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Green v. Capers

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

March 28, 2017

MS. CAPERS, Jail Administrator; MR. BROOKS, Jail Guard; and MS. ELMORE, Jail Guard, Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D. Austin's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) that this court grant defendants' Ms. Capers (“Capers”), Mr. Brooks (“Brooker”), [1] and Ms. Elmore's (“Elmore, ” together with Capers and Brooks, “defendants”) motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Demetrius L. Green (“Green”) filed a written objection to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts in part and rejects in part the R&R, and grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         At all times relevant to the factual allegations underlying this action, Green was housed at the Allendale County Detention Center (“ACDC”). Upon his arrival at ACDC in 2013, Green alleges he was placed in “the lock down unit”[3] because of the seriousness of the charges against him-attempted murder and possession of a firearm during a violent crime. Green contends that his placement in the lock down unit was discriminatory because other detainees were placed in the regular jail population, despite facing similar or worse charges.

         On September 9, 2013, detainee Barry Grant (“Grant”) was placed in the lock down unit. Green requested that he or Grant be moved because of the seriousness of the charges against Grant. Green's request received no response, and on September 14, 2013, he and Grant engaged in a fight. ECF No. 59-4. In response to this fight, Capers ordered Green and Grant to be kept apart, but Capers did not move either detainee out of the lock down unit.

         On November 5, 2013, Brooker and Elmore failed to keep Grant and Green separated; Green walked out of his cell, and Grant attacked him with a razor. Green suffered serious injuries to his head and eye, and was rushed to the hospital for treatment. Green's injuries eventually required surgery, and his left eye is now permanently damaged. Green alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent and reckless in failing to keep him safe from Grant, arguing that defendants knew that Grant was not locked in his cell when they allowed Green to walk out of his own cell.

         Green filed the instant action on January 13, 2016, alleging that Capers discriminated against Green in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by initially assigning him to the lock down unit and later failing to move either him or Grant from the lock down unit. ECF No. 1 at 5. Green also alleges that defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights, along with his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel or unusual punishment, by allowing him to leave his cell while they knew Grant was not secured. Id. Green seeks declaratory relief, as well as damages.

         Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment on July 1, 2016. ECF No. 59. The court issued a Roseboro Order on July 5, 2016. ECF No. 60. Green filed a response to defendants' motion on September 29, 2016, ECF No. 83, and defendants filed a reply on October 11, 2016. ECF No. 85. Green then filed an “Affidavit in Opposition” on October 24, 2016, which the magistrate judge construed as a sur-reply. ECF No. 88. The magistrate judge issued her R&R on January 19, 2017, ECF No. 91, and Green filed his objections on March 13, 2017. ECF No. 97. Green also filed a motion to postpone this court's decision until he can provide the court with certain additional discovery.[4] ECF No. 96. At this point, the matter became ripe for the court's consideration. Nevertheless, defendants filed an untimely reply to Green's objections on March 27, 2017. ECF No. 99.

         II. STANDARD

         This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's report to which specific, written objections are made, and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendations contained in that report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The magistrate judge's recommendation does not carry presumptive weight, and it is the responsibility of this court to make a final determination. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). A party's failure to object may be treated as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).

         Green appears pro se in this case. Federal district courts are charged with liberally construing complaints filed by pro se litigants to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a cognizable claim, nor does it mean the court can assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         Summary judgment shall be granted if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the ECF of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. At the summary judgment stage, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. Id. at 255.


         The magistrate judge read Green's complaint to allege two distinct claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) a discrimination claim, based on his placement in the lock down unit; and (2) a failure-to-protect claim, based on defendants' deliberate indifference in allowing Grant to attack Green on November 5, 2013.[5] R&R at 8. The magistrate judge first recommended that the court reject defendants' contention that Green failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to these claims, pointing out that defendants failed to provide an affidavit from a records custodian at ACDC, or any other evidence, to support this argument. Id. at 9. The court agrees with this recommendation, and adopts the magistrate judge's analysis on the matter.[6]The court next addresses the merits of Green's claims.

         A. Discrimination Claim

         Green claims that his assignment to the lock down unit was discriminatory because other inmates facing similar charges were assigned to the medium security unit. The magistrate judge determined that Green “fail[ed] to set forth any specific, non-conclusory factual allegations which establish improper motive, ” and “failed to show that his security ...

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