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Williams v. Roper

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 16, 2016

ERNEST CORNELIUS WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
DON ROPER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on defendants Christy Huffman, [1] Jeremy J. Huffman, Willie Forbes, Jason L. Horn, Daniel Blair, Kevin Culton, Shannon R. Clubbs, Clifton Copeland, Charles T. Conrad, and Phillip G. Comer’s motion for summary judgment. Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because plaintiff’s claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata. In addition, defendant Pashia moves for the dismissal of the claims against her on the grounds that plaintiff cannot establish a Fourth Amendment violation, and that she is entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, opposes defendants’ motion for summary judgment, which is fully briefed and ripe for review. For the following reasons, the Court will deny defendants’ motion for summary judgment.[2]

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Ernest Cornelius Williams is an offender in the custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”). At all times relevant to the complaint, plaintiff was an inmate at Potosi Correctional Center (“PCC”). In his Complaint, which was verified and signed under penalty of perjury, plaintiff alleges a number of claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Don Roper (Warden); Ian Wallace (Asst. Warden); Kay Kline (Functional Unit Manager); Brian Allen (Acting Functional Unit Manager); Eric Dunn (Caseworker); Christy Pashia (Correctional Officer); Jeremy Huffman[3](Correctional Officer); Willie Forbes (Correctional Officer); Jason Horn (Correctional Officer); Daniel Blair (Correctional Officer); Kevin Culton (Correctional Officer); Shannon Clubbs (Correctional Officer); Clifton Copeland (Correctional Officer); Charles Conrad (Correctional Officer); Philip Comer (Correctional Officer); and Rick Bailey (Correctional Officer). Plaintiff names defendants in their individual and official capacities, and he seeks both monetary and injunctive relief.

         In his Complaint, plaintiff alleges First Amendment retaliation claims. He claims that he was stripped searched, harassed, and belittled because plaintiff had filed grievances or lawsuits against staff at PCC. Plaintiff also alleges that he was placed in administrative segregation because he had filed grievances and lawsuits against staff at PCC. While in administrative segregation, plaintiff alleges that he was routinely denied a noon meal, and he was issued false conduct violations as punishment for filing lawsuits and grievances.

         Plaintiff further alleges that on September 26, 2009, defendants Conrad, Clubbs, and Comer came to plaintiff’s cell and under the pretext of searching the cell, destroyed his mattress, planted sandwich bags in the cell, threw legal papers and his property around, threw away his personal items, issued plaintiff a false conduct violation, placed plaintiff on a meal-loaf diet, forced plaintiff to sleep on a concrete slab without a mattress or pillow, and confined plaintiff to a cell without heat or proper clothing, which they did despite plaintiff’s known medical conditions. Plaintiff claims that defendants acted in this manner because he has filed grievances and lawsuits against PCC staff.

         In addition to the First Amendment retaliation claims, plaintiff also brings Fourth Amendment claims against defendants Pashia, Culton, Roper, Wallace, and Kline. Plaintiff complains that he was singled out and strip searched in an open-view shower. He also alleges that defendant Pashia, a female officer, assisted in conducting the strip search and observed him while he was nude. Plaintiff claims that this instance, and other unspecified strip searches were done in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment. Plaintiff also complaints that defendant Culton engaged in an unlawful strip search of plaintiff in his cell.

         In a Memorandum and Order dated July 1, 2014, the Court conducted a § 1915(e)(2)(B) review and concluded that plaintiff had alleged enough facts in his complaint to state a claim for relief for First Amendment retaliation against defendants Blair, Horn, Conrad, Clubbs, Comer, Copeland, Forbes, Culton, and Huffman in their individual capacities. The First Amendment retaliation claims against these defendants in their official capacities were dismissed. As for plaintiff’s allegations of First Amendment retaliation against the supervisory defendants - defendants Pashia, Bailey, Dunn, Roper, Wallace, Allen, and Kline - the Court found plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and these claims were dismissed without prejudice. The Court further found that plaintiff had stated claims against defendants Culton and Pashia in their individual capacities for violations of the Fourth Amendment based on his allegations regarding strip searches. The Fourth Amendment claims against these defendants in their official capacities, however, were dismissed. The Court also dismissed without prejudice plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claims against defendants Roper, Kline and Wallace, which were based on a theory of supervisory liability. Finally, the Court found plaintiff had failed to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment against any of the defendants, or that he had stated a claim of conspiracy or for violation of his due process rights.

         After conducting discovery, defendants Pashia, Huffman, Forbes, Horn, Blair, Culton, Clubbs, Copeland, Conrad, and Comer now move for summary judgment on three grounds. First, defendants argue plaintiff’s suit is barred by the doctrine of res judicata because he filed claims against these defendants in Missouri state court. Second, defendants argue plaintiff’s suit is barred by the doctrine of res judicata because the claims were adjudicated in a case that was previously pending in this District. And finally, defendant Pashia argues that plaintiff has failed to establish that she violated plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights, or in the alternative, she argues she is entitled to qualified immunity.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment shall be entered “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts. AgriStor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations of his pleadings but must set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Heisler v. Metropolitan Council, 339 F.3d 622, 626 (8th Cir. 2003). Rule 56(c) “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         III. Facts

