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Parker v. Gusman

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 4, 2018




         Plaintiff, Desmond C. Parker, a state prisoner, filed this pro se and in forma pauperis federal civil rights action against Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman, Deputy O. Woods, Correct Care Solutions, LLC, and Dr. Xuong Nguyen. Plaintiff claimed that he was denied adequate medical care, inmates were denied needed assistance, his personal property was lost, and he was sexually assaulted.[1]

         Plaintiff was subsequently granted leave to amend the complaint to add Deputy D. Tapp, Deputy D. Harris, and Shontrell Cooper as defendants. Plaintiff alleged that Tapp and Harris were present while plaintiff was being sexually assaulted and yet failed to take any action to protect him. Plaintiff alleged that Cooper was deliberately indifferent to his need for medical care, in that she “ignored plaintiff's cries for help regarding his continuing pain & suffering.”[2]

         The claims against Correct Care Solutions, LLC, Dr. Nguyen, and Marlin Gusman were subsequently dismissed, as was plaintiff's claim concerning his lost property.[3]

         Accordingly, only the following claims remain in this lawsuit: (1) Deputy O. Woods sexually assaulted plaintiff during a strip search; (2) Deputies D. Tapp and D. Harris were present during that sexual assault and yet failed to take any action to protect plaintiff; and (3) Shontrell Cooper was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's need for medical care. The remaining defendants have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).[4]

         Claim against Deputy Woods

         Deputy Woods has filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[5] Plaintiff has opposed that motion.[6]

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court may grant the motion when no genuine issue of material fact exists and the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). There is no “genuine issue” when the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmovant. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         “Procedurally, the party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Taita Chemical Co., Ltd. v. Westlake Styrene Corp., 246 F.3d 377, 385 (5th Cir. 2001) (quotation marks and brackets omitted). The party opposing summary judgment must then “go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord Provident Life and Accident Ins. Co. v. Goel, 274 F.3d 984, 991 (5th Cir. 2001). The Court has no duty to search the record for evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment; rather, “[t]he party opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which the evidence supports his or her claim.” Ragas v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., 136 F.3d 455, 458 (5th Cir. 1998). Conclusory statements, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions are not competent summary judgment evidence and will not suffice to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Id.; Douglass v. United Services Auto. Ass'n, 79 F.3d 1415, 1429 (5th Cir. 1996).

         In this lawsuit, plaintiff claims that he was sexually assaulted by Deputy Woods during a strip search. Plaintiff states his claim as follows:

On 2/8/16 at the new jail Orleans Justice Center or (OJC), during a shake down I was strip searched in the shower on the third floor E-side. After removing all of my clothes I proceeded to squat & cough. Deputy O. Woods who was conducting the search said “no, turn around and bend over.” I thought he meant to turn around & squat & cough, so when I turned around he pushed me over a plastic chair that was in the shower & put his hands in between my butt checks & tried to manually spread my cheeks. I immediately jumped away, of course feeling violated & further injuring my ankle again. Two other deputies were present in the shower when this happened, Deputies D. Tapp & D. Harris. Once I asked him what he was doing & at the same time explaining that he can NOT touch me like that all of the deputies were laughing. Woods in particular was staring at my penis and smiling.[7]

         In connection with his motion, Deputy Woods has presented evidence that a syringe was taken from the jail nurse's medical cart on February 8, 2016. As a result of that incident, officers conducted a systematic search “shakedown” of all inmates housed on the dorm. As part of that search, Woods performed the strip search of plaintiff. Plaintiff does not dispute that this was in fact the reason the search was conducted.

         Clearly, it is permissible for penal officials to conduct such searches to ensure the security and safety of their institutions. As the United States Supreme Court has stated:

Prisons, by definition, are places of involuntary confinement of persons who have a demonstrated proclivity for antisocial criminal, and often violent, conduct. Inmates have necessarily shown a lapse in ability to control and conform their behavior to the legitimate standards of society by the normal impulses of self-restraint; they have shown an inability to regulate their conduct in a ...

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