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Allen v. Holt

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

September 3, 2019

RONALD ALLEN and JUSTIN EZRA JONES, Plaintiffs,
v.
BILL HOLT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is defendant Bill Holt's Objection (Doc. No. 48) to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. No. 44), recommending that the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 18) be granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, the magistrate judge recommends that summary judgment be granted in favor of the defendant as to one plaintiff's remaining claim and denied as to the other plaintiff's. The defendant objects only to the recommendation that his Motion for Summary Judgment be denied as to the claim asserted by plaintiff Justin Jones.

         For the reasons discussed herein, the court will overrule the defendant's Objection and accept the magistrate judge's recommendations in their entirety.

         I. Standard of Review

         The Federal Magistrates Act of 1968 authorizes the district courts to “designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court, ” except for those matters deemed “dispositive.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). A magistrate judge may be designated to hear and consider dispositive motions, but, with respect to such motions, the magistrate judge must submit to the district court proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition of the motion by the district judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         When an objection is lodged against a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on a dispositive matter, the district court applies a de novo standard of review to any portion of the R&R to which the moving party objects. In conducting this review, courts reexamine the relevant evidence previously reviewed by the magistrate judge to determine whether the recommendation should be “accept[ed], reject[ed], or modif[ied], in whole or in part[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         II. Procedural History

         Ronald Allen, Jr. and Justin Ezra Jones filed this pro se and in forma pauperis lawsuit on January 9, 2018, against Bill Holt (“Holt”), the Sheriff of Robertson County, Tennessee, in his official capacity only. (Compl., Doc. No. 1.) At that time, both of the plaintiffs were confined as pretrial detainees at the Robertson County Detention Center (“Detention Center”). Jones remains confined at the Detention Center, but Allen was transferred to the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction on June 4, 2018. (Crawford Dec., Doc. No. 2 ¶¶ 3-4.)

         The plaintiffs seek injunctive and monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of their civil rights alleged to have occurred during their confinement at the Detention Center. The court dismissed all but one of their claims upon conducting an initial review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). (See Apr. 5, 2018 Memo. & Order, Doc. Nos. 5, 6.) The sole remaining claim following the initial review is a claim that the defendant violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights by depriving them of the opportunity for outdoor recreation and exercise. The Complaint alleges that the plaintiffs have had “no outdoor recreational time at all, no fresh air” since being incarcerated at the Detention Center on October 7, 2017. (Compl. At 5.) The defendant filed an Answer denying the allegations of constitutional wrongdoing. (Doc. No. 14.)

         Following a period of discovery, the defendant filed the present motion, arguing that the undisputed evidence shows that the plaintiffs' constitutional rights regarding access to outdoor recreation have not been violated. Plaintiff Allen, despite being granted an extension of the deadline and being warned of the possible consequences of failing to respond, has never filed a response in opposition to the motion. The magistrate judge, after carefully reviewing the defendant's motion and evidence in support thereof, recommends that summary judgment be entered in favor of Holt as to Allen's claims against him. Allen has not filed objections to the R&R, and Holt does not object to that portion of the R&R. Plaintiff Jones, however, did respond to the defendant's motion and presented evidence in support of his opposition. The magistrate judge found that material factual disputes preclude summary judgment in favor of the defendant as to Jones' claim.

         Holt raises two specific objections: (1) that the magistrate judge “incorrectly disregarded the five times the Plaintiff refused outdoor recreation based on his admitted inability to participate” (Doc. No. 48, at 1); and (2) the magistrate judge erred in “considering inadmissible medical opinion testimony from the Plaintiff regarding alleged injuries caused by alleged lack of outdoor recreation” (id. at 4). Jones filed a Response to the defendant's Objections (Doc. No. 51).

         III. Analysis

         A. Denial of Access to Outdoor Recreation

         The Eighth Amendment provides an inmate the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides “at least” the same protections to pretrial detainees. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979). Further, “under the Due Process Clause, a detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law.” Id. at 535. Thus, when a court is evaluating the constitutionality of conditions of pretrial confinement that implicate detainees' right not to be deprived of liberty without due process, “the proper inquiry is whether those conditions amount to punishment of the detainee.” Id. “[I]f a particular condition or restriction of pretrial detention is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, ...


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