United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on several motions. First,
Plaintiff William Madden filed a Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment. [DN 21]. Second, Defendants Travis Bradley, Amy
Fisher, Jonathan Grate, DeEdra Hart, and Michael Spindler
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [DN 30]. Third,
Plaintiff filed a Motion to Clarify the Record. [DN 25].
Fourth, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension of Time. [DN
48]. Finally, Defendants filed a Motion to Hold Scheduling
Order in Abeyance. [DN 50]. Fully briefed, these matters are
ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein:
Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, [DN 21],
is DENIED; Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, [DN
30], is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART; Plaintiff's
Motion to Clarify the Record, [DN 25], is GRANTED;
Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time, [DN 48], is
GRANTED; and Defendant's Motion to Hold Scheduling Order
in Abeyance, [DN 50], is GRANTED.
is incarcerated at Kentucky State Penitentiary
(“KSP”). He brought this action against five
prison officials in their official and individual capacities:
Kentucky Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner
Jonathan Grate, KSP Warden DeEdra Hart, KSP Unit
Administrators Michael Spindler and Travis Bradley, and KSP
Classification Treatment Officer Amy Fisher. [DN 1].
Plaintiff claims that when he was incarcerated at Eastern
Kentucky Correctional Complex (“EKCC”), he was
erroneously issued a green uniform that is worn only by
inmates in protective custody. [DN 1 at 4]. Plaintiff wore
the green uniform from approximately March 15, 2018 to June
11, 2018. [DN 44-2 at 425]. He alleges that other inmates
assumed, based on this uniform, that Plaintiff was a child
molester or an informant and this led to threats of extortion
and violence by other prisoners. [DN 1 at 4]. Plaintiff
claims that when he was transferred to Western Kentucky
Correctional Complex (“WKCC”) on June 14, 2018,
he continued to face extortion attempts and was assaulted on
December 3, 2018. [DN 44-2 at 425]. Soon after this attack,
Plaintiff was transferred to KSP. Id. In February
2019, he claims he was approached by gang members who stated
“they knew what happened with [Plaintiff] at Eastern,
and [Plaintiff] would have to pay them to stay on the
yard” at KSP. [DN 44-5 at 594]. When Plaintiff informed
them that he would not pay, they threatened to stab him. [DN
1 at 5]. After this incident, Plaintiff did not leave his
cell unless it was necessary. Id. However, on March
11, 2019, Plaintiff was required to enter the prison
cafeteria where he was attacked by another inmate.
Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff believes this altercation was
a direct result of his refusal to pay the gang members.
Id. at 6.
Plaintiff informed prison officials that his safety was at
risk and requested protective custody to prevent further
assaults. Id. Pursuant to KSP policy, Defendant
Fisher opened an investigation into whether Plaintiff was in
danger, but ultimately concluded the protective custody
request should be denied. [DN 311 at 282]. On April 8, 2019,
Defendants Spindler and Bradley conducted a hearing regarding
Plaintiff's protective custody request. Id. at
283. After reviewing Fisher's investigation and taking
Plaintiff's statement, the Committee denied the request.
Id. On May 17, 2019, Plaintiff filed the current
action claiming that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment
rights by failing to take reasonable measures to guarantee
his safety. [DN 1].
Court conducted an initial review of Plaintiff's claims
and dismissed his official-capacity claims for damages
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). [DN 8].
Additionally, Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary
injunction, [DN 6], a related motion for oral argument, [DN
15], and a motion to seal this action, [DN 13]. The Court
denied each motion. [DN 22]. Subsequently, Plaintiff and
Defendants filed the motions currently before the Court.
Motions for Summary JUDGMENT
judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals “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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
where “there is sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court “may not make
credibility determinations nor weigh the evidence when
determining whether an issue of fact remains for
trial.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d
714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Logan v. Denny's,
Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001); Ahlers v.
Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir. 1999)). “The
ultimate question is ‘whether the evidence presents a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.'” Back v. Nestlé USA,
Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52). The moving party must shoulder
the burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of
material fact as to at least one essential element of the
nonmovant's claim or defense. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see
also Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Assuming the moving
party satisfies its burden of production, the nonmovant
“must-by deposition, answers to interrogatories,
affidavits, and admissions on file-show specific facts that
reveal a genuine issue for trial.” Laster, 746 F.3d at
726 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324).
the Court acknowledges that pro se pleadings are to be held
to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by
attorneys. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519
(1972). The duty to be less stringent with pro se
complainants, however, “does not require [the Court] to
conjure up unpled allegations, ” McDonald v.
Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation
omitted), nor to create a claim for a pro se plaintiff,
Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d
1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975).
filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment claiming
Defendants had knowledge of a risk to his safety but failed
to take reasonable measures to guarantee his safety. [DN 21-2
at 157]. In response, Defendants filed their own Motion for
Summary Judgment. [DN 31-1]. Defendants assert they are
entitled to qualified immunity because Plaintiff has
presented no objective evidence that he was incarcerated
under conditions posing a substantial risk of harm.
Id. at 285, 287. Alternatively, Defendants contend
they responded reasonably to any risk of harm. Id.
