Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jones-El v. Godert

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

December 11, 2019

EUGENE K. JONES-EL, Plaintiff,
v.
CHANTAY GODERT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN M. BODENHAUSEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 29 and 45) and various other motions filed by Plaintiff Eugene Jones-El ("Plaintiff"). (ECF Nos. 67, 69, 71, and 75) These motions have now been briefed, and the time for filing responsive pleadings has passed. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         In his "Supplemental, or in the Alternative, Second Amended 1983 Civil Complaint" ("Second Amended Complaint"), Plaintiff names as defendants Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC"), Wardens Chantay Godert, Michelle Thompson, and William Jones ("Warden Defendants"), Deputy Director of MDOC Cindy Griffith ("Griffith"), classification staff members Leslie Labon, Tim Woods, Robert Henderson, Patricia Shoemyer, Taylor Preston, Ashely West, Krisitn Cutts, Lisa Bledsoe, Chris Powell, and Cheryl Maple ("Classification Defendants"), and librarian Cherry Pasley ("Pasley") (collectively "Defendants"). (ECF No. 23) Plaintiff names all Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. (ECF No. 23 at 4) Plaintiff is an inmate at Northeast Correctional Center ("NCC"), which is managed by MDOC.

         At the time of the allegations, Plaintiff was incarcerated at NCC. Plaintiff has filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] against officials and staff members at NCC, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated from November 7, 2017, to June 30, 2018, [2] by Defendants denying him basic hygiene items, such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, and legal and mailing supplies because his $7.50 per monthly stipend was removed from his inmate account as soon as it was deposited to pay his state court filing fees. Plaintiff claims that he repeatedly asked each of Defendants, in person and/or in writing, to provide him with basic hygiene items and legal and mailing supplies, but Defendants refused to provide him with such items, thereby forcing him to choose between having hygiene items and pursuing his claims in state court. Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered dental problems as a result and was unable to properly present his application to transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court.

         At the outset, the Court finds that MDOC is entitled to judgment as a matter of law inasmuch MDOC is a division of the State of Missouri and therefore is not a person subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Loccoo v. Florissant Police Dep't, 2008 WL 554254, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Feb, 27, 2008) ("[A] suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections … is, in effect, a suit against the State of Missouri … [and] the State of Missouri is not a 'person' for purposes of §1983 action and is absolutely immune from liability under §1983."); see also Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63, 71 (1989) ("We hold that neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under §1983"). Furthermore, MDOC is also entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. See Webb v. City of Maplewood, 889 F.3d 483, 485 (8th Cir. 2018) ("The Eleventh Amendment protects States and their arms and instrumentalities from suit in federal court."). Therefore, because Plaintiff's claim against MDOC is brought under § 1983, Plaintiff cannot maintain a suit against MDOC and, therefore, MDOC is entitled to judgment as matter of law.

         For reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment and grant in part and deny in part Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Remaining for trial are Plaintiff's individual-capacity § 1983 claims for money damages and official capacity claims for prospective injunctive relief against all Defendants, except MDOC.

         I. Factual Background

         The facts are taken from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 23), Defendants' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts and the exhibits attached thereto (ECF No. 47), Plaintiff's Separate Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts ("Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts") (ECF No. 31), his Affidavit (ECF No. 40), and the exhibits filed in support of Plaintiff's complaint and his summary judgment motion. Plaintiff filed his Response to Defendants' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts (ECF No. 52); however, Defendants failed to file a response to Plaintiff's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts. Local Rule 4.01(E) provides with respect to summary judgment motions:

A memorandum in support of a motion for summary judgment shall have attached a statement of uncontroverted material facts, set forth in a separately numbered paragraph for each fact, indicating whether each fact is established by the record, and, if so, the appropriate citations. Every memorandum in opposition shall include a statement of material facts as to which the party contends a genuine dispute exists. Those matters in dispute shall be set forth with specific references to portions of the record, where available, upon which the opposing party relies. The opposing party also shall note for all the disputed facts the paragraph number from movant's listing of facts. All matters set forth in the statement of the movant shall be deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment unless specifically controverted by the opposing party.

E.D. Mo. L.R. 4.01(E) (“Local Rule 4.01(E)"). As a result of Defendants' failure to submit responses to Plaintiff's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts, Defendants have not met the requirements of Local Rule 4.01(E) and are deemed to have admitted the facts set forth in Plaintiff's statement of material facts. Turner v. Shinseki, 2010 WL 2555114, at *2 (E.D. Mo. June 22, 2010) (citing 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).

         With this in mind, the Court accepts the following facts as true for purposes of resolving the cross motions for summary judgment.

