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Huddleston v. Bledsoe

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 25, 2015

COREY HUDDLESTON,
v.
JEFF BLEDSOE, et al.

REPORT AND RECOMENDATION

JULIET E. GRIFFIN, Magistrate Judge.

TO: Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, District Judge

By Order entered August 14, 2014 (Docket Entry No. 3), this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge to enter a scheduling order for management of the case, to dispose or recommend disposition of any pretrial motions under 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), and to conduct further proceedings, if necessary, under Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Court.

Presently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry No. 31) filed by Defendants Dickson County, Tennessee, Donnie Young, Amber McCoy, Kenneth Lindsey, and Margaret Wilson, to which the plaintiff has filed a response in opposition (Docket Entry No. 39). Also before the Court is the Defendants' reply (Docket Entry No. 43). For the reasons set out below, the Court recommends that the motion be granted and this action be dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff is currently an inmate of the Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") confined at the Northwest Correctional Complex. On August 5, 2014, he filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis seeking damages and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his federal constitutional rights alleged to have occurred during his confinement from May-July, 2014, at the Dickson County Jail ("Jail") in Charlotte, Tennessee. Named as defendants to the action are Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe, Captain Donnie Young, Sgt. Amber McCoy, Kenneth Lindsey, and Margaret Wilson. Defendants Bledsoe and Young are named in only their official capacities. The Defendants filed a joint answer (Docket Entry No. 17), and a scheduling order (Docket Entry No. 18) was entered providing for a period of pretrial activity in the action. The plaintiff demands a trial by jury.

The essential facts as gleaned from the record are as follows. Upon the plaintiff's intake into the Jail in May 2014, he was initially placed in housing Cell D-30 while awaiting classification at the Jail. Approximately two days later, he was moved to housing Cell D-80, which is a general housing unit.[1] At some time thereafter, [2] the plaintiff and another inmate named Kelly were moved out of Cell D-80 after three other inmates in the cell voiced some type of complaint to Jail staff about the plaintiff and inmate Kelley being "incompatible" with them. The plaintiff was moved back into Cell D-30. During the first day or two in Cell D-30, the plaintiff received a disciplinary report or sanction for throwing a food tray. He was subsequently placed on "lockdown" or segregation and moved to the L pod, where he remained until he was transferred to the Humphreys County Jail sometime in July 2014.[3] During the time period the plaintiff was housed in Cell D-30 and in lockdown, he did not have an inmate job at the Jail and had fewer privileges than were permitted to inmates in Cell D-80.

The plaintiff, who is African-American, alleges that his removal from Cell D-80 and his placement in more restrictive housing at the Jail was the result of racial discrimination against him in violation of his equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. He contends that the complaints of the three inmates, who are white, were not verified or investigated by the Jail staff and that the three inmates made their complaints as part of a plan to have themselves removed from Cell D-80, but that he and inmate Kelley, who are both black, were the inmates who were removed. He asserts that Defendants Lindsey and Young were directly involved in his removal from Cell D-80 and that Defendants McCoy and Wilson, who are alleged to be a supervisor and the classification and inmate placement official at the Jail, respectively, failed to properly perform their duties and investigate the statements of the three inmates. He alleges that his grievances about the matter and his complaints about racial discrimination were essentially ignored by the Defendants. The plaintiff further alleges that Jail officials maintain a policy and practice of segregating inmates at the Jail by race and affording preferential treatment to white inmates, that different discipline applies to black and white inmates, and that the Jail does not have a policy against racial discrimination. He contends that Defendant Young was the person responsible for placing him in lockdown at the Jail.

II. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND RESPONSE

The Defendants seek summary judgment contending that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Defendants argue that the plaintiff cannot set forth evidence showing that the plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated at the Jail. The Defendants support their motion with a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Docket Entry No. 33) and with the Plaintiff's Deposition Transcript (Docket Entry No. 34).

In response, the plaintiff contends that the Defendants approved of a custom or policy of segregated housing at the Jail and purposefully discriminated against him because of his race by moving him from his housing pod and placing him in administrative segregation. In support of his response in opposition, the plaintiff relies upon his deposition and his Complaint and upon his Response to the Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Fact (Docket Entry No. 42).

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment is reviewed under the standard that summary judgment is appropriate if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A "genuine issue of material fact" is a fact which, if proven at trial, could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In considering whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court must "look beyond the pleadings and assess the proof to determine whether there is a genuine need for trial." Sowards v. Loudon Cnty., 203 F.3d 426, 431 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 875, 121 S.Ct. 179, 148 L.Ed.2d 123 (2000). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence and all inferences drawn from underlying facts "in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., Ltd., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Gribcheck v. Runyon, 245 F.3d 547, 550 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 896, 122 S.Ct. 217, 151 L.Ed.2d 155 (2001).

The moving party has the burden of showing the absence of genuine factual disputes from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, at 249-50. However, "[t]he moving party need not support its motion with evidence disproving the non-moving party's claim, but need only show that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.'" Hayes v. ...


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