from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Florida D.C. Docket No. 5:14-cv-00237-WTH-PRL
WILLIAM PRYOR and ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judges, and Moore,
ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judge:
things are never acceptable, no matter the circumstances.
Sexual abuse is one.
abuse "has no legitimate penological purpose, and is
simply not part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay
for their offenses against society." Graham v.
Sheriff of Logan Cty., 741 F.3d 1118, 1122-23 (10th Cir.
2013) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Nor does it
comport with contemporary standards of decency. Congress
itself implicitly recognized as much in 2013, when it amended
the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") to allow
prisoners to recover damages "for mental or emotional
injury suffered while in custody[, ] without a prior showing
of physical injury," when the prisoner can demonstrate
"the commission of a sexual act" as the basis for
the damages he seeks. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e)
Supreme Court clarified in Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559
U.S. 34, 37 (2010), a correctional officer's malicious
and sadistic actions that both have no legitimate penological
purpose and are unacceptable by contemporary standards of
decency subject a prisoner to cruel and unusual punishment,
in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This case requires us
to evaluate Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107 (11th
Cir. 2006), our pre-Wilkins prisoner-sexual-abuse
precedent for continuing viability. When we do so, we must
conclude that Wilkins (particularly as construed in
light of the 2013 amendments to the PLRA) partially abrogated
the district court relied on Boxer X to dismiss
Plaintiff-Appellant prisoner Kirstin Sconiers's claims
that, during a purported disciplinary encounter with
Defendant-Appellee Jesse Lockhart, Lockhart pulled down
Sconiers's pants and forcefully penetrated Sconiers's
anus with his finger. Because we conclude that Boxer
X has been abrogated in part, and because Sconiers has
presented sufficient evidence on summary judgment to
establish both parts of a post-Wilkins Eighth
Amendment claim, we now vacate the portion of the district
court's grant of summary judgment to Lockhart that relied
on the abrogated holding of Boxer X. We also review
the rest of the district court's order granting summary
judgment against Sconiers. After careful consideration, we
vacate and remand in part and affirm in part.
was imprisoned at the Marion County Jail, where he was
serving a sentence for a misdemeanor conviction for exposing
his sexual organs. On February 12, 2014, Sconiers met with
his attorney via videoconference at the jail. After the
meeting ended, Lockhart arrived to escort Sconiers back to
on events that followed, Sconiers, then proceeding pro
se, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Lockhart and Matthew B. McNeely,  both correctional officers
at the jail. He alleged the defendants violated his Eighth
Amendment right through the use of excessive force and sexual
assault. During the litigation, Lockhart and McNeely filed
motions for summary judgment. After considering them, the
district court entered summary judgment for both defendants.
Sconiers, now represented, appeals.
purposes of our review of the district court's entry of
summary judgment, we accept Sconiers's version of the
facts as true, affording all justifiable inferences to
Sconiers. See Pourmoghani-Esfahani v. Gee, 625 F.3d
1313, 1315 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam). Whether Sconiers
can establish that the defendants did what he alleges is
something he must prove to a jury if his case survives
summary judgment. So we set forth here only Sconiers's
side of the story.
up the facts when Lockhart came on the scene to return
Sconiers to his cell. Under Sconiers's version of the
facts, after his meeting with his attorney ended, Sconiers
stood to return to his cell. Lockhart instructed Sconiers to
sit back down, and he complied. Then Lockhart ordered him
back on his feet. Once Sconiers again stood, Lockhart again
told him to sit. And after he sat, Lockhart once again told
him to stand.
Sconiers asked Lockhart, "What kind of games are you
playing?" In response, Lockhart allegedly pepper-sprayed
Sconiers in the face twice, slammed him to the ground, and
slapped his face, all while Sconiers was shackled by hand
restraints, leg irons, and wrist restraints. Sconiers alleged
Lockhart then drove his knee into Sconiers's back and
pulled Sconiers's pants down.
