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Anderson v. Schofield

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

March 12, 2015



JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.

On February 22, 2013, the pro se Plaintiff, Kenneth Lee Anderson, Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") prisoner number 265300, who was, at the time, incarcerated at the Northwest Correctional Complex ("NWCX") in Tiptonville, Tennessee, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) The Court subsequently granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 5.) On June 6, 2013, the Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim but granted leave to amend. (ECF No. 6.) Plaintiff filed a timely amended complaint on August 7, 2013. (ECF No. 9.) On August 15, 2013, the Court dismissed the amended complaint except for Plaintiff's retaliation claims against Defendants David Abel, Joni McElrey, and Jeff Tarver and directed that process be issued and served. (ECF No. 10.) On April 1, 2014, Plaintiff notified the Clerk he had been transferred to the West Tennessee State Penitentiary ("WTSP") in Henning, Tennessee. (ECF No. 34.)

On July 17, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 39.) Plaintiff responded with a document on July 29, 2014, titled "Notice of Inability to Adequately Continue to Prosecute Due to Being Denied Access To Any' Necessary Legal Materials." (ECF No. 40.) He contended that he was in protective custody at the WTSP and did not have access to the materials he needed to prosecute this case, including access to a typewriter, a computer to perform legal research, current legal books, and a telephone in order to make calls to the Court. He asked the Court to order the WTSP officials to provide him with those things, appoint someone with legal training to assist him, or hold this case in abeyance until he was taken off protective custody and could have physical access to the prison law library. Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff's requests (ECF No. 41), and Plaintiff filed a reply, which he designated as a "motion" to deny the Defendants' response (ECF No. 42).

Even if the Court were inclined to do so, an order requiring WTSP prison officials to grant Plaintiff the legal materials and/or assistance he wants would not be possible. The allegations in this case involve events at the NWCX, not WTSP, and no WTSP officials are parties to this action. Therefore, Plaintiff's request for such an order, and his motion to "deny" Defendants' response, is DENIED. In addition, although the Court did not officially grant Plaintiff's request to hold this case in abeyance, several months have now passed since the filing of the Defendants' motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's "Notice." Plaintiff has filed nothing further advising whether he remains in protective custody. The Court concludes that further delay in ruling on the Defendants' motion would not be appropriate.

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[T]he burden on the moving party may be discharged by showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Rule 56(c)(1) provides that "[a] party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed" is required to support that assertion by:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations..., admissions, interrogatory answers or other materials;[1] or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

In Celotex Corp., the Supreme Court explained that Rule 56:

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. In such a situation, there can be "no genuine issue as to any material fact, " since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party is "entitled to 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.

477 U.S. at 322-23. However, where the party moving for summary judgment also has the burden of persuasion at trial, the initial burden on summary judgment is higher. Under those circumstances, the moving party must show "that the record contains evidence satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it." Surles v. Andison, 678 F.3d 452, 455-56 (6th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).

In considering whether to grant summary judgment, "the evidence as well as the inferences drawn therefrom must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Kochins v. Linden-Alimak, Inc., 799 F.2d 1128, 1133 (6th Cir. 1986); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986) (same). The Court's function is not to weigh the evidence, judge credibility, or in any way determine the truth of the matter. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Rather, the inquiry 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." Id. at 251-52.

The fact that Plaintiff did not respond does not require granting Defendants' motion. Nevertheless, if the allegations of the complaint are contravened by Defendants' evidence and Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on those facts, then summary judgment is appropriate. Smith v. Hudson, 600 F.2d 60, 65 (6th Cir. 1979).

In the order partially dismissing the amended complaint, the Court summarized Plaintiff's claims as follows:

[O]n or about October 4, 2011, Plaintiff made Defendant Bratton aware that he was representing himself in a pending criminal case. Plaintiff told Bratton that he needed access to a telephone and a law library. Bratton ordered Defendants Barnes and Morton to allow Plaintiff to leave his cell to place legal calls as needed. Plaintiff was to use the prison's inmate telephone system to place his calls and was to use his "own access" to contact the legal departments or offices. This means that Plaintiff would telephone his wife, who would then place a three-way telephone call to the legal ...

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