         A. Defendants' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts (ECF No. 47)

         At the time of the allegations, Plaintiff was incarcerated at NCC. (Id. at ¶ 3) The State of Missouri ("Missouri") pays "every inmate a stipend, which is like a monthly allowance, [of] $7.50…" enabling the inmates to purchase items from the prison canteen to "take care of your basic hygiene needs, your legal supply needs, and any other needs." (Pltf's Oct. 25, 2018, depo. at 22) Each month, Missouri deposits a monthly stipend of $7.50 into Plaintiff's prisoner account, and each month MDOC deducts $1.50 for each lawsuit so his entire monthly stipend is applied toward the payment of the filing fees for his five lawsuits. (ECF No. 47-4, Exh. D and Pltf's Oct. 25, 2018, depo. at 21-22, 41, 61, and 63) Plaintiff's inmate account statement dated November 11, 2017, to February 10, 2018, shows a monthly deposit of $7.50, with an average monthly balance of $0.12, after the five $1.50 deductions for the State Filing Fee Debt. (ECF No. 47-4, Exh. D) Each month, Plaintiff cannot use his $7.50 monthly stipend to purchase hygiene items, including toothpaste, or legal supplies. (Pltf's Mar. 25, 2019, depo. at 6-10) Plaintiff testified that it has been explained to him that none of his $7.50 monthly stipend remains available for purchase of hygiene items or legal supplies because "all of my money was taken for the court filing fees." (Pltf's Oct. 25, 2018, depo. at 33; Pltf's Mar. 25, 2019, depo. at 16) At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that, although he realized by filing lawsuits funds would be taken out of his inmate account, he did not realize that his entire monthly stipend would go toward the payment of the five filing fees, leaving him without any funds to purchase hygiene items. (Pltf's Oct. 25, 2019, depo. at 29) Plaintiff stated that MDOC provides dental care to him, including teeth cleaning, every two to four weeks. (Pltf's Mar. 25, 2019, depo. at 26)

         During his time of incarceration, Plaintiff filed at least six lawsuits: Jones[3] v. Johnson, Cause No. 4:09 CV 118 HEA (filed Jan. 15, 2009/closed Sept. 25, 2014) (case dismissed after parties reached a settlement (Exh. A)); Jones-El v. Huffman-Phillips, Cause No. 1:12 CV 70 ACL (filed April 30, 2012/Jan. 5, 2015) (case dismissed after parties reached a settlement (Exh. A)); Jones-El v. Lombardi, Missouri Case.net, No. 13MI-CV00499 (33rd Jud. Cir., filed Aug. 16, 2013/closed April 26, 2016) (granting defendants' motion to dismiss finding that Plaintiff is barred from bringing this case in a Missouri state court because his access to court claims by defendants' failure to provide legal supplies to challenge his criminal conviction were the same ones previously adjudicated in federal court, Jones-El v. Huffman-Phillips, and noting that in settling his federal lawsuit, Plaintiff agreed to "release, acquit, and forever discharge not only the named defendants, but also others who may have been involved in allegedly denying him access to the courts"); Jones-El v. Wallace, Missouri Case.net, No. 16MI-CV00196 (33rd Jud. Cir., filed Apr. 5, 2016/closed Dec. 27, 2016) (granting defendants' motion to dismiss without prejudice Plaintiff's other extraordinary remedy); Jones-El v. Dwyer, Missouri Case.net, No. 06MI-CV00222 (33rd Jud. Cir., filed Mar. 30, 2006/closed Apr. 11, 2006) (denying Plaintiff's petition for writ of habeas corpus); and Jones-El v. Godert, Cause No. 2:18 CV 65 JMB (instant cause of action).

         Plaintiff settled two of his prior lawsuits in September 2014 and received settlement funds in the amount of $4, 000.00. Jones v. Johnson, Cause No. 4:09 CV 118 HEA (filed Jan. 15, 2009/closed Sept. 25, 2014) and Jones-El v. Huffman-Phillips, Cause No. 1:12 cv 70 ACL (filed April 30, 2012/closed Jan. 5, 2015); (ECF 47-1 at 5(a), Release and Settlement Agreement Exh. A). The Release and Settlement Agreement ("Agreement") provided that a check would issue in the amount of $4, 000.00, payable to Plaintiff, and his attorney would "deposit the check into his law firm's trust account and distribute the entire amount as separately instructed by [Plaintiff]." (ECF 47-1 at ¶ 5a, Agreement) The Agreement further provided that the parties agreed that any settlement or judgment in favor of Plaintiff "will not be subject to attachment under the Missouri Incarceration Reimbursement Act."[4] (Id. at ¶ 5b) Plaintiff testified that at his direction, his counsel gave the settlement funds to his mother because he feared that that if the funds were deposited into his inmate account, MDOC would use the funds for reimbursement fees for his room and board. (Pltf's Mar. 25, 2019, depo. at 12-15) Plaintiff's mother did not use any of the $4, 000.00 settlement funds for his benefit. (Id. at 12) Plaintiff testified that he understood that after he satisfied the court filing fees, the monthly $7.50 stipend would stay in his account and be available to purchase items from the prison canteen. (Id. at 37, 40)

