Lewis v. Csaszak

Decision Date27 September 2022
Docket NumberCivil Action 1:20-cv-256-TBM-RPM
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi


Larry Lewis, an inmate at the Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute, brings this pro se suit against Joshua Csaszak Joe Errington, Connie Pearce, Joseph Cooley, and James Cooksey. He alleges that these Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments when they did not take action against a fellow inmate who assaulted Lewis. [1] pp. 3-9.

The Magistrate Judge in this case has issued a Report and Recommendation [38] regarding the Motion for Summary Judgment [35] filed by Csaszak, Errington, Cooley, and Cooksey and the Motion Claim for Lawsuit Damage [37] filed by Lewis.[1] The Report and Recommendation found that Lewis' claims should be dismissed because the Defendants are entitled to sovereign immunity and qualified immunity. [38], pp. 4-11. Lewis filed a “Report of Objection.” [39]. This Court has reviewed the objections, recommendations, and the other filings in this case. Because the Report and Recommendation correctly analyzed the facts and the law, this Court adopts it.


Lewis is around fifty-seven years old and serving a life-sentence at the Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute (SMCI) in Leaksville, Mississippi. [1], p. 2; [33], p. 9. Lewis was convicted of having sex with a minor. [33], p. 9.

Over two weeks in the summer of 2020, Lewis asserts that an unnamed fellow inmate harassed him. [33], p. 14. Allegedly, this unnamed harasser would walk up to Lewis, kick him and hit him, and Lewis would ignore him. [33], p. 15. On June 8, 2020, shortly after eating, Lewis saw this inmate approaching and alleges he told a tower guard named Connie Pearce “there's fixing to be a blood bath in here[.] [33], p. 13. Lewis told the Magistrate Judge that this warning did not give any of SMCI's staff any time to do anything before the assault occurred. [33], p. 18. A minute later, Killer Bee, an inmate affiliated with the unnamed harasser, hit Lewis with a dining tray. [33], pp. 13-14. Killer Bee hit him six times. [33], p. 13. According to Lewis, Killer Bee is a member of the Vice Lords gang. [33], p. 11.

Lewis escaped Killer Bee's assault through a door he alleges was opened by Connie Pearce. [33], p. 27. In Lewis' words, this saved his life. [33], p. 27. The next day, Lewis asserts he went to SMCI's Investigations Director James Cooksey and told him about the assault. [33], p. 25. Cooksey allegedly took Lewis to the infirmary, and Lewis told him he wanted to press charges against Killer Bee. [33], p. 25. Lewis asserts that Cooksey replied that he would bring the facts to the prosecutor, but that it would ultimately be the prosecutor's decision whether to file criminal charges against Killer Bee. [33], p. 25.

Five days later, on June 12, 2020, Lewis filed a request for an administrative remedy with the Mississippi Department of Corrections Administrative Remedy Program. [1-1], p. 6. Lewis laid out the sequence of the assault before stating he wanted a “charge of assault” against Killer Bee and also stating he wanted two million dollars for pain and suffering for not being protected from an affiliated gang member. [1-1], p. 6. Joseph Cooley, an investigator with the Administrative Remedy Program, sent Lewis a letter on June 25, 2020, rejecting his requests. [1-1], p. 5. The letter noted that [a]ny type of requests for compensation will be returned. Compensation is an issue determined by the court and the ARP does not handle lawsuits or matters involving the courts.” [1-1], p. 5.

Lewis filed a renewed request on June 30, 2020. [1-1], p. 2. It reiterated his prior statement. [1-1], pp. 2-3. Additionally, Lewis alleged that “staff failed to reporting [sic] the incident” and [t]he staff knew that there was a substantial risk you [sic] would be seriously harmed by been housed with gang member at SMIC.” [1-1], pp. 3-4. Cooley again denied Lewis' request, noting again the compensation problem and also stating that [t]he ARP cannot file criminal charges against an offender. Criminal charges are filed in court by the district attorney. It is a court matter and ARP does not have authority in matters involving the court.” [1-1], p. 1.