Qualified Immunity Defense
to the doctrine of qualified immunity, “government
officials performing discretionary functions generally are
shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their
conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
818 (1982). The question of whether qualified immunity is
available to a defendant involves a two-step process:
“[f]irst, the court must determine whether, based upon
the applicable law, the facts viewed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiffs show that a constitutional
violation has occurred.” Bell v. Johnson, 308
F.3d 594, 601 (6th Cir. 2002). Then, “if a violation
could be made out on a favorable view of the parties'
submissions, the next, sequential step is to ask whether the
right was clearly established.” Saucier v.
Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001). In order for a law to be
deemed as “clearly established, the contours of the
right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official
would understand that what he is doing violates that
right.” Bell, 308 F.3d at 602. In other words,
“the unlawfulness [of the action] must be
apparent.” Id. “Qualified immunity
shields an officer from suit when she makes a decision that,
even if constitutionally deficient, misapprehends the law
governing the circumstances she confronted.”
Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 198 (2004).
“Because the focus is on whether the officer had fair
notice that her conduct was unlawful, reasonableness is
judged against the backdrop of the law at the time of the
conduct. If the law at the time did not clearly establish
that the officer's conduct would violate the
Constitution, the officer should not be subject to liability
or, indeed, even the burdens of litigation.”
threshold matter, the Court notes that Plaintiff's right
to be free from deliberate indifference to his safety was
clearly established. “The Supreme Court has held that
‘prison officials have a duty . . . to protect
prisoners from violence at the hands of other
prisoners.'” Bishop v. Hackel, 636 F.3d
757, 765-66 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994)). Moreover, the Sixth
Circuit has recognized “an inmate's right to be
free from prison violence as clearly established.”
Id. (collecting cases). Therefore, Plaintiff's
constitutional right to be free from deliberate indifference
to his safety was clearly established at the time of the
alleged constitutional violation. Thus, the main issue in
this case is whether Defendants violated Plaintiff's
Eighth Amendment rights.
Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to “take
reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the
inmates” in their custody. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832
(quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27
(1984)). “It is not, however, every injury suffered by
one prisoner at the hands of another that translates into
constitutional liability for prison officials responsible for
the victim's safety.” Id. at 834. “A
prison official violates an inmate's rights only if the
official is ‘deliberately indifferent to inmate health
or safety.'” Mangum v. Repp, 674 Fed.Appx.
531, 537 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834).
“To raise a cognizable constitutional claim for
deliberate indifference to an inmate's safety, an inmate
must make a two-part showing: (1) the alleged mistreatment
was objectively serious; and (2) the defendant subjectively
ignored the risk to the inmate's safety.” Bishop,
636 F.3d at 766 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). “On
balance, the deliberate indifference analysis is
‘fact-bound and dependent on both witness credibility
and those inferences that a jury can reasonably draw from the
relevant circumstances. This inquiry ‘is therefore
ill-suited for summary judgment in all but the clearest
cases.'” McCracken v. Haas, 324 F.Supp.3d
939, 947 (E.D. Mich. 2018) (quoting Doe v. District of
Columbia, 215 F.Supp.3d 62, 77 (D.D.C. 2016)).
establish a constitutional violation based on failure to
protect, a prison inmate first must show that the failure to
protect from risk of harm is objectively ‘sufficiently
serious.'” Bishop, 636 F.3d at 766 (citing Farmer,
511 U.S. at 833). The objective component is satisfied if the
plaintiff is “incarcerated under conditions posing a
substantial risk of serious harm.” Curry v.
Scott,249 F.3d 493, 506 (6th Cir. 2001). The Sixth
Circuit “analyze[s] the objective component ‘in
the abstract.'” Richko v. Wayne Cty.,
Mich., 819 F.3d 907, 916 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Clark-Murphy v. Foreback, 439 F.3d 280, 286-87 (6th
Cir. 2006)). “In the abstract, one prison inmate's
threat to the health and safety of another inmate is
‘sufficiently serious' to satisfy [the objective]
requirement.” Williams v. McLemore, 247
Fed.Appx. 1, *9 (6th Cir. 2007); see also Williams v.
Wells, No. 02-74530, 2006 WL 800788, at *7 (E.D. Mich.
Mar. 29, 2006) (“A threat of bodily harm is
sufficiently serious to satisfy the objective component of a
deliberate indifference claim. Curry, 249 F.3d at
506.”). For example, in Richardson v. Bauman,
an inmate claimed he was approached and threatened by members
of the MS-13 gang and subsequently received two physical
wounds. Richardson v. Bauman,702 Fed.Appx. 402, 404
(6th Cir. 2017). Prison officials denied Richardson's
repeated requests for protection on the basis that he could
not identify the prisoners who were threatening him and thus,
the “need for protection could not be
substantiated.” Id. Upon reviewing the record
in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, the Sixth Circuit
found that Richardson faced a substantial risk of serious
harm, despite the fact that “Richardson was less than
forthcoming with prison officials when requesting protection
about why the MS-13 gang would have targeted him, ” and
the fact that there was “no proof, other than hearsay,
that the MS-13 ...