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Crockett v. Hawkins

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

July 6, 2017



          BARBARA D. HOLMES United States Magistrate Judge

         TO Honorable Gershwin A. Drain, District Judge

         By Order entered September 29, 2016 (Docket Entry No. 8), the Court referred this action to the Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), 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 of Defendants Wendy Ashe, Kizzy Hawkins, and Anita Jenkins (Docket Entry No. 28), to which Plaintiff has responded in opposition. See Docket Entry Nos. 36 and 41. For the reasons set out below, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the motion be granted and that this action be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Corey Crockett ("Plaintiff) is an inmate within the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") and is currently confined at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility ("MDCDF") in Nashville, Tennessee. He filed this lawsuit pro se and in forma pauperis on August 1, 2016, alleging that his federal constitutional rights were violated at the MDCDF and seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the order of referral, the Court dismissed claims brought against three wardens at the MDCDF but found that Plaintiff stated colorable constitutional claims against five MDCDF employees: case manager Kizzy Hawkins ("Hawkins"); disciplinary hearing officer f/n/u Cato; disciplinary hearing officer Anita Jenkins ("Jenkins"); medical supervisor Wendy Ashe ("Ashe"); and nurse f/n/u Burrells. See Docket No. 8 at 2-3.

         Plaintiff brings three separate claims. First, he claims that he suffered cruel and unusual punishment in July 2016 when he was placed on "sack lunch" diet for approximately 14 days as a restriction after he beat on his cell door with a food tray. See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1) at 5 and 8-9. He contends that each of the three meals a day that he received during this period consisted of two cold bologna sandwiches, a bag of stale chips, and cake at each meal and that he should have been given a "styrofoam tray" diet, which would have provided him with hot meals of a different variety. Id. He alleges that his stomach hurt after eating the same meal for several days in a row. Id. He implicates Defendant Hawkins in this claim. Second, Plaintiff claims that he was discriminated against, treated with deliberate indifference, and that due process and federal and state laws were violated because disciplinary proceedings brought against him in June and July 2016 were procedurally inadequate and improper. Id. at 10-11. Plaintiff implicates Defendants Cato and Jenkins in this claim. Finally, Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because his medical complaints were not adequately responded to from May to July 2016. Id. at 12-13. He implicates Defendants Burrells, Ashe, and Jenkins in this claim.

         Although Defendants Hawkins, Jenkins, and Ashe have appeared and defended the action, Plaintiff failed to return a completed service packet for Cato and the status of service of process upon Defendant Burrells is unclear from the record. Upon the filing of an answer (Docket Entry No. 24) by Defendants Ashe, Hawkins, and Jenkins, a scheduling order was entered to provide the parties with a time period for pretrial activity in the action. See Docket Entry No. 25.


         In their motion for summary judgment, Defendants Ashe, Hawkins, and Jenkins (hereinafter referred to collectively as "Defendants") raise several arguments for dismissal. See Memorandum in Support (Docket Entry No. 29). First, they argue that Plaintiff has not properly exhausted his claims as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. Additionally, Defendants Ashe and Hawkins argue that they were not personally involved in the events at issue in the claims brought against them and, thus, cannot be held liable under Section 1983 based upon their supervisory duties. Defendants further argue that Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claims warrant dismissal because the undisputed evidence shows that, 1) Plaintiff was provided with nutritionally adequate meals via the "sack lunches" meals, and, 2) Plaintiff was provided with appropriate medical treatment for his complaints. Defendant Jenkins argues that Plaintiffs due process claim against her based on the disciplinary proceedings warrants dismissal because the disciplinary proceeding in which she was involved resulted in only a loss of recreation time for Plaintiff, which she contends is not the type of deprivation that implicates constitutional due process protections. Finally, Defendants assert that Plaintiff has not shown that he suffered a physical injury that was more than de minimis. In support of their motion, Defendants rely upon their own declarations, see Docket Entry Nos. 30, 32, and 33, as well as the declaration of CoreCivic employee Phederica Dean. See Docket Entry No. 31.

         In response, Plaintiff disputes that he failed to file a grievance about the matters at issue and contends that the grievance he filed was deemed "non grievable" by a prison official, prompting him to proceed with filing this lawsuit. See Response in Opposition (Docket Entry No. 36) at 2. Plaintiff also disputes Defendant Jenkins' account of the process he received at his disciplinary proceeding and asserts that he has a disciplinary form he would like to submit. Id. at 1-2. Finally, Plaintiff disputes Defendant Hawkins' contention that she was not involved in the "sack lunch" restriction, and he reiterates his beliefs that he should have been placed on a "styrofoam diet" and that serving him a cold sack lunch for two consecutive seven day periods is cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 2; and Response (Docket Entry No. 41).


         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, 106S.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). Unlike ruling on a motion to dismiss, 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. London Cnty., 203 F.3d426, 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); Gribcheckv. Runyon, 245 F.3d 547, 550 (6th Cir.), cert, denied, 534 U.S. 896, 122 S.Ct. 217, 151 L.Ed.2d 155 (2001).

         "Once the moving party has presented evidence sufficient to support a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party is not entitled to trial merely on the basis of allegations; significant probative evidence must be presented to support the complaint." Goins v. Clorox Co., 926 F.2d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1991). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment may not rely solely on the pleadings but must present evidence supporting the claims asserted by the party. Banks v. Wolfe Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 330 F.3d 888, 892 (6th Cir. 2003). Moreover, conclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions are not evidence, and are not ...

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