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Matthews v. Copeland

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

December 11, 2017

BRANDON COPELAND, et al., Defendants.



         George Matthews alleges that his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when he was shackled too tightly while being transported from the Bledsoe County, Tennessee Correctional Complex to the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility in Nashville. The Magistrate Judge has entered a Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 79) that recommends the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 62) filed by Brandon Copeland and Ronald McBay be granted.

         Matthews has filed objections to the R & R in the form of a “Motion in Opposition to Report and Recommendation” (Doc. No. 80). After reviewing the matter de novo as required by Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Matthews' claim is subject to dismissal for both procedural and substantive reasons.

         I. Procedural Deficiencies

         In his objections, Matthews does not dispute that he did not comply with Local Rule 56.01 that, in relevant part, provides:

c. Response to Statement of Facts. Any party opposing the motion for summary judgment must respond to each fact set forth by the movant ...
g. Failure to Respond. Failure to respond to a moving party's statement of material facts, or a non-moving party's statement of additional facts, within the time periods provided by these Rules shall indicate that the asserted facts are not disputed for the purposes of summary judgment.

L.R. 56.01(c) & (g). Nevertheless, Matthews argues that “[a]ll facts germane to the incident in question were answered either within the body of the Motion for Summary Judgment or the Sworn Affidavit provided by the Plaintiff.” (Doc. No. 80 at 2).

         It is true, as Matthews asserts, that “[p]ro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed.” (Id. at 4) (citing Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011)). However, “federal courts ‘have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.'” Branham v. Micro Computer Analysts, 350 F. App'x 35, 38 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993)). To the contrary, “it is incumbent upon litigants, even those proceeding pro se, to follow the . . . rules of procedure, ” and this includes “local and state court rules.” Fields v. Cty. of Lapeer, 238 F.3d 420 (6th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted); Jawara v. Suntrust Bank, 2016 WL 2770657, at *1 (M.D. Tenn. May 12, 2016) (collecting cases for the proposition that, while liberality is afforded pro se pleadings, “even a pro se plaintiff must comply with federal [and] local rules of procedure”). It also includes local rules specifying certain procedures for responding to motions for summary judgment. See, e.g., Thorn v. McGary, 684 Fed.Appx. 430, 433 (5th Cir. 2017) (affirming district court and stating that pro se plaintiff “was not excused from complying with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [or] the district court's local rules, ” including the requirement that oppositions to summary judgment “include a separate and concise statement of the material facts which the opponent contends present a genuine issue”); Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001) (noting that local rules required plaintiff to admit or deny statement of facts and observing that, because of plaintiff's failure to do so, “district court would have been within its discretion to grant the [“defendant's] motion for summary judgment on this basis alone”).

         This Court's Local Rule requiring a statement of undisputed facts and responses thereto exist for a reason. Such rules “are meant to ease the district court's operose task and to prevent parties from unfairly shifting the burdens of litigation to the court.” Caban Hernandez v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 486 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2007). A litigant, whether proceeding pro se or through counsel, ignores local rules at his or her peril. United States v. Cruz, 757 F.3d 372, 381 (3d Cir. 2014); Alberti v. Carlo-Izquierdo, 548 Fed.Appx. 625, 631 (1st Cir. 2013). The Magistrate Judge did not err in recommending dismissal partly on the grounds that Matthews did not comply with the requirement of Local Rule 56.01.

         II. Substantive Shortcomings

         Matthews' noncompliance with the Local Rules aside, summary judgment is warranted on the merits. Even when the Court considers his affidavit, he has not presented a jury question on his claim that he was shackled too tightly by either Copeland or McBay in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         On numerous occasions, the Sixth Circuit has addressed the improper use of restraints, albeit usually in the context of an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment. In such cases, a plaintiff must allege and prove “1) “some physical injury from the handcuffing' and 2) that ‘officers ignored plaintiff's complaints that the handcuffs were too tight.'” Anderson v. Theibert, 2017 WL 3140581, at *2 (6th Cir. Feb. 27, 2017) (quoting Lyons v. City of Xenia, 417 F.3d 565, 576 (6th Cir. 2005)). However, “[a] factor that is not crucial to an analysis of a claim for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment is the extent of the injury inflicted, ” whereas “this factor is relevant to a claim brought under the Eighth Amendment for cruel and unusual punishment.” Baskin v. Smith, 50 F. App'x 731, 737 (6th Cir. 2002) (collecting cases). This is because the hallmark of an Eighth Amendment claim is “the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain against prisoners, ” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011), while an excessive force claim under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments “operates on a sliding scale” of reasonableness. Shreve v. Franklin Cty., 743 F.3d 126, 134 (6th Cir. 2014).

         “[N]ot every intrusion upon a prisoner's bodily integrity will rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation, ” Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 604 (6th Cir. 1986), nor will “every shove or restraint gives rise to a constitutional violation” under that amendment. Cordell v. ...

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