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Barnes v. Garner

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

October 8, 2019

Y DALE BARNES, Plaintiff,
v.
JESSICA GARNER et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          ALETA A. TRAUGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court are pro se plaintiff Casey Dale Barnes' Objections (Doc. No. 21) to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. No. 20), conducting an initial review of the Amended Complaint. The R&R recommends that the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment and retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 be dismissed but that his due process claims against one of the two defendants be permitted to proceed. For the reasons set forth herein, the court will overrule the Objections and adopt and accept the R&R in its entirety.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The R&R contains a detailed summary of the factual and procedural history of this case, which the court incorporates by reference. The court restates only those facts relevant to an assessment of the plaintiff's Objections to the R&R.

         The plaintiff initially filed suit in the Chancery Court for Trousdale County, Tennessee against Rusty Washburn, Warden of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Complex (“TTCC”), and Sgt. J. Garner, TTCC Disciplinary Board Chairperson, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The defendants removed the case to federal court on October 9, 2018, on the basis of federal-question jurisdiction. The undersigned referred the case to the magistrate judge for entry of a scheduling order, decision on all nondispositive matters, and a report and recommendation on any dispositive matters. (Doc. No. 7.)

         In December 2018, the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint, but he did not attach a proposed amended complaint to the motion, as required by Local Rule 15.01(a)(1). In April 2019, the magistrate judge entered an Order directing the plaintiff to supplement his motion for leave to amend by filing his proposed amended complaint. The Order specifically notified the plaintiff that the proposed amended complaint should “restate the entirety of [the] complaint with any amendments incorporated.” (Doc. No. 16.) The plaintiff thereafter filed the proposed amendment and supporting documentation. The defendants opposed the motion to amend on the grounds that the new claim, for retaliation, would fail on the merits and that amendment would therefore be futile.

         The Amended Complaint, like the original, alleges that defendants Washburn and Garner are employees of CoreCivic, Inc., a private, for-profit corporation formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, that operates several correctional facilities in Tennessee by contract with the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”). Washburn is the Warden of TTCC, and Garner served as a sergeant and chair of the TTCC disciplinary committee while the plaintiff was incarcerated there.[1] The plaintiff alleges that the defendants failed to protect him from a brutal attack by four gang members also incarcerated at TTCC, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, that they wrongly convicted him of disciplinary violations without due process, and that other CoreCivic employees, at both TTCC and HCCF, retaliated against him by altering his sentence structure to prevent his release on parole. These unnamed CoreCivic employees seek to prevent him from obtaining parole because they are trying to “keep [him] from getting out and expos[]ing them for the ASSAULTS.” (Doc. No. 17-7, at 11.)

         The magistrate judge entered an order on July 2, 2019, granting the plaintiff leave to amend his complaint. On the same date, however, the magistrate judge issued the R&R conducting an initial review of the Amended Complaint, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, [2] and recommending that the Eighth Amendment and retaliation claims be dismissed for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted. The R&R further recommends, however, that the due process claims be permitted to proceed against defendant Garner. (Doc. No. 20.)

         More specifically, the R&R recommends that the Eighth Amendment claim be dismissed because the plaintiff does not identify any of the officers who allegedly failed to protect him from attack and delayed his placement in protective custody, and he does not allege any facts that would allow the court to infer that defendants Washburn and Garner were involved in or aware of the incidents about which the plaintiff complains or that they encouraged the conduct or in some way directly participated in it. (See Doc. No. 20, at 7-8.) The R&R recommends the dismissal of the retaliation claim, because the relief that the plaintiff seeks in connection with this claim-declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the parole board to “reinstate the previously granted parole approval”-is only available through a petition for the writ of habeas corpus and not through an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 20, at 8-9 (citing Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005); Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973)).)

         The plaintiff's Objections do not actually address the conclusions undergirding the magistrate judge's determination that dismissal of those claims is required. As best the court can understand, the plaintiff objects to the recommendation that his Eighth Amendment claim be dismissed, essentially because it is not his fault that he has been unable to identify the officers who were actively involved in failing to protect him from being stabbed, beaten, and raped in his cell. He states that he was unable to name the individual officers who failed to protect him because, pursuant to CoreCivic policy, the prison guards “are trained to neve[r] give out the[ir] information” to inmates, and, in addition, he was incoherent as a result of the assault. (Doc. No. 21, at 1.) He claims that the officer on his pod that day was a female whose name tag showed only her last name and that his concerted efforts to identify her were rebuffed by the facility until she was finally “moved to another housing unit to stop her from any further involvement in [the plaintiff's] unit.” (Id.) The plaintiff claims that this officer “opened the unit door and unlocked [his] cell door and let the inmates in to hurt [him].” (Id. at 2.) The plaintiff also insists that he wrote letters to every department in the administration but has not been able to obtain her identity. He claims that TTCC has numerous security cameras that should be able to substantiate his allegations and that this is the reason he needs an attorney to help him with discovery.

         The plaintiff objects to the dismissal of his retaliation claim on the basis that “[t]he Core Civic employees have lied and cheated and caused [him] more harm, pain, and suffering than anything in [his] whole life” and that, after the assault in his cell, he was “threatened by many different officers to just let it go.” (Id. at 2.)

         The plaintiff also states that the magistrate judge has “slightly misunderstood” his complaint, insofar as he was “never served any of the write ups against” him but, instead, was only allowed to see some copies through the window of his cell door. (Id.) He was told he could not have copies.

         Finally, he argues more generally that he needs the video footage of the disciplinary hearings in order to prove his claims and that he needs an attorney to assist him in that process and in obtaining his complete medical file.

         II. ...


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