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Chestnut v. Singleton

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

April 14, 2015

Raymond Edward Chestnut, Plaintiff,
Officer K. Singleton, Defendant.


SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Raymond Edward Chestnut, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 397 (1971).[1] Plaintiff alleges that Officer Singleton ("Defendant") used excessive force against him during Plaintiff's incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institution in Bennettsville, South Carolina, a facility of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). [ECF No. 1]. This matter comes before the court on Defendant's motion to dismiss/for summary judgment. [ECF No. 68]. Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the court advised Plaintiff of the motion to dismiss and summary judgment procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to Defendant's motion. [ECF No. 69]. This matter having been fully briefed, it is ripe for disposition. [ECF Nos. 81, 82, 89].

Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this matter has been referred to the undersigned for all pretrial proceedings. This motion is dispositive, therefore this report and recommendation is entered for review by the district judge. Because the undersigned has considered matters outside of the pleadings, the motion is treated as one for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the district judge grant Defendant's motion.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

A. Factual Background[2]

In his verified complaint, [3] Plaintiff alleges that on August 10, 2012, while he was being placed in hand restraints, Defendant entered the recreation yard. [ECF No. 1 at 3]. Plaintiff alleges that he asked Defendant why she did npt "exercise and work out to lose some weight to be physically fit." Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant then spat in his eye and that his eye was swollen and blurry for 14 days. Id. Plaintiff states that Defendant also spat on his head, chest, face and arms. Id. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant then obtained a fire extinguisher and "attempted to assault" Plaintiff by striking him and spraying him in the face. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff alleges Defendant used excessive force against him in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights. Id. at 4.

II. Discussion

A. Standard on Summary Judgment

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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate; if the movant carries its burden, then the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If a movant asserts that a fact cannot be disputed, it must support that assertion either by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials;" or "showing... that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id. at 248.

B. Analysis

1. Excessive Force

In an excessive force case, a claimant must meet a heavy burden to satisfy the subjective component of the claim; specifically, he must prove that correctional officers applied force "maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm, " rather than in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986); see also Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34 (2010). The objective component of an excessive force claim is not nearly as demanding, however, because "[w]hen prison officials maliciously and sadistically use force to cause harm'... contemporary standards of decency are always violated... whether or not significant injury is evident. Otherwise, the Eighth Amendment would permit any physical punishment, no matter how diabolic or inhuman, inflicting less than some arbitrary quantity of injury.'" Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 37 (quoting Hudson v. McMillan, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992)). The Supreme Court has also recognized that prison officials work in an environment where there is an ever-present potential for violence and unrest, and that courts should not substitute their judgment for that of the officials who must make a choice at the moment when the application of force is needed. Id. The deference owed to prison administrators extends to "prophylactic or preventive measures intended to reduce the incidence of... breaches of prison discipline." Id. at 322.

The Supreme Court has directed courts to balance several factors in determining whether prison officials acted maliciously and sadistically. These factors include (1) the necessity for the application of force; (2) the relationship between the need for force and the amount of force used; (3) the extent of the injury actually inflicted; (4) the extent of the threat to the safety of the staff and prisoners, as reasonably perceived by the responsible officials on the basis of the facts known to ...

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