         In support of their motion for summary judgment, defendants submitted a statement of uncontroverted material facts. Plaintiff did not respond to defendants’ statement of uncontroverted facts or provide the Court with a statement of material facts as to which he contends a genuine dispute exists. Accordingly, plaintiff has not met the requirements of Local Rule 4.01(E), and he is deemed to have admitted the facts in defendants’ statement of uncontroverted facts.[4] Deichmann v. Boeing Co., 36 F.Supp.2d 1166, 1168 (E.D.Mo. 1999), aff’d, 232 F.3d 907 (8th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 877. Cf. Northwest Bank & Trust Co. v. First Ill. Nat’l Bank, 354 F.3d 721, 725 (8th Cir. 2003) (holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying local rules that excluded some of the material facts offered in opposition to a motion for summary judgment). Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, did file submit a number of exhibits in opposition to summary judgment. In addition, his memorandum in opposition to summary judgment and his Complaint are both verified and signed under penalty of perjury. The Court further notes that it may take judicial notice of the docket entries and filings from state court and this District.[5] Stutzka v. McCarville, 420 F.3d 757, 760 n.2 (8th Cir. 2005) (“we may take judicial notice of judicial opinions and public records[.]”). After reviewing the record, and with the summary judgment standard in mind, the Court accepts the following facts as true for purposes of resolving defendants’ motion for summary judgment:

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at MDOC, Southeast Correctional Center. He was incarcerated at PCC in Potosi, Missouri from 2000 to April of 2015. Prior to the filing of the present lawsuit, plaintiff filed a writ of habeas corpus petition in the Circuit Court of Washington County on October 28, 2009, entitled Ernest C. Williams v. Don Roper, et al., Case No. 09WA-CC00532 (the “State Court Action”). At the same time, he filed with that court an “Application and Affidavit to Proceed in Forma Pauperis.” The state court issued a show cause order and forwarded plaintiff’s habeas petition to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. On January 28, 2010, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office entered an appearance and filed a response on behalf of defendant Don Roper. On April 2, 2010, plaintiff moved to amend his habeas petition to file claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants named in the proposed amended petition included all of the remaining defendants in the present action.[6] Many of the allegations in the amended petition in State Court Action were the same as the allegations in the present cause of action.

         The state court granted plaintiff leave to amend, and it ordered its clerk of court to send the amended petition to the named defendants. These defendants, however, were not served. On April 19, 2010, defendant Don Roper moved to dismiss plaintiff’s amended petition for failure to state a claim. The other defendants did not join in the motion, file answers, or otherwise respond to plaintiff’s amended petition. Defendant Roper’s motion to dismiss was fully briefed, and on August 27, 2010, the state court granted the motion. It dismissed without prejudice plaintiff’s writ of habeas corpus “for the reasons set forth in the respondent’s motion to dismiss and suggestions thereto.” Doc. 83, Ex. B at 27. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District. The Eastern District dismissed the appeal without prejudice for failure to comply with Missouri Supreme Court Rule 74.01(a).

         Prior to filing the State Action, plaintiff filed on February 5, 2009, a complaint in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, entitled Williams, et al. v. Silvey, et al., Cause No. 4:09-CV-211 (the “Prior Federal Action”), which was amended on December 3, 2012. The Prior Federal Action was dismissed on summary judgment and affirmed on appeal. In the Prior Federal Action, plaintiff and his wife, who joined as a plaintiff, alleged that defendants Judith Silvey, Sarah Whitener, Donald Roper, and Cindy Griffith retaliated against them for exercising their First Amendment right to petition the government. More specifically, they alleged that defendant Silvey harassed and belittled plaintiff and his wife and used racial epithets during Mrs. Williams’s visits in retaliation for the plaintiffs having filed grievances and complaints about the visitation room. Plaintiff and his wife also alleged that defendants Silvey and Whitener issued conduct violations against them falsely accusing them of violating a number of institutional rules during their visits. Plaintiff and his wife alleged these events took place between January 2008 and May 2008.

         On October 22, 2013, as part of the discovery in the Prior Federal Action, plaintiff testified during his deposition that he spent time in administrative segregation from June 2009 through February 2010. Plaintiff testified that while he was in administrative segregation, he received a number of false conduct violations, which resulted in lengthening his stay in administrative segregation, and that he was denied a mattress, showers, proper clothing, and certain meals. Plaintiff testified that the violations issued against him and the poor conditions were caused by Judith Silvey because she had a personal relationship with one of the administrative segregation officers, and she directed this as retaliation. In that same deposition, plaintiff referenced Conrad, Clubbs, Comer, Culton, who he called “the C gang, ” and Forbes, all of whom are defendants in the present action. Claims regarding plaintiff’s confinement in administrative segregation were not included in the complaint in the Prior Federal Action. In addition, defendants Conrad, Clubbs, Comer, Culton, and Forbes were not named as defendants in the Prior Federal Action.

         Facts Relevant to Defendant Pashia

         Plaintiff alleged in his Complaint, among other things, that he was subjected to strip searches in an enclosed shower with glass or mesh doors, which he believed were improper because other people, including female staff, could see this procedure. Plaintiff assumed that female officers looked inside the shower during strip searches, but he did not know who looked inside while he was being strip searched. Plaintiff has seen other offenders taken to the shower for strip searches.

         Defendant Pashia was a utility sergeant at PCC from December 2008 through May 2013. On one occasion, defendant Pashia, a female officer, was present as the “second officer” during a strip search of plaintiff in the shower. In general, defendant Pashia attests that when she was the second officer at a strip search, she would stand aside so that she could only see the other officer and not the offender. Plaintiff stated under penalty of perjury that defendant Pashia closely watched his nude body during the strip search. See Doc. 1 at 16. It is undisputed that defendant Pashia pointed a can of mace (OC pepper spray) at plaintiff during the strip search, but she did not use it. Plaintiff also testified that ...


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