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Curtis v. Bradford

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

September 24, 2018

TORI T. CURTIS
v.
MICHAEL T. BRADFORD

          JURY INSTRUCTIONS

         INTRODUCTION

         Members of the jury, it is now time for me to instruct you about the law that you must follow in deciding this case. I will start by explaining your duties and the general rules that apply in every civil case. Then I will explain the elements, or parts, of the claims in question.

         You have two main duties as a juror: The first is to decide what the facts are from the evidence that you saw and heard here in Court. Deciding what the facts are is your job-not mine. Nothing that I have said or done during this trial was meant to influence your decision about the facts in any way.

         Your second duty is to take the law that I give you and to apply it to the facts. It is my job to instruct you about the law, and you are bound by the oath you took at the beginning of the trial to follow the instructions that I give you, even if you personally disagree with them. This includes the instructions that I gave you during the trial and these instructions now. All of the instructions are important, and you should consider them together as a whole.

         The lawyers may have talked about the law during their arguments. But if what they said is different from what I say, you must follow what I say. What I say about the law controls.

         Perform these duties fairly. Do not let any bias, sympathy, or prejudice that you may feel toward one side or the other influence your decision in any way. The law does not permit you to be governed by sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion. All parties expect that you will carefully and impartially consider all of the evidence, follow the law as I give it to you, and reach a just verdict, regardless of the consequences.

         You should consider and decide this case as a dispute between persons of equal standing in the community, of equal worth, and holding the same or similar stations in life. All persons stand equal before the law and are to be treated as equals.

         You are to consider only the evidence in the case. Unless you are otherwise instructed, the evidence in the case consists of the sworn testimony of the witnesses regardless of who called the witness, all exhibits received in evidence regardless of who may have produced them, and all facts and events that may have been admitted or stipulated to. Statements and arguments by lawyers are not evidence. The lawyers are not witnesses. What they have said in their opening statement, closing arguments, and at other times is intended to help you understand the evidence, but it is not evidence.

         Another part of your job as jurors is to decide how credible, or believable, each witness was. This is your job, not mine. It is up to you to decide if a witness's testimony was believable and how much weight you think it deserves. You are free to believe everything that a witness said, or only part of it, or none of it at all. But you should act reasonably and carefully in making these decisions.

         You are required to evaluate the testimony of a corrections officer as you would the testimony of any other witness. No. special weight may be given to his or her testimony because he or she is a corrections officer.

         You have heard the testimony of several witnesses, including Tori Curtis, the Plaintiff in this case. You have also heard that before this trial, the Plaintiff, as well as witnesses Thomas Wilson, Sr., Brian Crabtree, and Jeffery Monn had been convicted of crimes. The earlier convictions were brought to your attention only as one way of helping you decide how believable their testimony was. Do not use it for any other purpose. It is not evidence of anything else. You may consider other things that you think shed some light on the witness's believability. Use your common sense and your everyday experience in dealing with other people, and then decide what testimony you believe and how much weight you think it deserves. The weight of the evidence does not necessarily depend upon the number of witnesses who testify for either side.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 1

         Burden of Proof

         The Plaintiff has the burden of proving his case against the Defendant by what is called a "preponderance of the evidence." This means that the Plaintiff has to produce evidence that, considered in light of all the facts, leads you to believe that what the Plaintiff claims is more likely true than not.

         The term "preponderance of the evidence" does not, of course, require proof to an absolute certainty, since proof to an absolute certainty is seldom possible in any case.

         In determining whether any fact in issue has been established by a preponderance of the evidence in the case, you may-unless otherwise instructed-consider the testimony of all witnesses, regardless of who may have called them, and all exhibits received into evidence, regardless of who may have produced them.

         You may have heard of the term "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." That is a stricter standard applicable in criminal cases. It does not apply in civil cases, such as this one. Therefore, you should disregard it.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 2

         The Nature of a Retaliation Claim

         I am now going to instruct you as to the law regarding the Plaintiffs First Amendment Retaliation claim. I will first explain the law generally, and then as it applies to the Plaintiffs claims.

         Title 42 of the United States Code, Section 1983 is the federal civil rights statute under which the Plaintiff sues. It provides that a person may seek relief in this Court by way of damages against any person who, under color of state law, subjects such person to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 3

         Elements of a First Amendment Retaliation Claim

         In this case, the Plaintiff claims that the Defendant deprived him of his rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by retaliating against him in response to his engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.

         Specifically, Plaintiff Curtis claims that Defendant Bradford violated his constitutional rights by filing a Disciplinary Report Form regarding the March 8, 2016 shower incident in retaliation for filing a PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) complaint or grievance against Defendant Bradford on November 7, 2015, about four months prior.

         A convicted prisoner loses some constitutional rights, such as the right to liberty, after being convicted of a criminal offense. But a prisoner keeps other constitutional rights. One of those retained rights is the First Amendment right of access to the courts to challenge the constitutionality of his confinement conditions.

         The constitutional right of access to the courts means that a prisoner has the right to file claims or grievances and other papers with the prison or with the court. The same holds true with respect to the grievance-filing process within a prison or jail. The exercise of these rights, or plan to exercise these rights, cannot be the basis for a penalty or further punishment.

         To succeed on this claim, the Plaintiff must prove each of the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence:

         1. He was engaged in a constitutionally protected activity, which includes working on documents for the purpose of filing an internal grievance with the prison, a lawsuit or accessing the court system;

         2. An "adverse action" was taken against him by someone who acted under color of state law; and

         3. There is a causal connection between the adverse action taken and the Plaintiffs constitutionally protected activity, meaning that the adverse action taken against the Plaintiff was ...


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