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Johnson v. Hooks

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division

August 29, 2019

PERRY L. JOHNSON, JR., Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, a former prisoner proceeding pro se in this action, filed a third amended complaint, ECF No. 9, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). The third amended complaint (hereinafter “complaint”) was served on the two named Defendants and Defendant Negron-Oliver filed a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 23, in November 2018. The motion was subsequently construed as a summary judgment motion, ECF No. 24, and Plaintiff was provided with a discovery period prior to being required to file his opposition to the motion. ECF No. 25. Thereafter, Plaintiff timely filed a response to the summary judgment motion, ECF No. 33, and Defendant Negron-Oliver filed a reply, ECF No. 35.

         More recently, Defendant Hooks filed a notice, ECF No. 39, on May 8, 2019, which was construed as a motion to join in the pending motion for summary judgment. See ECF No. 40. However, the motion also raised separate arguments and, thus, Plaintiff was provided an opportunity to address those additional arguments. ECF No. 40. Considering that discovery had been extended and was ongoing, see ECF No. 38, Plaintiff was directed to advise whether or not he needed additional discovery before ruling was entered on the pending motions. ECF No. 40.

         Plaintiff filed a response to both of the Defendants' motions, ECF No. 41, requesting that it be accepted to replace his prior response, see ECF No. 33. Plaintiff did not state that he needed additional discovery prior to responding. Thus, Plaintiff's response, ECF No. 41, is accepted and construed as an amended response to the pending motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Negron-Oliver as well as his response to the motion filed by Defendant Hooks. The motions are ready for a ruling.


         The events at issue in this case occurred while Plaintiff was serving the final portion of his federal sentence at a residential reentry center in Tallahassee, Florida. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants falsely accused him of circumventing mail procedures and retaliated against him. See ECF No. 41 at 4; ECF No. 9 at 12-13. He further alleged that he was denied his right to due process when he was not called to attend a disciplinary hearing before he was sanctioned with the loss of good conduct time and removed from the residential re-entry center. ECF No. 9 at 6. After Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal concerning the discipline imposed, the charges were “expunged.” ECF No. 9 at 11. Plaintiff then filed an Administrative Tort Claim with the Bureau of Prisons and received a settlement offer, which he declined. Id. at 12.

         Defendant Negron-Oliver is now a retired BOP discipline hearing officer (DHO). ECF No. 23 at 2. At the time of the events in this case, Defendant Negron-Oliver was working as a DHO at FCI Bennettsville. Id. In that capacity, she certified disciplinary actions taken at residential reentry centers (RRCs) housing BOP inmates in the Southeast Region. Id.

         Defendant Hooks was the Director of the Tallahassee RRC which was owned and operated by Keeton Corrections, Inc. ECF No. 39 at 1. She is no longer employed by Keeton Corrections but, at the time of the underlying events, worked as an employee for that company and was not employed by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). ECF No. 39 at 5. An RRC is “sometimes referred to as ‘halfway houses' because they house federal prisoners who are nearing their release date and are ‘half way' between being in prison and being released into society.” ECF No. 39 at 5-6. Defendant Hooks wrote an incident report against Plaintiff on August 19, 2015, which is at the center of this litigation. ECF No. 23-1 at 3.

         Standard of Review

         “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 judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Thus, summary judgment is proper “after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The “party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. The non-moving party must then show[1] though affidavits or other Rule 56 evidence “that there is a genuine issue for trial” or “an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. at 2554; Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 529, 126 S.Ct. 2572, 2578, 165 L.Ed.2d 697 (2006).

         An issue of fact is “material” if it could affect the outcome of the case. Hickson Corp. v. Northern Crossarm Co., Inc., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Additionally, “the issue of fact must be ‘genuine'” and the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (other citations omitted). “The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case.” McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003) (quoting Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000)).

         “[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). “[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2511 (noting that a “scintilla of evidence” is not enough to refer the matter to a jury). The Court must decide “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Hickson Corp., 357 F.3d at 1260 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). All “justifiable inferences” must be resolved in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Beard, 548 U.S. at 529, 126 S.Ct. at 2578 (noting the distinction “between evidence of disputed facts and disputed matters of professional judgment.”), [2] but “only if there is a ‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) (quoted in Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586, 129 S.Ct. 2658, 2677, 174 L.Ed.2d 490 (2009)). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356 (other citation omitted).

         The Relevant Rule 56(e) Evidence

         Both Defendants submitted declarations as evidence supporting the summary judgment motion. ECF No. 23-1; ECF No. 39 at 5-8. Plaintiff submitted argument in his response, but he did not submit any evidence. ECF No. 41. Thus, there is no ...

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