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Hollabaugh v. Cartledge

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

May 16, 2016

Donald L. Hollabaugh, Plaintiff,
v.
Leroy Cartledge, Warden; Scott Lewis, Associate Warden of Operations; Officers John Doe and Officers Jane Doe, Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION

Bruce Howe Hendricks United States District Judge

On April 11, 2014, Plaintiff filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that Defendants[1] violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights while Plaintiff was an inmate at the McCormick Correctional Institution (“MCI”). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Bristow Marchant, for consideration of pretrial matters. The Magistrate Judge prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) which recommends that both Plaintiff’s and Defendants’ motions for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff’s failure to protect claim be denied. He further recommends that Defendant’s motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff’s retaliation claim be granted. (ECF No. 73.) Defendants filed timely objections to the Report. (ECF No. 75.) For the reasons set forth herein, the Court adopts the Report.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Report sets forth in detail the relevant facts and standards of law, and the Court incorporates them and summarizes below only in relevant part. Plaintiff filed this matter on April 11, 2014, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. (ECF No. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff brings a § 1983 claim under the Eighth Amendment for “failure to protect” and a § 1983 claim under the Fourteenth Amendment for violation of his right to “substantive due process.” (Id. at 8, 10.) On December 16, 2015, Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 62.) Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on December 21, 2015. (ECF No. 63.) After consideration of the responses filed in opposition to the motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 68; 69) and Defendants’ reply (ECF No. 72), the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending that the motions for summary judgment be denied with respect to the failure to protect claim and Defendants’ motion for summary judgment be granted with respect to the retaliation claim. (ECF No. 73.) The Court has reviewed the objections to the Report, but finds them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.[2]

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portions of the Report and Recommendation to which a specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or may recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate’s proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate Judge’s conclusions are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

DISCUSSION

Defendants have objected to the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that (1) genuine issues of material fact preclude granting summary judgment on Plaintiff’s failure to protect claim and (2) Defendants Cartledge and Lewis are not entitled to qualified immunity.

Respectfully, Defendants’ objections are largely restatements of arguments made to, and rejected by, the Magistrate Judge. See Hendrix v. Colvin, 2013 WL 2407126, at *4 (D.S.C. June 3, 2013); see also Jackson v. Astrue, 2011 WL 1883026 (W.D. N.C. May 17, 2011); Aldrich v. Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004). “Examining anew arguments already assessed in the report of a magistrate judge would waste judicial resources; parties must explain why the magistrate judge’s report is erroneous, rather than simply rehashing their prior filings and stating the report’s assessment was wrong.” Hendrix, 2013 WL 2407126, at *4. Absent proper objections, the district court must “‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.’” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 Advisory Committee’s Note).

The Court has considered Defendants’ objections de novo and finds them insufficient to reject the recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. In his thorough twenty-two page Report, the Magistrate Judge engaged in a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of Plaintiff’s claims. Relevant to Defendants’ objections, the Magistrate Judge first found that there was “a genuine issue of fact as to whether the Defendants Cartledge and Lewis approved a policy that they knew subjected inmates to greater risk of intimidation and assault, thereby allowing an environment of violence and intimidation to occur and subjecting Plaintiff to an excessive risk to his health or safety.” (ECF No. 73 at 16.) He therefore found summary judgment was improper on the failure to protect claim. See Pruitt v. Moore, No. 3:02-0395-24, 2003 WL 23851094, at *9 (D.S.C. July 7, 2003) (“Deliberate or callous indifference on the part of prison officials to a specific known risk of harm states an Eighth Amendment claim.”); see also Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994) (to be found liable for deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment, “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference”).

To make this finding, the Magistrate Judge expressly relied on the following evidence: (1) that “Cartledge and Lewis both knew of and allowed a system to be put in place where inmate cells were unlocked during the course of the day with minimal supervision and oversight . . .”; (2) the testimony of other inmates showing “that the implementation of the ‘no-lock’ system by the Defendants had created a very dangerous atmosphere for inmates, and that both Defendants knew of the inmates fears and complaints about how vulnerable the system had made them to attack, violence, and extortion”; and (3) Plaintiff’s testimony that “he had personally complained to both Cartledge and Lewis about this situation and the danger it posed to inmates such as himself, but that neither Defendant took any corrective action.” (Id. at 16-17.)

Here, Defendants object to the Magistrate Judge’s analysis of the failure to protect claim, arguing that he: (1) considered Lewis’s testimony “out of context”; (2) improperly relied on Plaintiff’s exhibit showing the number of assaults and contraband violations at MCI from 2005 forward; and (3) erred in considering the opinions of other inmates on matters outside the scope of their personal knowledge. (ECF No. 75 at 3-6.) These objections are without merit.

First, the Magistrate Judge’s account of the evidence in the record does not indicate that he misconstrued Lewis’s deposition testimony. The Magistrate Judge engaged in an exhaustive account of the evidence in the record prior to discussing Plaintiff’s failure to protect claim. He noted that “while Lewis conceded that there is a higher risk to employees and inmates when they are outside of a locked cell than when they are inside of a locked cell, when asked if he had noticed any increase or decrease in violent attacks within cells after [the administration implemented the new locking system], Lewis testified that he did not recollect it being any more one way than the other.” (ECF No. 73 at 8-9.)

In arguing that the Magistrate Judge misconstrued Lewis’ deposition testimony, Defendants point to the ...


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