Lockhart had Sconiers on the ground and his pants down,
Sconiers claimed, Lockhart forcefully penetrated
Sconiers's anus with his finger. Lockhart was able to do
this because Sconiers was not wearing underwear.
the dust settled, the Marion County Sheriff's Office
launched an investigation. Sconiers gave investigators
basically the same version of facts that he set forth in this
case. He further explained to the Sheriff's Office
investigators that he hesitated before telling others about
Lockhart's sexual assault because it embarrassed him and
because he assumed the jail administrators were in league
with the guards.
interviewing all those with knowledge of the incident, the
Sheriff's Office investigators concluded, as relevant
here, that Sconiers's claims were unfounded and that
Sconiers himself had engaged in misconduct by failing to
comply with Lockhart's commands. Based on this finding,
prosecutors charged Sconiers with non-violently resisting
Lockhart's instructions. Sconiers eventually pled guilty
to this charge.
meantime, though, Sconiers sought medical attention for his
injuries and recounted his donnybrook with Lockhart in an
incident report. In that report, Sconiers stated that
Lockhart's digital penetration caused him anal pain for
two weeks. In particular, Sconiers complained that as a
result of the incident, his anus stung when he had bowel
movements, and he noticed blood on his toilet paper when he
used the bathroom. Treatment notes reflect that Sconiers told
medical staff an officer had put his finger up his anus and
that his anus had been sore as a result. He explained that he
had not reported the alleged assault earlier because he had
been on suicide watch and "didn't trust telling
anyone [his] situation . . . ." Dr. Jaime Rubios
conducted a rectal exam and found that Sconiers had
"very small . . . ext[ernal] hemorrhoids" that did
not appear to be bleeding or tender.
months after the events of February 12, 2014, Sconiers
commenced this suit. He filed a pro se complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his most recent version of
his complaint, Sconiers asserted that Lockhart violated the
Eighth Amendment by engaging in excessive force.
eventually sought summary judgment on Sconiers's claims.
The district court granted his motion. In constructing the
facts underlying the sexual-assault claim, the district court
found that "all of the evidence [shows] that [Sconiers]
was fully clothed at all times during the encounter . . .
." Based on that conclusion, the district court reasoned
that Lockhart's penetration of Sconiers's anus was
"necessarily" inhibited by Sconiers's clothing
since it did "not involve-body-to-body contact."
to the law, the district court relied upon our decision in
Boxer X to find that those facts "simply do
not" violate the Eighth Amendment. It based this
conclusion on the alternative grounds that both the force
used and the injury caused by Lockhart's supposed
over-the-pants penetration were de minimis.
issues of whether Lockhart's pepper-spraying and takedown
constituted excessive force, the district court first
considered Lockhart's use of pepper spray. It noted that
Sconiers attested in an affidavit that he complied with
Lockhart's initial order to sit, but Lockhart ordered him
to sit down three more times. The district court construed
this allegation to mean that Sconiers implicitly admitted he
defied Lockhart by remaining standing, or Lockhart would not
have had reason to tell him to sit down three times while he
was already sitting. The court then further reasoned that had
Sconiers not flouted Lockhart's instructions, Lockhart
would not have had to pepper-spray him.
on to Lockhart's takedown of Sconiers, the district court
concluded that Sconiers had changed his story because his
first affidavit had claimed that Lockhart
"force[d]" him to the floor, not
"slammed" him there as he had alleged in his other
affidavits. The district court then found that
"forc[ing]" an inmate to the ground did not
constitute excessive force under the circumstances. In
particular, the court determined that Lockhart was justified
in engaging in this action because he needed to restore order
after pepper-spraying Sconiers. So the district court granted
summary judgment on this aspect of Sconiers's Eighth
Amendment claim as well.
review de novo the district court's grant of
summary judgment, viewing all facts and drawing all
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. McCullum v. Orlando Reg'l Healthcare
Sys., Inc., 768 F.3d 1135, 1141 (11th Cir. 2014). In
conducting our analysis in subsection III. A. below of the
district court's order, we further discuss the standards
district courts must apply in resolving motions for summary
Sconiers proceeded pro se in the district court, we
liberally construe his pleadings. Trawinski v. United
Techs., 313 F.3d 1295, 1297 (11th Cir. 2002) (per
curiam). We also credit the "specific facts" pled
in Sconiers's sworn complaint when considering his
opposition to summary judgment. Perry v. Thompson,
786 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1986) (per curiam)
("Plaintiff alleged specific facts in his sworn
complaint and they were required to be considered in their
appeal, Sconiers, now counseled, raises two categories of
issues. He contends the district court erred when it (1)
allegedly resolved material issues of fact to enter summary
judgment for Lockhart and (2) applied Boxer X v.
Harris, 437 F.3d 1107 (11th Cir. 2006), to dismiss his
sexual-assault claim. Lockhart responds by raising a
threshold defense. He contends that Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), imposes an unconquerable
barrier to Sconiers's claims arising out of the
pepper-spraying and takedown ...