Pritchett v. Wallace et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER..DENYING: 73 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Eric Pritchett, GRANTING 86 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Brett Hays, Defendant Steven Buhs, Defendant Anthony Parker, Defendant Jam es Hack, Defendant Donna Wigfall, Defendant Jessie May, Defendant Clifton Cossey, Defendant Richard Trout, Defendant Kevin McKay, Defendant William Petty, Defendant Cheryl Thompson, Defendant Stephen R. Bergeron, Defendant Ryan Moss, Defenda nt Ian Wallace, Defendant Bobby Cantrell, Defendant Cortney S. Bailey, Defendant Richard B. Lincoln, Defendant Brandi Meridith, Defendant Jared Kline, Defendant Lorene Armstrong, Defendant Bryan Hoskins. Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 2/23/15. (MRS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
IAN WALLACE, et al.,
No. 1:13CV100 SNLJ
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment (#73)
and the remaining defendants’ motion for summary judgment (#86).
The following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff Eric Pritchett has been incarcerated
at Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”) in Charleston, Missouri since October 16,
2012. Defendants are SECC employees Defendants Ian Wallace, Donna Wigfall, Clifton
Cossey, Steven Buhs, Cheryl Thompson, Ryan Moss, Anthony Parker, Jessie May, Bryan
Hoskins, Kevin McKay, Cortney Bailey, Richard Lincoln, Stephen Bergeron, James
Hack, Bobby Cantrell, Lorene Armstrong, Brandi Merideth, Richard Trout, Brett Hays,
Jared Kline, and William Petty.
Plaintiff’s allegations may be categorized into the following five categories --- (1)
Denial of Access to Legal Materials, (2) Retaliation, (3) Denial of Medical Care, (4)
Denial of Due Process, and (5) Prison Conditions.
(1) Denial of Access to Legal Materials. Plaintiff states that his legal materials
were taken from him on October 16, 2012 and not returned. He states that he was in the
process of appealing his criminal convictions and that losing his materials was
detrimental to his case. At his deposition, he stated that his conviction was for statutory
rape and tampering with a witness and that he ultimately had an opportunity to speak
with witnesses regarding his appeal but that those witnesses were not helpful. He also
stated that the did not miss any deadlines.
(2) Retaliation. Plaintiff says he sought Informal Resolution Request (“IRR”) and
other forms to grieve on the matters cited in his complaint but that he was refused.1 He
states that his requests for forms caused the staff to become hostile and retaliate against
him by telling other inmates he was a snitch and threatening conduct violations, isolation,
and physical harm. Plaintiff states that certain defendants issued conduct violations in
retaliation for his complaints; the conduct violations resulted in his losing phone
privileges and money from his account, which deprived him of the ability to make
hygiene item purchases. Plaintiff states defendants Wallace, Cossey, Buhs, Thompson,
Moss, Parker, Kline, May, Hayes, Hoskins, McKay, Bailey, Lincoln, Bergeron, Hack,
Cantrell, Petty,2 Armstrong, and Merideth were responsible for those wrongs. Plaintiff
also says he was left without clothing in a suicide watch cell where he was viewed every
fifteen minutes by a female employee, and, when he complained, he was issued a sexual
misconduct violation. Similarly, plaintiff said he was spied on by a female nurse while
he was in the shower and, when he complained, he was issued a conduct violation and
placed on “meal loaf” as punishment.
Plaintiff’s claims against certain defendants regarding being prevented from filing IRRs and
grievances were dismissed for failure to state a claim.
Plaintiff does not identify a name for a defendant he refers to as Number 18. The Court has
identified this defendant by his Employee Identification number.
Plaintiff also states that on January 8, 2013, he was placed in full restraints on a
chair and pepper sprayed. He states he was left to suffer, covered in pepper spray, for
two hours. He states that conduct violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights
and that defendants Lincoln and McKay were responsible.
(3) Medical treatment. Plaintiff also states that he has requested treatment for
ailments such as cracking and bleeding skin, severe back pain, bumps on his face due to
lack of shaving razors, and hemorrhoids. At his deposition, plaintiff testified that
defendants Bergeron, Wallace, and McKay were responsible for the acts underlying this
(4) Denial of Due Process. Plaintiff says that he had a “hearing” on the abovementioned violations but that he did not receive due process. He complains that although
he asked for MDOC employees to view video footage of the events, his request was
denied. He complains that the statements of corrections officers were believed over his
own, and that his request for witness statements from other inmates were denied. He
states defendants Wallace, Cossey, Buhs, Thompson, Armstrong, and Merideth were
responsible for those wrongs. Plaintiff also alleges that he was issued a conduct violation
for “damage to property” and accused of putting a hole in the “rubber room” door. He
denies causing the hole and requested that the video footage from the camera in the room
be reviewed. He says the prison destroyed the evidence and that defendant Merideth
found him guilty and fined him over $1,100 in violation of his Seventh Amendment right
to trial by jury. He also states that defendant #18 was responsible.
