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Haun v. Erwin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro

March 13, 2018

LESLIE HAUN PLAINTIFF
v.
JAMES ERWIN et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants James Erwin, David Higgs, Michael Robinson, Joseph Meko, and Alex Ford (DN 49). Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff filed a response to the motion (DN 50); Defendants filed a reply (DN 51). For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         I.

         Plaintiff sued the following Defendants: Erwin, the Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC); Higgs, the Deputy Warden at the Green River Correctional Complex (GRCC); Robinson, the Unit Administrator at GRCC; Meko, the Warden of the Little Sandy Correctional Complex (LSCC); and Ford, identified by Plaintiff as the “C&T” Supervisor at LSCC. He sued Defendants in both their official and individual capacities.

         In the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the KDOC and its employees “practiced standards of retaliation” against inmates for using the grievance process. He stated, “This well known retaliation includes but is not limited to transfer to less desirable institutions . . . .” Plaintiff maintained, “Fear of retaliation and/or reprisals prevent thousands of the incarcerated inmates from seeking relief by using the adopted grievance system let alone trying to access the courts for redress the conditions of confinement.” Plaintiff stated, “After exhausting all internal remedies and finally filing for a Declaratory Judgment in Franklin County Circuit Court in which the D.O.C. and Correct Care Solutions . . . employees refused to follow their own policies, even falsifying/forgering documents, ” he was told by Defendant Robinson “‘we're shipping your ass to an open dorm and your job is over.'” According to the complaint and attachments, Plaintiff was transferred from GRCC to Northpoint Training Center (NTC), an open dorm facility, in retaliation for filing grievances. Plaintiff stated, “Open dorm facilities are very detrimental to my documented mental health issues.” He maintained that he lost his prison employment at GRCC as a result of the transfer and that the transfer to an open dorm environment “caused a severe relapse of my mental health issues . . . .” Plaintiff stated, “Such intentional acts of harm are done to prevent those of reasonable firmness of seeking to exercise their First Amendment right of seeking redress of grievances concerning the conditions of their confinement.” Plaintiff maintained that after ten days at NTC he was transferred to LSCC. He asserted, “Th[is] subsequent re-transfer[] ten (10) days after being subjected to an open dorm environment that caused a severe relapse of my mental health issues was done by a very astute and professional psychology department at North Point Center.” Plaintiff stated, “Upon arrival at [LSCC] I was immediately faced with extreme hostility and continual harassments. The obstructions, frustrations and impediments concerning an inmates abilities to redress grievances and/or access the courts is the worst I have ever encountered.” He maintained that “[m]ost of these obstructions are the design and intentional implementation of C&T Supervisor Alex Ford with the approval of Warden Joseph Meko.” Plaintiff stated that he has been denied the use of Lexis Nexis and a typewriter at LSCC. He also represented that “Alex Ford still forces me to allow him to read my legal work with intimidation and aggression. He has also refused to make legal copies during the scheduled times.” Plaintiff stated that the requests for legal copies were made “while litigating a civil action against the DOC . . . .”

         Plaintiff also stated that he was subjected to a “strip search/cell search by [non-Defendant] Sgt. Gilliam for filing a very legitimate conflict grievance on his wife, Jennifer Gilliam an employee for the medical provider, Correct Care Solutions . . . with whom I am currently in litigation with.” He stated, “The over zealous and abusive search was the talk of the inmate population for days. Fear of such treatment and the threat of worse is the desired effect. Currently almost every inmate around is in awe that I haven't been []shipped to E.K.C.C., this is the common practice by L.S.C.C. staff.” Plaintiff also stated that he was sent a memorandum by Meko in which KDOC policies and procedures were “mispresented and implemented to prevent me from filing legitimate grievances on many, many abuses and/or corrupt practices here at L.S.C.C.”

         In an amendment to the complaint, Plaintiff alleged, “Just as my claim has stated in claim 4:16-cv-00043-JHM[] I have once again been retaliated against by transfer. This time to the DOC's most violent and restrictive institutions as I stated was ‘protocol' for inmates seeking to redress grievances concerning the conditions of their confinement.” On the same date, Plaintiff filed a notice of change of address indicating that he had been transferred to the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex (EKCC).

         As relief, Plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

         Upon initial review of the complaint and amendments pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court allowed Plaintiff's claims of retaliation, interference with access to the courts, and interference with legal mail in violation of the First Amendment to proceed against Defendants in their individual and official capacities.

         II.

         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). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         The moving party's burden may be discharged by demonstrating that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's case for which he has the burden of proof. Id. Once the moving party demonstrates this lack of evidence, the burden passes to the nonmoving party to establish, after an adequate opportunity for discovery, the existence of a disputed factual element essential to his case with respect to which he bears the burden of proof. Id. If the record taken as a whole could not lead the trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, the motion for summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmoving party must do more than raise some doubt as to the existence of a fact; the nonmoving party must produce evidence that would be sufficient to require submission of the issue to the jury. Lucas v. Leaseway Multi Transp. Serv., Inc., 738 F.Supp. 214, 217 (E.D. Mich. 1990). The moving party, therefore, is “entitled to a judgment as a matter of law because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he] has the burden of proof.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III.

         A. ...


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