Alford v. Pike County Detention Center et al
ORDER denying 69 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; adopting Report and Recommendations re 98 Report and Recommendations.; finding as moot 100 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply re 98 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 69 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Henry Hinton, Jr. Signed by Honorable David C. Bramlette, III on 6/1/2017 (ECW)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
HENRY HINTON, JR.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:15-cv-77(DCB)(MTP)
PIKE COUNTY, ET AL.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
This cause is before the Court on the plaintiff Henry Hinton,
Jr.’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (docket entry 69), on
Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker’s Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) regarding same (docket entry 98), on the plaintiff’s Motion
for Extension of Time to file his objections to the R&R (docket
entry 100), and on the plaintiff’s objections (docket entry 102).
The Court has carefully considered the plaintiff’s motions and the
Magistrate Judge’s R&R, as well as the plaintiff’s objections to
the R&R, and finds as follows:
Magistrate Judge Parker filed his R&R on April 11, 2017.
April 24, 2017, the plaintiff filed his motion for additional time
to file objections, and on April 26, 2017, he filed his objections.
Because both the motion for additional time and the objections were
timely filed, the Court shall grant the plaintiff’s motion for
Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985).
hearing, alleges events which took place while the plaintiff was
incarcerated at the Pike County Jail.
According to the plaintiff,
he entered the jail as a pretrial detainee on June 30, 2014, and
was housed in the jail as a pretrial detainee until October 6,
possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
The plaintiff further alleges that at the time of his arrest,
police officers seized $7,746.00 from him. Thereafter, he attended
a forfeiture hearing in county court, during which the money was
The plaintiff asserts that because he did not
have access to a law library and other legal assistance, he lost at
the forfeiture hearing and missed his opportunity to appeal the
According to the plaintiff, if he had had
prevailed at the forfeiture hearing or on appeal because the State
wrongfully used his Alford plea2 to support the forfeiture. The
plaintiff claims that Sheriff Mark Sheppard, as the policy maker,
should have provided the plaintiff access to a law library or legal
In an Alford plea, sometimes referred to as a “best interest plea,” an
accused “may voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly consent to the
imposition of a prison sentence even if he is unwilling or unable to admit his
participation in the acts constituting the crime.” North Carolina v. Alford,
400 U.S. 25, 37 (1970). A trial court may accept an Alford plea if “the
record before the judge contains strong evidence of actual guilt.” Id.
The plaintiff also asserts a failure-to-protect claim and claims
regarding the conditions of his confinement. In addition to Sheriff Sheppard,
the plaintiff names Pike County, Captain Glen Green, and Lieutenant Smith as
On November 14, 2016, the plaintiff filed his Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment (docket entry 69), arguing that he has
established all of the elements of his denial-of-access-to-court
claim and that he is entitled to summary judgment against defendant
Sheriff Mark Sheppard.
Sheriff Sheppard did not respond to the
In his R&R, Magistrate Judge Parker does not recommend
granting the motion as unopposed, but instead examines its merits.
See L.U.Civ.R. 7(b)(3)(E); Hetzel v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 50 F.3d
360, 362 (5th Cir. 1995).
The Court may grant summary judgment only if, viewing the
facts in a light most favorable to the non-movant, the movant
demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and
that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Smith, 60 F.3d 1161, 1164 (5th Cir. 1995).
If the movant fails to
discharge the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue
concerning any material fact, summary judgment must be denied.
John v. Louisiana, 757 F.2d 698, 708 (5th Cir. 1985). The existence
of an issue of material fact is a question of law that the Court
must decide, and in making that decision, it must “draw inferences
most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and take care that
no party will be improperly deprived of a trial of disputed factual
issues.” Id. at 712.
However, “[c]onclusional allegations and
defendants. See Omnibus Order (docket entry 65). The Court addresses these
claims in a separate Order Adopting Report and Recommendation.
substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.”
Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002).
In his Motion for Summary Judgment (docket entry 69), the
illegally used his Alford plea to support its forfeiture claim.
The plaintiff further asserts that had he been provided access to
a law library or legal assistance he would have prevailed at the
forfeiture hearing or on appeal.
Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Bounds v. Smith, 430
U.S. 817, 821 (1977), prisoners possess a constitutional right of
access to courts, including having the “ability ... to prepare and
transmit a necessary legal document to court.” Eason v. Thaler, 73
F.3d 1322, 1328 (5th Cir. 1996)(quoting Brewer v. Wilkinson, 3 F.3d
816, 821 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1123 (1994)).
right of access to the courts is limited to allow prisoners the
convictions or conditions of confinement.
F.3d 322, 325 (5th Cir. 1999).
