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Powell v. Owens

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

February 6, 2018

BRIAN OWENS, et. al., Defendants.

         42 U.S.C. § 1983



         Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Bostic's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 72) filed on June 23, 2017. Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 80) on August 31, 2017, to which Defendant Bostic replied on September 12, 2017.[1] (ECF No. 82.) For the reasons explained below, it is recommended that Defendant's motion be granted.


         I. Plaintiff's Factual Allegations

         This action arises out of an alleged incident on February 29, 2012, during which Plaintiff claims he was violently attacked in his cell at Macon State Prison by a group of six or more inmates. Compl. 10-12, ECF No. 1. Defendant was one of numerous prison officials named in Plaintiff's original complaint. Plaintiff claimed Defendant Bostic “denied Plaintiff[']s due process of law and free speech in violation of the first and fourteenth amendment” and “denied the Plaintiff free right to [file grievances].” Compl. 27. Further, he claimed Defendant failed to “provid[e] adequate disposition of grievances and disciplinary reports[.]” Id. Plaintiff alleged Defendant Bostic refused to assist in Plaintiff's attempts to file grievances and when other inmates attempted to submit grievances on Plaintiff's behalf, Bostic refused to accept them advising inmates to “stay away from Plaintiff's cell door.” Compl. 28. Plaintiff also claimed a sign was posted outside Plaintiff's cell door (showing his name, picture, and GDC number) advising counselors and administrative staff to stay away. See id. The sign was allegedly intended to discourage Plaintiff from filing more grievances, and resulted in counselors discontinuing weekly visits to Plaintiff's cell. Id. Plaintiff claimed the sign remained outside his door for weeks and prevented him from filing timely grievances. See Compl. 29.

         II. Procedural History of Plaintiff's Claims Against Defendant

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the undersigned conducted a preliminary screening of Plaintiff's claims on May 28, 2014. It was recommended that Plaintiff's due process claim against Defendant be dismissed but his first amendment claims against Defendant be allowed to proceed for further factual development. R. & R. 7-8, May 28, 2014, ECF No. 13. On July 16, 2014, U.S. District Judge Marc T. Treadwell adopted that recommendation. Order 3, July 16, 2014, ECF No. 28. (“The Magistrate Judge properly allowed only First Amendment retaliation claims based on [the allegations against Defendant Bostic] to go forward.”). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's remaining claims on September 30, 2014. (ECF No. 25.) On October 14, 2014, the undersigned issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that Defendant's motion be granted. (ECF No. 43.) On June 30, 2016, Judge Treadwell issued an order referring the matter to the undersigned for further “consideration of . . . other grounds for dismissal in [Defendant Bostic's] Motion to Dismiss[.]” (ECF No. 61.) The undersigned obliged, and on December 14, 2016, issued another R&R recommending that Plaintiff's claims against Defendant in his official capacity-and those seeking compensatory damages-be dismissed. R. & R. 3-4, Dec. 14, 2016, ECF No. 64. On January 27, 2017, Judge Treadwell rejected that recommendation, denied Defendant Bostic's motion to dismiss, and allowed Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant to continue. Order 4, Jan. 27, 2017, ECF No. 65.

         Defendant filed his motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 72) on June 23, 2017. Plaintiff was notified (ECF No. 74) of Defendant's motion and filed a response on July 25, 2017. (ECF No. 80.) Defendant replied to Plaintiff's response on September 12, 2017. (ECF No. 82.) Defendant's motion for summary judgment is thus ripe for review.


          I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment may be granted only “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         II. Defendant's Motion

         Defendant contends he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because “Plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case for retaliation under the First Amendment” and he is entitled to qualified immunity. Def's. Mot. for Summ. J. 1, ECF No. 72. Plaintiff argues Defendant is “not immune from his actions” and “had knowledge and directly refused to allow [Plaintiff] to submit any additional grievance as I requested [] numerous times depriving [Plaintiff] of [his] first amendment right.” Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. 6. However, Plaintiff has failed to show he can make a prima facie case of retaliation. Plaintiff cannot show Defendant violated his constitutional rights; thus, Defendant is entitled to qualified ...

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