United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
CHESTER R. HOFFMANN, Plaintiff,
ANTHONY MCCRAY, et al., Defendants.
J. DAVIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Chester R. Hoffmann is proceeding on a pro se Amended Civil
Rights Complaint (Doc. 9; Complaint) against Chad Gaylord,
Thomas North, Anthony McCray, Robert Davis, Michalah Mosely,
Joseph Harris, and three John Does, identified as John Doe
“B, ” John Doe “C, ” and John Doe
“E.” In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts
violations of the 4th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments.
Complaint at 4. He alleges Defendants North, McCray,
Harris, and John Does “C” and “E”
used excessive force against him on October 17, 2016 (at two
separate times), when he was housed at Hamilton Correctional
Institution (HCI). Id. at 7-8. Plaintiff asserts
Defendants Davis and Mosely failed to intervene, and
Defendant Gaylord, a nurse, failed to report the force
incidents. Id. Finally, he asserts Defendant North
violated his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments
in connection with a disciplinary hearing resulting in an
adjudication of guilt. Id. As relief, Plaintiff
seeks a declaration that Defendants violated his
constitutional rights, compensatory and punitive damages,
litigation costs, to have the alleged false disciplinary
report removed from his file, to be placed back in the
general population, and to be transferred to a different
correctional facility. Id. at 16.
the Court are two motions for summary judgment: one filed by
Defendants McCray, Davis, Mosely, and North (Doc. 57; McCray
Motion), and one filed by Defendant Harris (Doc. 70; Harris
Motion). Plaintiff has responded to both
Motions (Docs. 67, 80; collectively, “Pl.
Responses”). Accordingly, the motions are ripe for
this Court's review.
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule 56, “[t]he 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is genuine
when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return
a verdict in favor of the nonmovant. Mize v. Jefferson
City Bd. of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996)
(quoting Hairston v. Gainesville Sun Publ'g Co.,
9 F.3d 913, 919 (11th Cir. 1993)). “[A] mere scintilla
of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position
is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary
judgment.” Kesinger ex rel. Estate of Kesinger v.
Herrington, 381 F.3d 1243, 1247 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating to the court, by reference to the record, that
there are no genuine issues of material fact to be determined
at trial. See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929
F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). The record to be considered
on a motion for summary judgment may include
“depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
a moving party has discharged its burden, the non-moving
party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own
affidavits, or by depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Jeffery v.
Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593-94 (11th Cir.
1995) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
law determines the materiality of facts, and “[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.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In
determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court
“must view all evidence and make all reasonable
inferences in favor of the party opposing summary
judgment.” Haves v. City of Miami, 52 F.3d
918, 921 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing Dibrell Bros.
Int'l, S.A. v. Banca Nazionale Del Lavoro, 38 F.3d
1571, 1578 (11th Cir. 1994)).
Complaint, which is verified under penalty of perjury,
Plaintiff describes two instances of
excessive force at HCI on October 17, 2016. The first
instance of force occurred inside housing unit A, where
Plaintiff's cell was located. Complaint at 7. According
to Plaintiff, Defendants Davis, McCray, and Mosely were
counseling inmates about cleanliness. Id. at 11.
Defendant Davis informed the inmates they were being denied
certain privileges because of cleanliness violations, and
Plaintiff spoke up, stating the punishment was unfair.
Id. Plaintiff and Defendant McCray “began
going back and forth concerning the issue.”
Id. Plaintiff alleges Defendant McCray was yelling
at him. Plaintiff told Defendant McCray he was a mental
health (“psych”) inmate and did not like to be
yelled at, which made Defendant McCray yell louder.
Id. Plaintiff alleges he “acted like he was
going to lunge at McCray, ” but did not carry through
with the action. Defendant McCray then instructed Plaintiff
to get down from his bunk, which Plaintiff declined to do.
Plaintiff declined to get off his bunk at Defendant
McCray's request, Defendant Davis ordered Plaintiff to
get down. Plaintiff then complied. At Defendant McCray's
instruction, Plaintiff began walking toward the bathroom.