         B. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and Exhibits (ECF Nos.1, 23, 29, and 32)

         According to Plaintiff's verified Second Amended Complaint, [5] Plaintiff filed this cause of action after being denied access to basic hygiene items and legal supplies and mailing materials, as well a notarized copy of his inmate account statement, from November 7, 2017, to June 30, 2018.[6](ECF No. 23 at ¶ 9) Plaintiff alleges that he has been without any money for more than three years because each month his entire $7.50 stipend goes towards payment of filing fees from the numerous, pending state lawsuits he filed prior to his arrival at NCC. (Id. at ¶ 10) Plaintiff's inability to purchase toothpaste and a toothbrush has caused tooth decay, pain, bleeding and infected gums, plaque build-up, foul breath, and the extraction of two teeth. (Id.) Plaintiff states that Defendants' failure to provide legal supplies, a notarized copy of his inmate account statement, and an example form of an application for transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court prevented him from timely and properly filing an application for transfer in Jones-El v. Missouri Dep't of Corrs., Missouri Case.net, No. SC97000 (Mo. Mar. 2, 2018). Plaintiff also alleges that the denial of the basic hygiene items, based on Prison Policies IS18-1.1 and 1.4, forced him to choose between pursuing his legal rights and having basic hygiene items, and Defendants also failed to provide an alternative means by which he could obtain hygiene items. (Id. at ¶ 13)

         In support of his original complaint, Plaintiff attached as exhibits a copy of his inmate account statement dated January 10 to June 10, 2018, and grievances he filed requesting legal and hygiene items. (ECF No. 1-3 at 61-73 and 96-98) The inmate account statement dated January 10 to June 10, 2018, shows a monthly deposit of $7.50, and an average monthly balance of $0.12, after the five $1.50 deductions for the State Filing Fee Debt. (ECF No. 1-3 at 96-98)

         On December 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Internal Resolution Request ("IRR"), requesting legal and hygiene items after repeatedly being denied such items. (ECF 1-3 at 61) In the Other Denial of Indigent Assistance dated December 14, 2017, MDOC denied Plaintiff's IRR requesting indigent hygiene and legal supplies, finding:

According to IS8-1.1, a spendable balance is available to the offender for things upon which he/she chooses to spend the funds. This includes filing fees, as it was the offender's choice to file a lawsuit and the offender has knowledge that a percentage of his/her offender account will be taken to pay the filing fees. The $7.50 stipend is to provide reasonable court access and to prevent indigent status. The only time an offender is considered to be truly indigent is when all of his/her funds are taken for reasons beyond their control, such as child support payments.

(ECF No. 1-3 at 62; MDOC's Institutional Services and Policy and Procedural Manual at ¶ 8-1.1) In his December 21, 2017, Offender Grievance, Plaintiff asserted that he has "repeatedly formally and informally asked the classification staffs and the security staffs to provide me with basic hygiene items and legal materials, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, writing paper, stamps, pencil, and envelopes, because all my $7.50 is being taken each month for owed court filing fees, however, they all refuses[sic] to give me such even though they know that I am indigent."[7] (ECF No. 1-3 at 63) In the Warden's Response, dated April 12, 2018, Godert made a finding that Plaintiff abandoned this complaint because he failed to lodge his Offender Grievance form until April 9, 2018, and noted this issue would not be addressed again because it had been addressed in a previous complaint. (Id. at 64) On April 18, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Offender Grievance Appeal, regarding the denial of hygiene items and legal supplies, claiming that he was indigent. (Id. at 65) Plaintiff asserted that he received his IRR response on December 21, 2017, and on that same day, he filed an Offender Grievance. (Id.) In the May 22, 2018, Grievance Appeal Response, Griffith denied Plaintiff's appeal, finding that the IRR response adequately addressed his complaint and noted that Plaintiff's "decision to incur discretionary spending regarding your filing fees, you do not qualify for hygiene or legal supply assistance." (Id. at 66)