(5) Prison conditions. Plaintiff also complains that he has not had any recreation
in the eight months since arriving at the prison in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. He also states he has been deprived of shaving razors and subjected
to a rat and bug infestation and has been bitten by them. Plaintiff also states he has been
wrongly denied protective custody, despite threats made by other inmates to his safety.
In addition, he states he has not been permitted to make a phone call since August 27,
2012 despite having been allegedly earned the privilege of a phone call on February 10,
2013 by having been conduct violation-free for 30 days. He also states that his limited
funds (caused by the allegedly improper fines) cause him to choose between hygiene
items and stationery.
Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on July 10, 2013.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a district court may grant a
motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that
“there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The
burden is on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op. Inc.,
838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir.1988). After the moving party discharges this burden, the
nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts.
Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead,
the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth affirmative evidence and specific
facts by affidavit and other evidence showing that there is a genuine dispute of a material
fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.
“A dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine’ only ‘if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Herring v. Canada Life
Assur. Co., 207 F.3d 1026, 1030 (8th Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). A
party resisting summary judgment has the burden to designate the specific facts that
create a triable controversy. See Crossley v. Georgia–Pacific Corp., 355 F.3d 1112, 1114
(8th Cir. 2004). Self-serving, conclusory statements without support are not sufficient to
defeat summary judgment. Armour and Co., Inc. v. Inver Grove Heights, 2 F.3d 276, 279
(8th Cir. 1993).
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a
light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and give that party the benefit of
any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587;
Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir. 2005). The court is
required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Robert
Johnson Grain Co. v. Chemical Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir. 1976).
The movant’s statement of facts are deemed admitted if not specifically
controverted by the party opposing the motion. Local Rule 4.01 (E) provides:
A memorandum in support of a motion for summary judgment shall have
attached a statement of uncontroverted material facts, set forth in a
separately numbered paragraph for each fact, indicating whether each fact
is established by the record, and if so, the appropriate citations. Every
memorandum in opposition shall include a statement of material facts as to
which the party contends a genuine issue exists. Those matters in dispute
shall be set forth with specific references to portions of the record, where
available, upon which the opposing party relies. The opposing party also
shall note for all disputed facts the paragraph number from movant’s listing
of facts. All matters set forth in the statement of the movant shall be
deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment unless specifically
controverted by the opposing party.
(emphasis added). Even where all of movant’s statements of fact are deemed admitted,
the Court must look at the entire record to determine whether summary judgment is
With these principles in mind, the Court turns to the discussion.
Defendants contend they are entitled to summary judgment on each of plaintiff’s
claims on the merits. They also argued that they are entitled to summary judgment based
on plaintiff’s failure to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his lawsuit;
however, in the defendants’ reply memorandum, they withdrew exhaustion of remedies
as a ground for summary judgment.
Denial of Access to Legal Materials
Plaintiff alleges that, upon his transfer to SECC, his legal materials were taken
from him and not returned. He states that he asked certain defendants --- Buhs,
Seabaugh, Wigfall, and Cossey --- for the return of his materials, but that his requests
were denied. Specifically, plaintiff states he was unable to provide witness information
or legal research to his attorney in support of his criminal appeal.
At the outset, the Court notes that because personal involvement is required for a §
1983 claim, and because plaintiff testified that only defendants Buhs, Seabaugh, Wigfall,
and Cossey were so involved in this alleged deprivation, the other defendants are entitled
to judgment on that basis. See Beck v. LaFleur, 257 F.3d 764, 765 (8th Cir. 2001)
(requiring § 1983 plaintiff to plead and prove each defendant was personally involved in
deprivation of constitutional right). In addition, plaintiff states in his response brief that
he consents to the dismissal of defendant Wigfall. So the remaining defendants for this
claim are Buhs, Seabaugh, and Cossey.
It is well-settled that “the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts
requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful
legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance
from persons trained in the law.” Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). As the
Supreme Court more recently articulated, Bounds is rooted in a line of cases in which the
Supreme Court protected the right to access to the Courts “by prohibiting state prison
officials from actively interfering with inmates’ attempts to prepare legal documents.”
