Butler v. Hernandez et al
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY AND DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER granting in part 25 Motion to Compel; granting in part 32 Motion for Protective Order.(Signed by Magistrate Judge Jason B Libby) Parties notified.(mserpa, 2)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
CORPUS CHRISTI DIVISION
JIMMY ARNEAL BUTLER,
JOSE H HERNANDEZ, et al,
May 19, 2017
David J. Bradley, Clerk
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:16-CV-435
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY
AND DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER
Pending is Plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery (D.E. 25), Defendants’ response
(D.E. 33), and Defendants’ motion for a protective order (D.E. 32). Plaintiff’s motion to
compel and Defendants’ motion for protective order are each GRANTED in part as set
Plaintiff Jimmy Arneal Butler is a Texas inmate appearing pro se and in forma
pauperis. He filed this prisoner civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging,
among other things, Defendants Garrett Dressler and Christopher Lane were deliberately
indifferent to his safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they failed to protect
him from the violent attack of an inmate named Broomfield. In Plaintiff’s motion to
compel discovery, he alleges Defendants have failed to answer his discovery requests.
(D.E. 25). Defendants Dressler and Lane respond that they have provided Plaintiff with
documents responsive to his requests for production, but they have not answered his
interrogatories because they believe they are entitled to qualified immunity1 and as such
are shielded from the burden of litigation until the Court rules on the issue of qualified
The Fifth Circuit “has established a careful procedure under which a district court
may defer its qualified immunity ruling if further factual development is necessary to
ascertain the availability of that defense.” Backe v. LeBlanc, 691 F.3d 645, 648 (5th Cir.
2012). The Court must find that the plaintiff has pled “specific facts that both allow the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the harm he has
alleged and that defeat a qualified immunity defense with equal specificity.” Id. “[I]f the
court remains ‘unable to rule on the immunity defense without further clarification of the
facts,’ it may issue a discovery order ‘narrowly tailored to uncover only those facts
needed to rule on the immunity claim.’” Id. (citation omitted).
The undersigned summarized Plaintiff’s allegations as follows in the
Memorandum and Recommendation to retain this case:
Plaintiff alleges he was previously assaulted by inmate
Broomfield with a homemade dart. The dart hit a correctional
officer, which is some indication officers assigned to work in
that area should be aware of Broomfield’s intent to assault
Further, Plaintiff alleges he personally told
Lieutenant Jose Hernandez inmate Broomfield had threatened
Plaintiff and that inmate Broomfield could get out of his cell.
Plaintiff also alleges officers in the segregation unit were
Qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for civil
damages so long as their conduct does not violate clearly established rights of which a reasonable person would
have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). To overcome a defense of qualified immunity, the
plaintiff must satisfy a “two-prong test.” Atteberry v. Nocona Gen. Hosp., 430 F.3d 245, 253 (5th Cir.2005). First,
the plaintiff must allege that the defendants committed a constitutional violation under current law. Id. Second, the
plaintiff must allege that “the defendants’ actions were objectively unreasonable in light of the law that was clearly
established at the time of the actions complained of.” Id.
aware inmate Broomfield could get out of his cell but had
been intimidated by inmate Broomfield to the extent he was
not moved to a more secure cell.
Further, Plaintiff alleges Officers Dressler and Lane made no
effort to stop or otherwise prevent the apparently imminent
threat from inmate Broomfield. From Plaintiff’s perspective,
there was no effort to ensure inmate Broomfield’s cell was
adequately secured or that inmate Broomfield remained in his
cell. Further, Plaintiff alleges Officers Dressler and Lane
retreated which allowed inmate Broomfield to beat Plaintiff
who was unable to defend himself because these defendants
had placed Plaintiff in handcuffs. Finally, Plaintiff has
alleged Lt. Hernandez was aware of the threat but chose to do
nothing because Lieutenant Hernandez does not like
“snitches.” The circumstances of an inmate exiting his
locked cell and entering the cell of another inmate who was
handcuffed at the time make this serious allegation more than
speculative or conclusory.
(D.E. 9, pp. 6-7).
Plaintiff has pled sufficient facts to allow the court to draw the reasonable
inference that Defendants are liable for the harm alleged and that defeat a qualified
immunity defense with equal specificity. Williams v. Mueller, 13 F.3d 1214, 1216 (8th
Cir. 1994) (“A prison official acts with deliberate indifference to an inmate’s safety when
the official is present at the time of an assault and fails to intervene or otherwise act to
end the assault.”); Morales v. New York State Dep’t of Corrections, 842 F.2d 27, 29–30
(2d Cir.1988) (prison official’s failure to take any action whatsoever when he saw one
inmate assaulting another violated the Eighth Amendment).
clarification is necessary before a ruling can be made on the issue of qualified immunity.
Therefore, the undersigned will order limited discovery relevant to the issue of the
Defendants’ defense of qualified immunity.
Discovery shall be limited to the personal knowledge and conduct of Defendants
as it relates to Plaintiff being assaulted by inmate Broomfield on about January 8, 2016.
Discovery may include:
1. Defendants’ involvement, observation, intervention or
lack of intervention of the assault;
2. Defendants’ knowledge of the animosity or conflict
between inmate Broomfield and Plaintiff;
3. the Defendants’ knowledge of inmates being able to exit
their locked cell without permission, including inmate
4. Defendants’ training in dealing with inmate on inmate
assaults or fights.
It is therefore ORDERED that Defendants shall respond to Plaintiff’s discovery
requests within the parameters set forth above.
It is further ORDERED that Defendants are protected from discovery of matters
outside the parameters set forth in this order until the issues of qualified immunity have
It is further ORDERED that any relief requested not specifically granted in this
order is denied without prejudice.
ORDERED this 19th day of May, 2017.
Jason B. Libby
United States Magistrate Judge
Defendants’ dispositive motion is due on June 8, 2017.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?