262 F.3d 687 (8th Cir. 2001), 00-1132, Foulk v Charrier

Docket Nº:00-1132, 00-2756, 00-3242
Citation:262 F.3d 687
Party Name:ROBERT FOULK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, v. RONALD CHARRIER, LIEUTENANT CHARRIER INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INTERVENOR BELOW-APPELLANT.
Case Date:August 17, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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262 F.3d 687 (8th Cir. 2001)

ROBERT FOULK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

RONALD CHARRIER, LIEUTENANT CHARRIER INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INTERVENOR BELOW-APPELLANT.

Nos. 00-1132, 00-2756, 00-3242

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 17, 2001

Submitted: May 18, 2001

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri

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Before McMILLIAN and Bowman, Circuit Judges, and Moody,1 District Judge.

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McMILLIAN, Circuit Judge

Ronald Charrier, who at all relevant times was a corrections officer at the Moberly Correctional Center (MCC) in Moberly, Missouri, appeals from a final judgment entered in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri,2 following a jury trial, in favor of Robert W. Foulk, a former MCC inmate, on Foulk's Eighth Amendment claim of excessive use of force, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Based upon the jury's verdict, Charrier was ordered to pay Foulk one dollar in nominal damages plus interest and costs. Foulk v. Charrier, No. 2:89CV18 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 25, 1999) (judgment). Charrier, together with the United States, as intervenor-appellant, also appeals from the district court's order awarding Foulk $12,048.60 in attorney's fees and $163.00 in costs, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Id. (June 8, 2000) (order). For reversal, Charrier argues that the district court: (1) erred in failing to dismiss Foulk's excessive force claim on the basis of Foulk's alleged failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (PLRA); (2) abused its discretion in excluding evidence about the specific nature of Foulk's prior felony convictions; (3) abused its discretion in limiting the documents Charrier could introduce at trial; (4) erred in instructing the jury on nominal damages; (5) erred in denying Charrier's motion for judgment as a matter of law based on insufficiency of the evidence; and (6) erred in awarding attorney's fees above $1.50 despite the attorney's fees provision of the PLRA, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2) or, alternatively, abused its discretion in determining the amount of the attorney's fees award under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The United States seeks reversal solely on the basis of the district court's failure to limit the attorney's fees award to $1.50, based upon 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2).

For the reasons stated below, we vacate the district court's order awarding attorney's fees and costs; we remand for a redetermination of attorney's fees and, if necessary, costs; and we affirm the judgment of the district court in all other respects.

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction was proper in the district court based upon 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343. Jurisdiction is proper in this court based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The notices of appeal were timely filed pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 4(a).

Background

Factual history

The following summary of underlying facts is based upon the evidence presented at trial, viewed in a light favorable to the jury's verdict.

On June 21, 1994, Foulk, an inmate at MCC, went to the prison infirmary complaining of illness after his dosage of seizure medication had been increased. He filled out a request for medical services and asked to see a doctor immediately. In an effort to avoid a delay in getting medical attention, Foulk became loud and demanded to see a doctor. Foulk was seen by Dr. Knudson, who noted that Foulk had been over-medicated. Under Dr. Knudson's orders, Foulk was admitted to the infirmary. Foulk slept in the infirmary from approximately 4:00 p.m. on June 21,

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1994, until approximately 5:30 p.m. on June 22, 1994, when he was awoken by corrections officer Shawn Bates, who told Foulk it was time to eat. Foulk told Bates that he was not hungry and wanted to be left alone. A few minutes later, Foulk was again awoken and told to eat. Foulk again refused and, this time, became angry. According to Foulk, he again fell back asleep. At approximately 9:30 p.m., Foulk was again awoken by corrections officers, who told him that he had been issued conduct violations.3 Foulk became angry and asked for the reason for the conduct violations. When the corrections officers would not respond, Foulk demanded that he be allowed to speak to a supervisor.