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350 (1996). The Supreme Court is clear, however, that
Bounds and its progeny do not “create an abstract, freestanding right to a law library or
legal assistance.” Id. Thus, to sustain a claim based on denial of access to legal
materials, plaintiff must prove that he suffered actual injury or prejudice as a result of the
alleged denial of access. Id.; Johnson v. Hamilton, 452 F.3d 967, 973 (8th Cir. 2006).
That is, “the inmate therefore must go one step further and demonstrate that the alleged
shortcomings in the library or legal assistance program hindered his efforts to pursue a
legal claim.” Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351. Lewis offered as examples of injury (1) the
dismissal of a complaint for failure to comply with a technical requirement about which
the prisoner could not have known because of deficient facilities, and (2) the inability to
file a complaint due to inadequacies of the law library. Id. “Finally, we must observe
that the injury requirement is not satisfied by just any type of frustrated legal claim.
Nearly all of the access-to-courts cases in the Bounds line involved attempts by inmates
to pursue direct appeals from the convictions for which they were incarcerated…or
habeas petitions.” Id. at 354; see also Myers v. Hundley, 101 F.3d 542, 544 (8th Cir.
1996) (stating that inmates must “assert that they suffered actual injury to pending or
contemplated legal claims in order to state a constitutional claim”).
Plaintiff has testified that he asked defendants Buhs, Seabaugh, and Cossey for his
legal materials and that they either said no or ignored his requests. Plaintiff said the legal
materials included both witness information and his attorney’s address, so he was unable
to communicate with his attorney. Plaintiff also sought to use the law library but could
not because he was in administrative segregation; he was told he needed to use forms to
request legal resources, but the defendants would not give him the forms. Regardless,
plaintiff has not shown that his appeal --- for which he did have legal representation --was injured by these failings, and defendants must therefore be granted summary
judgment on this claim.
Plaintiff alleges that defendants issued unfounded conduct violations against
plaintiff and denied plaintiff protective custody because plaintiff had requested grievance
forms. Plaintiff identified defendants Thompson, Buhs, Cossey, Wigfall, Brown, Hayes
Bailey, Kline, Moss, Bergeron, Lincoln, Hoskins, Parker, May, Hack, Cantrell, and Petty
as those who retaliated against him (although he has since dropped his claim against
“A prima facie case of retaliatory discipline requires a showing that: (1) the
prisoner exercised a constitutionally protected right; (2) prison officials disciplined the
prisoner; and (3) exercising the right was the motivation for the discipline.” Meuir v.
Greene Cnty. Jail Employees, 487 F.3d 1115, 1119 (8th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff “has a
heavy evidentiary burden to establish a prima facie case.” Id. (citing Murphy v. Mo.
Dept. of Corr., 769 F.2d 502, 503 n.1 (8th Cir. 1985)). “Merely alleging that an act was
retaliatory is insufficient.” Id. Moreover, “claims of retaliation fail if the alleged
retaliatory conduct violations were issued for the actual violation of a prison rule. …
Thus, a defendant may successfully defend a retaliatory discipline claim by showing
‘some evidence’ the inmate actually committed a rule violation.” Hartsfield v. Nichols,
511 F.3d 826, 829 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted). Under this standard, “a
report from a correctional officer, even if disputed by the inmate and supported by no
other evidence, legally suffices as ‘some evidence’ upon which to base a prison
disciplinary violation, if the violation is found by an impartial decisionmaker.” Id. at
831. Each of the conduct violations issued by defendants Brown, Hayes Bailey, Kline,
Moss, Bergeron, Lincoln, Parker, May, Hack, Cantrell, and Petty alleged to have been
retaliatory were supported by a report from a correctional officer and were made by an
impartial decisionmaker.3 As for defendants Thompson, Buhs, and Cossey, plaintiff was
not disciplined by those individuals. Defendants will thus be granted summary judgment
on plaintiff’s retaliation claims.
Denial of Medical Care
Plaintiff claims he was denied appropriate medical care related to an exposure to
pepper spray. At his deposition, plaintiff testified that defendant Bergeron, Wallace, and
McKay were involved in denial of care after that incident. To prevail on a claim based
on denial of medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must show (1)
he had a serious medical need of which defendants were aware, and (2) that the
defendants’ deliberate indifference to that need caused harm to the plaintiff. Mason v.