Lewis subsequently filed his suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [1], p. 3. Section 1983 creates a cause of action for any person who suffers “the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” by someone acting “under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia.” The Court granted him leave to proceed in forma pauperis, [5]. Csaszak, Errington, Cooley, and Cooksey filed a joint Answer denying Lewis' allegations that they violated his civil rights. [18]. Pearce filed a short pro se response to Lewis' Complaint, stating “I, Connie Pierce, was not employed by the Mississippi Department of Corrections on June 8, 2020. I, Connie Pierce, have never been employed at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution as a Correctional Tower Office[r].” [27], p. 1.[2]

The Magistrate Judge then held a video conference to screen Lewis' suit in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). [33], pp. 1-3.[3] At the conference, Lewis recounted the assault and clarified that he sued Csaszak, SMCI's warden, for “put[ting] [Killer Bee] in a zone with old folks and try to hide him out . . . he is putting everybody else's lives in danger.” [33], p. 22. Lewis stated that he sued Errington, SMCI's superintendent, [b]ecause he didn't do nothing about it....They didn't do no kind of investigation, didn't do nothing, didn't check on nothing.” [33], p. 23. He sued Cooley for the same reasons, stating [h]e is doing the same thing, too. He supposed to check in and make sure-about the same with both of them.” [33], p. 24. Lewis sued Cooksey because after he told Cooksey he wanted to press charges, Lewis “never heard nothing more about it. Nothing. They didn't do nothing. It was like it never happened.” [33], p. 25. Finally, Lewis sued Pearce because [s]he didn't do no complaint. She watched the whole incident. She didn't file no complaint, she didn't write no RVRs. It's like she covering it up for him.” [33], p. 26.

After the video conference, Csaszak, Errington, Cooley, and Cooksey filed their joint Motion for Summary Judgment on the bases of sovereign and qualified immunity. [35], p. 1. The Motion for Summary Judgment also noted that Pearce asserted she has never been employed as a Tower Guard at SMCI and urged the Court to dismiss the claims against her as well. [35], p. 2 n.2.

Lewis filed a document entitled Plaintiff Motion Claim For Lawsuit damage under 42 U.S. 1983.” [37]. This responded to the Motion for Summary Judgment by reiterating Lewis' claims from his Complaint and administrative requests. [37]. The Magistrate Judge reviewed these motions and issued a Report and Recommendation granting the Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissing the claims against Pearce. [38], p. 1. Lewis objected to the Report and Recommendation and reiterated his earlier claims. [39], pp. 1-4.


When an objection is lodged against a magistrate judge's recommendation, this Court reviews the issues raised de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Here, Lewis does not clearly identify the portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which he is objecting. See Habets v. Waste Mgmt., Inc., 363 F.3d 378, 381 (5th Cir. 2004) (noting that in accord with the statute parties may “file specific written objections.” (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1))). His “Report of Objection” merely restates his earlier allegations and includes statements taken from the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation; it does not specifically object to any point in the Report and Recommendation. Given Lewis' lack of specific objections, plain error review applies rather than de novo. Wallace v. Mississippi, 43 F.4th 482, 495 (5th Cir. 2022). But merely to be thorough, this Court has reviewed the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation de novo.


The Report and Recommendation evaluated Csaszak, Errington, Cooley, and Cooksey's Motion for Summary Judgment, but the Magistrate Judge construed that Motion as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). [38], p.1 n.2. Neither party objects to this, so this Court will do the same.[4] “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” Gonzalez v. Trevino, 42 F.4th 487, 491 (5th Cir. 2022) (quoting West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988)). These elements are evaluated under “the standard pleading burden[.] Smith v. Heap, 31 F.4th 905, 910 (5th Cir. 2022). [A] complaint must present enough facts to state a plausible claim to relief. A plaintiff need not provide exhaustive detail to avoid dismissal, but the pleaded facts must allow a reasonable inference that the plaintiff should prevail.” Smith, 31 F.4th at 910 (quoting Mandawala v. Ne. Baptist Hosp., 16 F.4th 1144, 1150 (5th Cir. 2021)).

The Magistrate Judge also advised dismissing the claim against Connie Pearce for failure...

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