Brown v. Dillard, CASE NO. 2:13-CV-815-WHA (WO)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
Writing for the CourtWallace Capel, Jr. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PartiesRONNIE LEE BROWN, #116308, Plaintiff, v. CYNTHIA DILLARD, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCASE NO. 2:13-CV-815-WHA (WO)
Decision Date20 April 2016

RONNIE LEE BROWN, #116308, Plaintiff,
v.
CYNTHIA DILLARD, et al., Defendants.

CASE NO. 2:13-CV-815-WHA (WO)

DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA NORTHERN DIVISION

April 20, 2016


RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a complaint filed by Ronnie Lee Brown ("Brown"), an indigent state inmate. Doc. No. 1.1 In the complaint, Brown challenges the five-year set off date assigned for his next parole consideration as violative of the Ex Post Facto and Bill of Attainder Clauses. Brown also argues that the actions of the defendants deprived him of due process, violated his equal protection rights and subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment. Finally, Brown complains that the statute governing parole is unconstitutionally vague as it permits total discretion by parole board members in determining which inmates to release on parole. The defendants in this

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cause of action are Cynthia Dillard, the Executive Director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles; Eddie Cook, Phil Bryant and Sandra Cochran, assistant executive directors for the parole board; and Bill Wynne, Robert Longshore and Cliff Walker, members of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Brown seeks issuance of a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and monetary damages.

The defendants filed a special report, supplemental special report and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Brown's claims for relief. In these filings, the defendants deny they acted in violation of Brown's constitutional rights during the parole consideration process and in making the determination to deny parole. Upon receipt of the defendants' special reports, the court issued an order directing Brown to file a response to the reports, including affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials. Order of January 30, 2014 - Doc. No. 28 at 2. This order specifically cautioned Brown that unless "sufficient legal cause" is shown within ten days of entry of this order "why such action should not be undertaken, the court may at any time [after expiration of the time for his filing a response to this order] and without further notice to the parties (1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment and (2) after considering any response as allowed by this order, rule on the motion for summary judgment in accordance with law." Id. 2-3. Pursuant to this order, the court deems it appropriate to treat the defendants' reports as a motion for summary judgment. Thus, this case is now pending on the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

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Upon consideration of the defendant's motion for summary judgment, the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, the sworn complaint and the plaintiff's response to the reports, the court concludes that summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the defendants.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

"Summary judgment is appropriate 'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (citation to former rule omitted); Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 56(a) ("The court shall grant summary judgment 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.").2 The party moving for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue [- now dispute -] of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593 (11th Cir.

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1995) (moving party has initial burden of showing there is no genuine dispute of material fact for trial). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present appropriate evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-324.

The defendants have met their evidentiary burden and demonstrated the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact with respect to the claims presented by the plaintiff. Based on the foregoing, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(3) ("If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact by [citing to materials in the record including affidavits, relevant documents or other materials] the court may . . . grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials -- including the facts considered undisputed -- show that the movant is entitled to it."); Jeffery, 64 F.3d at 593-594 (internal quotation marks omitted) (Once the moving party meets its burden, "the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or statements made under penalty of perjury], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file," demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute of material fact.). This court will also consider "specific facts" pled in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir.

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2014). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ.for Bibb Cty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007).

In civil actions filed by inmates, federal courts

must distinguish between evidence of disputed facts and disputed matters of professional judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord deference to the views of [parole] authorities. Unless a prisoner can point to sufficient evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail on the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage.

Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530 (2006) (internal citation omitted). To proceed beyond the summary judgment stage, an inmate-plaintiff is required to produce "sufficient [favorable] evidence" which would be admissible at trial supporting his claims of constitutional violations. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). "If the evidence [on which the nonmoving party relies] is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative . . . summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-250. "A mere 'scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the [trier of fact] could reasonably find for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)." Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1576-1577 (11th Cir. 1990). Conclusory allegations based on subjective beliefs are likewise insufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact and, therefore, do not suffice to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11th Cir. 1997) (A

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plaintiff's "conclusory assertions . . ., in the absence of [admissible] supporting evidence, are insufficient to withstand summary judgment."); Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 916 (11th Cir. 1995) (grant of summary judgment appropriate where inmate produces nothing beyond "his own conclusory allegations" challenging actions of the defendants); Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 557 (11th Cir. 1984) ("Mere verification of party's own conclusory allegations is not sufficient to oppose summary judgment. . . ."); Evers v. Gen. Motors Corp., 770 F.2d 984, 986 (11th Cir. 1985) ("[C]onclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have no probative value."). Hence, when a plaintiff fails to set forth specific facts supported by requisite evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to his case and on which the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322 ("[F]ailure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial."); Barnes v. Sw. Forest Indus., Inc., 814 F.2d 607, 609 (11th Cir. 1987) (If on any part of the prima facie case the plaintiff presents insufficient evidence to require submission of the case to the trier of fact, granting of summary judgment is appropriate.); Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (summary judgment appropriate where no genuine dispute of material fact exists). At the summary judgment stage, this court must "consider all evidence in the record . . . [including] pleadings, depositions, interrogatories, affidavits, etc. -- and can only grant summary judgment if everything in the record demonstrates that no genuine [dispute]

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of material fact exists." Strickland v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 692 F.3d 1151, 1154 (11th Cir. 2012).

For summary judgment purposes, only disputes involving material facts are relevant. United States v. One Piece of Real Prop. Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Florida, 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). What is material is determined by the substantive...

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