United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
action arises from Plaintiff's visit with her son, who
was an inmate at Rutledge State Prison (the
“Prison”). During the visit, a correctional
officer had an altercation with Plaintiff while attempting to
enforce the Prison's rules. Plaintiff asserts claims
against that correctional officer in the officer's
individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violations of her First and Fourth Amendment constitutional
rights. The officer has filed a motion for summary judgment,
asserting qualified immunity. Because Plaintiff failed to
establish that the correctional officer violated her clearly
established rights, the officer is entitled to qualified
immunity, and her motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 18) is
accordingly granted. All of Plaintiff's other claims were
dismissed previously when the Court granted Defendants'
motion for judgment on the pleadings. Order Granting Mot. J.
Pleadings 23-24, ECF No. 10.
summary judgment stage, the Court must view the record in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff and draw all reasonable
factual inferences in her favor when deciding whether a
government official is entitled to qualified immunity.
Perez v. Suszczynski, 809 F.3d 1213, 1217 (11th Cir.
2016). Therefore, the record considered by the Court is
limited to the undisputed facts and the plaintiff's
version of the disputed facts. Id. That record
establishes the following:
address a problem with contraband entering the Prison, the
warden implemented new procedures in August 2015 to prevent
visitors from passing contraband to inmates. Under the new
procedures, visitors were required to empty food purchased
from vending machines in the visitation room onto disposable
plates and to throw away the wrappers so that correctional
officers could better observe what was passed between inmates
on reports from informants and his staff, Deputy Warden of
Security Darryl Warren believed that inmate Markus Funck was
a source of the Prison's contraband problem. He also
believed that Funck was expecting a delivery of contraband
during the visitation period scheduled for April 22, 2015.
Warren Decl. ¶¶ 11 & 12, ECF No.
18-4. Accordingly, Warren informed Defendant
Shelay Smith, the correctional officer monitoring the
visitation room that day, to keep a close eye on Funck and
arrived at the Prison on April 22 to visit Funck, her son.
When Plaintiff entered the visitation room, Smith learned
that Plaintiff was visiting Funck and instructed Plaintiff to
sit at a table in front of her. Compl. Ex. B, GDC Incident
Report-D. Sexton Statement Under Oath, ECF No. 1-1 at 32,
While waiting for her son, Plaintiff went to the vending
machines, purchased some packages of food, and returned to
the table in front of Smith. Id. Another visitor
told Plaintiff that a new rule required Plaintiff to open the
bags of food and put the items on a plate. Id.
Plaintiff said aloud, “[O]kay-would have been nice to
have been told that.” Id. Smith responded,
“I would have gotten around to it.” Id.
Plaintiff then opened one bag of food, and Smith told her to
open the other bag as well. Id. When Plaintiff asked
whether she could wait to open it until Funck arrived, Smith
directed her to go ahead and open the bag. Id.
Officers eventually brought Funck to the visitation room.
in the visitation room captured the events that unfolded next
on video. See generally Def.'s Notice of
Physical Filing, Prison Video (Aug. 22, 2015), ECF No. 19
[hereinafter Prison Video]. The video shows Smith sitting
behind a table in the back of the visitation room such that
she could see the inmates and visitors in front of her.
Id. Plaintiff and Funck sat at one of the tables
directly in front of Smith. Id. Plaintiff twice left
the table to purchase more food from the vending machines.
Id. at 10:26:45-10:27:21, 10:27:30-10:28:21; see
also GDC Incident Report-Addition to D. Sexton Statement
Under Oath, ECF No. 1-1 at 35 [hereinafter D. Sexton Suppl.
Statement]; Smith Decl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 18-3. Apparently,
Plaintiff brought the food back from the vending machine
without opening the packages, emptying the food onto the
plate she was using, or discarding the wrappers. See
Smith Decl. ¶ 10 (stating that Plaintiff did not put the
contents of the food packages on a plate). Some wrappers fell
onto the floor, and when Funck picked them up and gave them
to Plaintiff, Smith approached their table and told Plaintiff
to throw away the wrappers immediately. Smith then returned
to her desk while Plaintiff threw away the wrappers. D.
Sexton Suppl. Statement; Prison Video 10:28:57-10:29:34.
Seeing other visitors were similarly in violation of the
rules, Plaintiff “said something to [Smith] about
it” on her way back from the trash can. D. Sexton
later, Smith approached Plaintiff and Funck and terminated
their visit. Id. Protesting, Plaintiff stated,
“I[‘m] not leaving.” Id.; see
also Smith Decl. ¶ 14 (stating that Plaintiff
refused to leave). The video shows Plaintiff gesturing to the
other tables in the visitation room and repeatedly pointing
her fingers at Smith, who is hidden from the camera by a
column. Prison Video 10:30:49-10:31:12. Smith then escorted
Funck to another room. Smith Decl. ¶ 13. As Smith closed
the door behind Funck, Plaintiff got up from the table,
tossed a plate of food in Smith's direction, and quickly
walked towards the exit. Prison Video 10:31:23-10:31:28; D.
Sexton Suppl. Statement; Smith Decl. ¶ 16. Smith followed
Plaintiff, and Plaintiff turned towards Smith and raised her
right hand in the air as Smith approached her from behind.
Prison Video 10:31:26-10:31:28. Smith then grabbed
Plaintiff's arms and pushed her against a nearby wall.
Id. at 10:31:28-10:31:30. Another correctional
officer assisted Smith. Smith Decl. ¶ 21.
the video footage shows the struggle against the wall in the
visitation room, it does not clearly depict everything that
happened. Plaintiff contends that Smith pushed her to the
ground, placed a boot and hand on her, scratched her, and hit
her in the face. D. Sexton Suppl. Statement. Smith contends
that Plaintiff dropped to the floor and began to scream and
to slap and kick Smith. Smith Decl. ¶ 20. Smith also
disputes striking Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 24. Although
courts are permitted to accept facts that are “clearly
depicted” by a video recording, courts must accept the
plaintiff's version as true when the video is unclear and
there is conflicting evidence on the issue. Shaw v. City
of Selma, 884 F.3d 1093, 1097 n.1 (11th Cir. 2018). The
Court thus assumes for purposes of this motion that
Plaintiff's version of these facts is true.
struggle ensued, Funck re-entered the visitation room and
approached Smith from behind. The other correctional officer
then turned around and removed Funck from the area. Smith
Decl. ¶¶ 22 & 23. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff
and Smith exited the visitation room. The video shows that
the encounter between Plaintiff and Smith lasted
approximately one and a half minutes from when Smith grabbed
Plaintiff until they exited the visitation room. Prison Video
10:31:28-10:33:02. Plaintiff was allowed to leave the Prison.
Smith notified law enforcement of the incident and later
swore out an arrest warrant for Plaintiff for committing
simple battery. Smith Decl. ¶ 30. Plaintiff then brought
asserts the following § 1983 claims against Smith: (1)
false arrest under the Fourth Amendment based on Smith
seizing Plaintiff; (2) excessive force under the Fourth
Amendment based on the manner in which Smith seized
Plaintiff; and (3) retaliation under the First Amendment
based on Smith terminating Plaintiff's visit and seizing
Plaintiff after Plaintiff commented to Smith about the
Prison's procedures. Smith contends that she is entitled
to qualified immunity.