Plaintiff alleges he had his hands in the air. Id.
Plaintiff asserts Defendant McCray said, “when we get
to the bathroom I'm going to show you who is really is
[sic] [psych].” Id. Plaintiff stopped walking,
turned around to say something to Defendant McCray, but then
changed his mind, and “turned back around with both
hands in the air.” Id. Plaintiff asserts
Defendant McCray grabbed him from behind, slammed him
face-first to the floor, handcuffed him, and sprayed him in
the face with chemical agents. Id. at 11-12.
Davis and McCray then escorted Plaintiff to the center gate,
where the second alleged incident occurred. Id. at
12. At the center gate, Defendant McCray informed Defendant
North that Plaintiff tried to hit Defendant McCray. Plaintiff
asserts Defendant North, Defendant Harris, and John Does
“C” and “E” placed a spit shield over
his head and “began striking [him] in his head and face
area.” Id. Plaintiff also asserts Defendant
North rammed “his knee into [Plaintiff's] face and
the officers ram[m]ed his head into a post and twisted his
arms up and tried to break his fingers.” Id.
Officers then escorted Plaintiff to dorm H, where Plaintiff
took a decontamination shower “to wash off the
‘blood' and ‘chemical agents.'”
the decontamination shower, officers placed a spit shield
over Plaintiff's head again, allegedly to “hide and
cover-up [Plaintiff's] injuries.” Id.
Plaintiff asserts that, upon arriving at the medical
evaluation room, Defendant North threatened him, stating
“how you are treated here depends on what you say and
do.” Id. Plaintiff claims the nurse, Defendant
Gaylord, did not document all his injuries and did not remove
the spit shield from his head to check his face for injuries.
Id. After the medical examination, Plaintiff was
placed in a cell with only boxers for seven days.
Id. at 13. In the days after his placement in the
cell, Plaintiff's requests for medical treatment and
grievance forms were ignored. Plaintiff saw his mental health
counselor, John Doe “B, ” about four days after
asserts he suffered a concussion resulting from Defendant
McCray's attack, and the chemical spray caused pain,
temporary blindness, and respiratory problems. Id.
at 15. He alleges the assault that occurred at the center
gate resulted in a pulled muscle, sore fingers, lumps to his
head, a “busted nose, ” and black eyes.
Id. Plaintiff also claims to have suffered mental
anguish, fear, depression, and other emotional injuries.
addition to his Eighth Amendment claims, Plaintiff asserts
Defendant North violated his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment
rights in connection with a disciplinary action that resulted
in Plaintiff's loss of “good adjustment
transfer” and placement on close management.
Id. at 9, 13.
Legal Analysis & Conclusions of Law
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
North, McCray, Davis, Mosely, and Harris assert they are
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity as to any claims
against them for damages in their official capacities. See
McCray Motion at 1; Harris Motion at 1. Plaintiff appears to
misunderstand Defendants' Eleventh Amendment immunity
defense because, in response, he simply reiterates that
Defendants used excessive force against him. Pl. Responses at
plaintiff sues a state actor in his official capacity,
“the action is in essence one for the recovery of money
from the state.” Zatler v. Wainwright, 802
F.2d 397, 400 (11th Cir. 1986). As such, “the state is
the real, substantial party in interest and is entitled to
invoke its sovereign immunity from suit even though
individual officials are nominal defendants.”
Id. (finding the FDOC Secretary was immune from suit
in his official capacity). To the extent Plaintiff seeks
monetary damages from Defendants North, McCray, Davis,
Mosely, and Harris in their official capacities, they are
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Therefore,
Defendants' motions are due to be granted as to
Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages from them in
their official capacities.
McCray, Davis, Mosely, and Harris invoke qualified immunity.
See McCray Motion at 6; Harris Motion at 6. Plaintiff
states Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity
because they used excessive force against him. See Pl.