According to Foulk, he was still feeling the effects of the medication and once again fell back asleep. A short time later, Charrier and other corrections officers came into Foulk's room, aroused him, and ordered him to stand spread eagle against the wall. The officers removed the bed and portable equipment from the room. Charrier sprayed Foulk on the side of the face with pepper spray and left the room, locking the door behind him. When Foulk asked for the name of the officer who had sprayed him, Charrier told Foulk to come close to the door to get a good look at his name tag through the screened window in the door. When Foulk did as Charrier suggested, and put his face up to the screen, Charrier sprayed pepper spray through the screen directly into Foulk's face.

Despite the fact that Charrier had sprayed pepper spray directly into Foulk's eyes and nose, Foulk was not offered medical assistance. Moreover, he was put into solitary confinement in a cell that had no running water and only dry paper towels to wipe his face. He was not permitted to shower for at least two days. Foulk continued to feel the painful effects of the pepper spray for several days.4

The prison conducted an internal administrative review of the conduct violations issued against Foulk. The prison administration determined that Foulk was guilty of the alleged misconduct and that the officers, including Charrier, were justified in their actions. Foulk was transferred to another prison.

Procedural history

In 1989, several years before the above-summarized events took place, the original complaint in the present action was filed in federal district court by 29 MCC inmates, including Foulk, alleging various forms of mistreatment at MCC by employees of the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC), in violation of federal constitutional and statutory rights. The complaint was amended numerous times, with the above-summarized events being raised for the first time in the fourth amended complaint filed on December 15, 1995. The fifth amended complaint, filed June 2, 1997, was the first to specifically name Charrier as a defendant. The fifth amended complaint sought damages and injunctive relief based upon numerous alleged constitutional violations by MDOC officials and employees. Through the district court's dispositions of various motions, and the parties' agreements to dismiss various claims and parties, the matter was eventually reduced to one plaintiff (Foulk), one defendant (Charrier), and one count (excessive

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use of force in violation of the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment).

After Charrier unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment, a trial by jury was held from August 23 to August 25, 1999. Over objections by the defense, the district court excluded evidence revealing the specific nature of Foulk's prior felony convictions and also limited the number of documents the defense could introduce into evidence; and, contrary to Charrier's requested jury instructions, the district court allowed the jury to award nominal damages.

During the trial, Charrier made an oral motion to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, raising for the first time the argument that, because Foulk had failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies, the action was jurisdictionally barred under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), as amended by the PLRA (hereinafter referred to as the "PLRA exhaustion requirement").5 See Trial Transcript, Vol. II, at 189. The district court denied the motion and the trial proceeded. The jury subsequently returned a verdict in favor of Foulk in the amount of one dollar.

Charrier filed a post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial, again arguing, among other things, that the action was jurisdictionally barred under the PLRA exhaustion requirement. The district court denied Charrier's motion on November 4, 1999. Charrier timely filed a notice of appeal from the judgment (Appeal No. 00-1132).

Meanwhile, Foulk moved pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 for an award of attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $50,751.03. In response, Charrier argued, among other things, that he could not, as a matter of law, be required to pay more than $1.50 in attorney's fees, in view of the PLRA's attorney's fees provision, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2).6 On June 8, 2000, the district court ordered Charrier to pay Foulk $12,048.60 in attorneys' fees and $163.00 in costs. Foulk v. Charrier, No. 2:89CV18 (June 8, 2000) (order directing Charrier to pay attorney's fees and costs). On July 7, 2000, Charrier appealed from the order awarding Foulk attorney's fees and costs (Appeal No. 00-2756). The United States intervened and filed a notice of appeal on August 4, 2000, from the same order awarding Foulk attorney's fees and costs (Appeal No. 00-3242). The three appeals were consolidated, and they are now before this court.

Discussion

Exhaustion of administrative remedies requirement

Charrier argues that the district court erred in failing to dismiss Foulk's excessive force claim on the basis of Foulk's alleged failure to exhaust available administrative remedies, as required by the

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PLRA exhaustion requirement. As stated above, the district court addressed the issue twice -...

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