         On February 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed an IRR, alleging a failure to provide a legal form, an application for transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court, and a notarized copy of his inmate account statement from January 1 through January 8, 2018, by the law librarian. (Id. at 67) Plaintiff alleged these inactions resulted in the Missouri Supreme Court denying his application for transfer as failing to be on the proper form and untimely. (Id. at 68) In a Memorandum dated February 6, 2018, Maple stated that Plaintiff had filed an IRR, alleging denial of legal materials and access to the courts. Maple denied his IRR finding:

According to IS 8-1.4 All offenders shall have reasonable access to law libraries, legal materials, and/or law library personnel, consistent with court imposed deadlines or applicable statute of limitations. Information on how to obtain 42 U.S.C. 1983 Complaint Form and 28 U.S.C. 2254 Habeas Corpus shall be maintained in the library[.] Amy forms approved by the administration shall be paid for by the offender unless they are eligible for assistance in accordance with institutional services regarding access to courts. Library supplies, equipment, and furnishings should be purchased in support of library operations by using canteen funds in accordance with department procedures regarding canteen operations.

(Id. at 69) On February 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Offender Grievance, indicating that he would continue to complain about the prison's procedures regarding the unavailability of legal resources at NCC, the librarian's refusal to provide a copy the application for transfer form, and the failure to provide a notarized copy of his inmate account statement to him. (Id. at 70) In the Warden's Response dated April 2, 2018, the acting warden denied Plaintiff's grievance, finding that he did not have an approved qualified legal claim as required by policy IS 8-1.1 to allow him to be provided legal supplies. (Id. at 71) On April 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed an unsigned Offender Grievance Appeal, and on April 30, 2018, Griffith denied Plaintiff's appeal finding that he did not have a qualified legal claim on file and noting his "offender account has discretionary spending each month which disqualifies [him] from legal supply assistance." (Id. at 73)

         In a letter, dated January 8, 2018, the Clerk of the Missouri Supreme Court noted that Plaintiff's Application for Transfer was deficient as follows:

The enclosed application for transfer, received on January 8, 2018, is not in compliance with the rules of this Court and it cannot be filed. The application for transfer in this matter was due to be filed in this Court on or before January 5, 2018. In addition to the application being received out of time, you failed to submit the filing fee or a current, original, certified copy of your inmate account statement, the Form No, 15 cover page to the application for transfer, a copy of the motion for rehearing and/or application for transfer filed in the court of appeals....

(ECF No. 32-1)

         In support of his motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff attached as exhibits doctor and nurse encounter appointments from June 26 to September 20, 2018, showing treatment for gum swelling and poor oral hygiene with medication prescribed as treatment for his severe chronic periodontitis.[8] (ECF No. 32) During the encounter appointments, Plaintiff reported not receiving a toothbrush or toothpaste since November 2017. In the June 26, 2018, nurse encounter, the nurse "called to have pt provided with toothbrush and toothpaste." During the July 24, 2018, doctor encounter appointment, the doctor noted that Plaintiff "must initiate oral hygiene regimen" and filed a dentist encounter to schedule teeth cleaning for Plaintiff. The September 17, 2018, doctor encounter appointment noted that the doctor extracted one tooth and prescribed medication as treatment.

         C. Plaintiff's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts (ECF No. 31)

         In his Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts, Plaintiff asserts that MDOC deposits a required $7.50 monthly stipend to all inmate accounts. (ECF No. 31 at ¶ 3) This monthly stipend is his only source of income, and without the monthly stipend, Plaintiff does not have sufficient funds to purchase basic hygiene items or legal supplies. (Id. at ¶ 4) Since January 15, 2019, Plaintiff asserts that his $7.50 monthly stipend has been withdrawn from his account to pay court filing fees. (Id. at ¶ 5) Plaintiff states that MDOC prison officials are required to provide indigent inmates with basic hygiene items, legal supplies, a notarized copy of their inmate account statement, and mailing supplies. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-10) Plaintiff further states that from November 7, 2017, to December 3, 2018, he repeatedly reported to the named Defendants, in person and in writing, that his $7.50 monthly stipend was automatically applied to court filing fees thereby precluding him from purchasing basic hygiene items, legal supplies, mailing supplies, and a notarized copy of his inmate account. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13)

         Plaintiff specifically identifies Warden Defendants, Classification Defendants, and Griffith as being responsible for providing him with basic hygiene items and that these Defendants refused all of his requests from November 7, 2017, through December 3, 2018. (Id. at ¶¶ 18, 21) Plaintiff states that he submitted Medical Services Request Forms, complaining of severe tooth and gum pain caused by being denied basic hygiene items. (Id. at ΒΆ 30) Plaintiff states that, as result of Defendants' failure ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.