Jones v. Greninger, 188
“Interference with a prisoner’s
right to access to the courts, such as delay, may result in a
Chriceol v. Phillips, 169 F.3d 313,
317 (5th Cir. 1999)(citations omitted).
However, “[a] denial-of-access-to-the-courts claim is not
valid if a litigant’s position is not prejudiced by the alleged
Ruiz v. United States, 160 F.3d 273, 275 (5th Cir.
1998); Henthorn v. Swinson, 955 F.2d 351, 354 (5th Cir. 1992), cert.
denied, 504 U.S. 988 (1992)(citing Richardson v. McDonnell, 841
F.2d 120, 122 (5th Cir. 1988)).
It is only when a prisoner suffers
some sort of actual prejudice or detriment because of the alleged
denial of access to the courts that the allegation becomes one of
a constitutional nature.
Walker v. Navarro County Jail, 4 F.3d
410, 413 (5th Cir. 1993); see also Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d
639, 642 (7th Cir. 1987). To prove his claim, a plaintiff must show
real detriment - a true denial of access, such as the loss of a
motion, the loss of a right to commence, prosecute or appeal in a
court, or substantial delay in obtaining a judicial determination
in a proceeding.
Oaks v. Wainwright, 430 F.2d 241, 242 (5th Cir.
In support of his Motion for Summary Judgment, the plaintiff
submits (1) an order issued by the County Court of Pike County
ruling that the $7,746.00 found in the plaintiff’s possession
should be forfeited to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics; (2) a
letter the plaintiff sent to the Pike County Circuit Clerk, in
which he requests assistance; and (3) the Circuit Clerk’s response
to the plaintiff’s letter.
See Exhibits 69-1, 69-2, and 69-3.
This evidence submitted by the plaintiff does not establish an
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and does not entitle
him to a judgment as a matter of law.
Mississippi Code Annotated
§ 41-29-179(2) provides as follows:
If the owner of the property has filed an answer denying
that the property is subject to forfeiture, then the
burden is on the petitioner to prove that the property is
subject to forfeiture. However, if an answer has not
been filed by the owner of the property, the petition for
forfeiture may be introduced into evidence and is prima
facie evidence that the property is subject to
The standard of proof placed upon the
petitioner in regard to property forfeited under the
provisions of this article shall be by a preponderance of
Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-179(2).
The burden of proof in a forfeiture action differs from that
involved in a criminal trial. The government need not prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that a connection exists between the forfeited
property and the illegal activity.
Thus, a criminal conviction is
not a prerequisite to a civil forfeiture.
See State ex rel.
Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics v. Lincoln County, 605 So. 2d 802,
804 (Miss. 1992).
Mississippi Code Annotated § 41-29-153 identifies property
subject to forfeiture, including money.
provides that “[a]ll monies, coin and currency found in close
proximity to forfeitable controlled substances ... are presumed to
be forfeitable under this paragraph; the burden of proof is upon
claimants of the property to rebut this presumption.”
The order issued by the County Court of Pike County states
that the “Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics has put forth proof that
property at issue is subject to forfeiture under the provisions of
§§ 4-29-153(a)(5) and 41-29-153(a)(7) of the Mississippi Code of
1972, as amended, having been used, or intended for use, in
violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Law and having been
found in close proximity to forfeitable controlled substances, towit: marijuana.”
See Exhibit 69-1.
The record indicates that the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics
did not simply submit the plaintiff’s Alford plea as evidence, but
proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the money at issue
was found in close proximity to forfeitable controlled substances
and was used, or was intended for use, in violation of the Uniform
Controlled Substances Law. Thus, even if the Bureau was prohibited
by law from using the plaintiff’s Alford plea to form the basis for
the forfeiture, as argued by the plaintiff, there remain genuine
issues of material fact.
At a minimum, there exist genuine issues of material fact
regarding the evidence submitted by the Bureau and what role, if
The plaintiff has failed to establish that he
suffered some sort of actual prejudice or detriment resulting from
the alleged denial of access as required for such claims.
Oaks, 430 F.2d at 242.
Magistrate Judge Parker concludes that the plaintiff has
failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine
issue of material fact, and has failed to show that he is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.
The R&R recommends that the
plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment be denied, and the Court
agrees with the recommendation.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the plaintiff’s Motion for Extension
of Time to file his objections to the R&R (docket entry 100) is
GRANTED retroactively, inasmuch as the motion was timely made, and
the plaintiff’s objections were timely filed;
FURTHER ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker’s
Report and Recommendation (docket entry 98) is ADOPTED in its
entirety as the findings and conclusions of this Court;
Summary Judgment (docket entry 69) is DENIED.
SO ORDERED, this the 1st day of June, 2017.
/s/ David Bramlette
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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