Responses at 11. As to the first incident, Plaintiff claims
he did not make any aggressive movement toward Defendant
McCray when Defendants were escorting him, and Defendant
McCray sprayed him with pepper spray “until the can was
empty.” Id. at 4. As to the second incident,
Plaintiff asserts Defendant Harris punched him in the face
while he had a spit shield covering his head and was fully
restrained. Id. at 5.
officer sued in his individual capacity “is entitled to
qualified immunity for his discretionary actions unless he
violated ‘clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.'” Black v. Wigington, 811 F.3d
1259, 1266 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Case v.
Eslinger, 555 F.3d 1317, 1325 (11th Cir. 2009)).
Qualified immunity allows officers to exercise their official
duties without fear of facing personal liability. Alcocer
v. Mills, 906 F.3d 944, 951 (11th Cir. 2018). The
doctrine protects all but the plainly incompetent or those
who knowingly violate an inmate's constitutional rights.
asserting a qualified immunity defense, a defendant bears the
initial burden to demonstrate he was acting in his
discretionary authority at the relevant times. Dukes v.
Deaton, 852 F.3d 1035, 1041-42 (11th Cir.), cert.
denied, 138 S.Ct. 72 (2017). Here, the uncontradicted
evidence demonstrates Defendants McCray, Davis, Mosely, and
Harris were acting within the scope of their discretionary
duties at the time of the alleged incidents, which Plaintiff
does not dispute. As such, Defendants carry their burden on
qualified immunity. The burden now shifts to Plaintiff.
overcome a qualified immunity defense, a plaintiff bears the
burden to demonstrate two elements: the defendant's
conduct caused plaintiff to suffer a constitutional
violation, and the constitutional violation was
“clearly established” at the time of the alleged
violation. Alcocer, 906 F.3d at 951. “Because §
1983 ‘requires proof of an affirmative causal
connection between the official's acts or omissions and
the alleged constitutional deprivation,' each defendant
is entitled to an independent qualified-immunity analysis as
it relates to his or her actions and omissions.”
Id. (quoting Zatler, 802 F.2d at 401). As such, the
Court will analyze Plaintiff's excessive force claim
against Defendants separately. Before doing so, the Court
will set forth the relevant Eighth Amendment
Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual
punishment “prohibits the unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain, or the infliction of pain totally without
penological justification.” Ort v. White, 813
F.2d 318, 321 (11th Cir. 1987). As such, the Eighth Amendment
prohibits “punishment grossly disproportionate to the
severity of the offense.” Id. In analyzing use
of force incidents, courts must be mindful that they
generally should not interfere in matters of prison
administration or inmate discipline. Id. at 322.
Thus, courts must balance concerns of an inmate's right
to be free from cruel and unusual punishment with a prison
official's obligation to ensure a safe and secure
institution. Id. 321-22. “The Court's
decisions in this area counsel that prison officials should
be accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and
execution of policies and practices that in their judgment
are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to
maintain institutional security.” Id. at 322
(quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1979)).
of the deference afforded prison officials, an inmate against
whom force is used to restore order or quell a disturbance
demonstrates an Eighth Amendment violation only when the
official's action “inflicted unnecessary and wanton
pain and suffering.” Id. (internal citations
omitted). See also Williams v. Burton, 943 F.2d
1572, 1575 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Whitley, 475 U.S. at
(1986)) (“The Supreme Court has held that . . . any
security measure undertaken to resolve [a] disturbance gives
rise to an Eighth Amendment claim only if the measure taken
‘inflicted unnecessary and wanton pain and
suffering' caused by force used ‘maliciously and
sadistically for the very purpose of causing
harm.'”) (emphasis is original). When an officer
uses force to quell a disturbance, the force should cease
once the inmate has been controlled. A continued use of
harmful force may constitute punishment in violation of the
Eighth Amendment if the behavior giving rise to the need for
force has ceased. Ort, 813 F.2d at 324.
Eleventh Circuit has articulated five factors courts may
consider in determining whether an officer's use of force
was in good faith or carried out ...