Corr. Med. Servs., Inc., 559 F.3d 880, 885 (8th Cir. 2009).
Plaintiff did not dispute the facts set forth by defendants in their statement of undisputed facts
(#87-1) and thus they are admitted for the purpose of summary judgment. Mo. E.D. Local Rule
Here, plaintiff testified that he did not know whether defendants Wallace and
McKay were even aware that pepper spray had been used on him. Similarly, plaintiff
testified that Bergeron was involved in restraining him in a restraint chair. Plaintiff also
states (contrary to defendants’ assertions) that Bergeron sprayed him in the restraint chair
in response to plaintiff’s taunting Bergeron about not being able to get the restraints on.
Significantly, plaintiff does not say that Bergeron knew he was suffering or that Bergeron
refused to call for a nurse. Plaintiff does not dispute that he cannot establish the personal
involvement of any defendant; rather, he suggests that he should have been afforded
counsel to investigate and that medical staff do not wear proper identification.
Notably, plaintiff does not claim excessive force was used; rather, his claim is
entirely couched as one of failure to obtain medical treatment. However, plaintiff does
not offer any evidence regarding anyone exhibiting deliberate indifference to a serious
medical need. In fact, plaintiff testified that a nurse came by to check the restraints, but
he generically says he got “no real medical attention.” Summary judgment will be
granted to defendants on this claim.
Denial of Due Process
Plaintiff claims his due process rights were violated when he was issued conduct
violations without being allowed a hearing or to offer the video and other evidence he
desired. In particular, plaintiff complains that he was wrongfully fined more than $1,000
after being accused of damaging a wall in his cell; plaintiff states that the Constitution
requires that he be afforded a jury trial for recover of any amount exceeding $20.
Plaintiff is mistaken, however: due process does not require a jury trial for all takings.
See Tull v. United States, 481 U.S. 412, 427 (1987). In addition, plaintiff failed to identify
the defendants who allegedly were responsible for denying him due process. As with
plaintiff’s other constitutional claims, plaintiff must show “sufficient personal
involvement” by one or more defendants to maintain his due process claim. Beck, 257
F.3d at 766. Plaintiff has not done so here, as he does not identify the individual or
individuals responsible for the alleged due process violation. Plaintiff does not dispute
his failure to do so. In addition, “[d]ue process requirements are satisfied if some
evidence—that is, any evidence in the record—supports the disciplinary decision.” Rudd
v. Sargent, 866 F.2d 260, 262 (8th Cir. 1989). Summary judgment must therefore be
granted to defendants.
Plaintiff claims that he suffered injuries including pain in his joints from lack of
recreation time, facial scars from a lack of razors, and that he felt unsafe as a result of
being denied protective custody. Defendants contend they are entitled to summary
judgment on these claims because plaintiff has not shown sufficient injury to maintain a
claim. The harm related to a denial of recreation time must rise to a threat to the inmate’s
health or muscle atrophy. Wishon v. Gammon, 978 F.2d 446, 449 (8th Cir. 1992). Here,
plaintiff clams that he feels joint pain, which falls well short of a threat to his health.
With respect to plaintiff’s claim that he was psychologically harmed by not being
placed in protective custody, plaintiff must show physical injury before being entitled to
emotional distress damages. Williams v. Hobbs, 662 F.3d 994, 1011 (8th Cir. 2011).
Plaintiff has not done so here.
Finally, plaintiff claims his face broke out and then developed scars due to a lack
of razors. He suggests that his inability to shave his face caused “bumps” on his face that
turned into “open sores” that eventually scarred over. In his response memorandum,
plaintiff also states that his lack of access to hygiene items caused him to have permanent
unpleasant body odor. “A long-term, repeated deprivation of adequate hygiene supplies
violates inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights.” Myers v. Hundley, 101 F.3d 542, 544 (8th
Cir. 1996). However, “extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions-ofconfinement claim. Because routine discomfort is part of the penalty that criminal
offenders pay for their offenses against society, only those deprivations denying the
minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of
an Eighth Amendment violation.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (internal
quotations and citations omitted). Plaintiff’s complaints here do not rise to the level of
extreme deprivations necessary to make out an Eighth Amendment claim, and summary
judgment will be granted to defendants on this point.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (#73)
The plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment focuses on his due process claim.
The substance of plaintiff’s argument is discussed above, and the motion is denied for the
same reasons defendants’ motion is granted.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants’ motion for summary judgment is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is
Dated this 23rd day of February, 2015.
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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