their individual capacities shall proceed. Signed by Magistrate Judge Linda R. Anderson on 9/5/2017. (ACF)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
TABARUS DEVANTE VAUGHN
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16cv25-LRA
AND REGINALD BROWN
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Tabarus Devante Vaughn sued Defendants James Hollomon and
Regenald Brown in both their individual and in their official capacities. Defendants have
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment , asking that the claims made against them in
their official capacities be dismissed on the basis of Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Jurisdiction of this case is based upon 42 U.S.C. §1983. Plaintiff was housed in
the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility [CMCF] in Rankin County, Mississippi, in
the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections [MDOC] in November 2015.
Plaintiff testified at the hearing conducted by this Court that on November 26, 2015, he
was trying to use the phone to order from the commissary for the holidays and he put his
arm out of his door slot. Defendant Hollomon grabbed his arm and started beating his
arms and legs. Once it was over, Officer Bolton came to his cell to ask Plaintiff what had
happened. Plaintiff told him about the incident and showed him his swollen wrist and
cuts; Bolton said he would get Plaintiff medical attention. Bolton called Defendant
Reginald Brown to escort Plaintiff to the 720 Medical Clinic, but Defendant Hollomon
also showed up to escort him. Hollomon put restraints on Plaintiff really tight, and he
was barely able to walk. Plaintiff showed Officer Brown the burns on his legs, and
Defendant Hollomon threatened Plaintiff in front of Brown. As they walked, Defendant
Hollomon pushed Plaintiff down the stairs. Brown never tried to intervene or stop
Hollomon from assaulting him.
Plaintiff asked for $12,000 in compensatory damages and $7,000 in punitive
damages in his initial Complaint . He was allowed to amend to raise the damages
amount to $75,000 in compensatory damages from each Defendant and $19,000 in
punitive damages from each Defendant [52, 66]. In Plaintiff's initial Complaint , he
named Hollomon "in his official capacity," not mentioning his personal capacity. In the
Amended Complaint , he named both Hollomon and Brown in their "official capacity."
He also requested to sue Defendants in their individual capacities by “request” filed
February 23, 2016 . Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend  was granted by the Court as
unopposed ; he clarifies that he sued Defendants in both capacities. In Plaintiff's
response  to this Motion for Summary Judgment, he states that he has "made it
known" through his Amended Complaint and in other documents that he is suing in both
Defendants’ individual and personal capacities as well as in their official capacities.
Defendants do not deny that they have been sued in their individual capacities.
Defendants have moved for the dismissal of Vaughn's official capacity claims on
the grounds that they are barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. This motion,
because it is based on Eleventh Amendment immunity, is considered under Rule 12(b)(1)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See e.g. Warnock v. Pecos Cnty., Tex., 88 F.3d
341, 343 (5th Cir. 1996)(“Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity deprives a federal
court of jurisdiction to hear a suit against a state.”)(citing Pennhurst State Sch. and Hosp.
v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984)). Under Rule 12(b)(1), a district court may grant
dismissal based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction in cases in which it appears certain
that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle
him to relief. See Saraw P’ship v. United States, 67 F.3d 567, 569 (5th Cir. 1995). When
deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the
court may consider “the complaint alone, the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts
evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the
court’s resolution of disputed facts.” Ynclan v. Department of the Air Force, 943 F.2d
1388, 1390 (5th Cir. 1991). This Court is utilizing the facts as set forth by Plaintiff in his
Complaint, as supplemented by his sworn testimony.
The Court finds that Defendants are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity as
to the claims for monetary relief in their official capacities. The Eleventh Amendment
provides: '[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any
suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by
Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." The narrow
language of this amendment has been broadly construed by the Supreme Court "to
embrace the larger principle that a state is granted immunity from suits initiated by
private entities or persons in federal courts, if the State has not consented to such suits."
Coolbaugh v. Louisiana ex rel. La. Dep't of Public Safety & Corr., 136 F.3d 430, 433 (5th
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution “bars an individual
from suing a state in federal court unless the state consents to suit or Congress has clearly
and validly abrogated the state’s sovereign immunity.” Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Serv.
Ctr., 307 F.3d 318, 326 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing U.S. CONST. amend. XI; College Sav. Bank
v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666, 670 (1999)). The
scope of the immunity provided by the Eleventh Amendment “extends to any state agency
or entity deemed an “alter ego” or “arm” of the state.” Id. at 326 (citing Vogt v. Board of
Comm’rs, 294 F.3d 684, 688-89 (5th Cir. 2002)).
In the context of a § 1983 claim, "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,"
and consequently "it is no different from a suit against the State itself." Will v. Mich.
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). The Mississippi Department of Corrections
is an arm of the state, so its officers and employees are, in fact, officers and employees of
the state, and are likewise entitled to sovereign immunity from monetary damages in their
official capacity. See Am Bank and Trust Co. v. Dent, 982 F.2d 917, 921 (5th Cir. 1993)
(citing Will, 491 U.S. at 71).
As Vaughn's federal law claims for monetary damages against Hollomon and
Brown in their official capacities are treated as claims against the State of Mississippi,
and as Mississippi is immune from such claims under the Eleventh Amendment, the Court
finds that Hollomon and Brown are likewise immune from these claims. See e.g. Hopkins
v. Mississippi, 634 F. Supp. 2d 709, 711 (S.D. Miss. 2009)(explaining that the “Eleventh
Amendment prohibits suits against state officials acting in their official capacities where
the plaintiff seeks monetary relief, or retroactive injunctive or declaratory relief based on
allegations that the defendant state officials violated federal law.”)(citing Pennhurst State
Sch. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 102-03 (1984)).
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that:
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #61] is hereby granted, and
the claims against Defendants in their official capacities are dismissed. Plaintiff shall be
allowed to proceed as to his claims made against these Defendants in their personal and
SO ORDERED this the 5th day of September, 2017.
/s/ Linda R. Anderson
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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