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Searls v. Stroughter

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 21, 2018

GREGORY D. SEARLS, JR. (#475896)



         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the U.S. District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have 14 days after being served with the attached report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations set forth therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions accepted by the District Court.



         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Douglas Stroughter and Marcus Allen (R. Doc. 11).[1] This motion is not opposed.

         Pro se Plaintiff, an inmate previously incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Institute, Jackson, Louisiana, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Major Douglas Stroughter, Capt. Marcus Allen and Sgt. M. Strahan, complaining that Defendants violated his constitutional rights on August 23, 2014, by subjecting him to excessive force on that date.

         Defendants Stroughter and Allen move for summary judgment asserting, inter alia, that Plaintiff's claims are time-barred. Defendants rely upon the pleadings, a Statement of Undisputed Facts, and exhibits consisting of certified copies of (1) Plaintiff's pertinent administrative remedy proceedings, (2) a Bill of Information dated November 24, 2014, charging Plaintiff with one count of Battery of a Correctional Facility Employee (3) an extract from the Minutes of the 20th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Feliciana, State of Louisiana, reflecting Plaintiff's sentence on August 23, 2016, upon a plea of guilty, to one year in confinement for the commission of a Battery upon a Correctional Facility Employee, and (4) the affidavits of Rhonda Z. Weldon and Defendants Marcus Allen and Douglas Stroughter.

         Pursuant to well-established legal principles, summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine disputed issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). A party moving for summary judgment must inform the Court of the basis for the motion and identify those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, that show that there is no such genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, supra, 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party carries its burden of proof under Rule 56, the opposing party must direct the Court's attention to specific evidence in the record which demonstrates that the non-moving party can satisfy a reasonable jury that it is entitled to a verdict in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., supra, 477 U.S. at 248. This burden is not satisfied by some metaphysical doubt as to alleged material facts, by unsworn and unsubstantiated assertions, by conclusory allegations, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). Rather, Rule 56 mandates that summary judgment be entered 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, supra, 477 U.S. at 323. Summary judgment is appropriate in any case where the evidence is so weak or tenuous on essential facts that the evidence could not support a judgment in favor of the non-moving party. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., supra, 37 F.3d at 1075. In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court may not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes. International Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally=s, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991).

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on the morning of August 23, 2014, he was told by a correctional officer that he needed to get a haircut. According to Plaintiff, he put in a request for a haircut appointment but, because of delays attendant to a lengthy prison count, he was not able to get a haircut before lunch. Later that day, during lunch, he was asked why he had not gotten a haircut as instructed. Although he tried to explain that the prison barbershop was closed until after lunch, he was summoned to an office where he was allegedly “brutally beaten” by Defendants while in full restraints.

         As noted above, the moving Defendants contend, in response to Plaintiff's allegations, that his claim is barred by the one-year limitations period applicable to claims asserted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As discussed hereafter, the Court finds that Defendants' contention in this regard is well-founded.

         Inasmuch as there is no federal statute of limitations for claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a federal court must borrow the forum state's general personal injury limitations period for such claims. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-50 (1989). In Louisiana, the applicable period of limitations is one year. La. Civ. Code Art. 3492. Moreover, under federal law, a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 accrues “when the aggrieved party has either knowledge of the violation or notice of facts which, in the exercise of due diligence, would have led to actual knowledge thereof.” Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 51 F.3d 512, 516 (5th Cir. 1995) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A plaintiff need not realize that a legal cause of action exists but must only have knowledge of the facts that support a claim. Id. Under Louisiana law, a party pleading a limitations defense normally has the burden of establishing the elements of that defense. See Savoy v. St. Landry Parish Council, 2009 WL 4571851, *3 (W.D. La. Dec. 1, 2009). However, when the face of the plaintiff's Complaint reflects that more than a year has passed since the events complained of, the burden of proof shifts to the plaintiff to show that the limitations period has been interrupted or tolled. Id. In computing the applicable limitations period, the Court is obligated to take into account the time during which any administrative grievances filed by Plaintiff were pending within the prison system. See Harris v. Hegmann, 198 F.3d 153, 158 (5th Cir. 1999) (finding that the pendency of a properly-filed administrative grievance will toll or suspend the running of the one-year limitations period for a prisoner's claim).

         In the instant case, Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint, that was filed herein on October 19, 2016, that the incident of which he complains occurred on August 23, 2014. Based upon the nature of his claim, i.e., the asserted utilization of excessive force by Defendants, Plaintiff was unquestionably aware of the factual basis for his cause of action on the date that the incident occurred, well more than a year before the commencement of this proceeding in 2016. As a result, Plaintiff's cause of action accrued at such earlier point in time, and his claim relative to the referenced event clearly appears to be time-barred on the face of his Complaint.

         Nor does the pendency of Plaintiff's pertinent administrative remedy proceeding affect the Court's decision. In this regard, the record reflects that Plaintiff submitted an administrative grievance to prison officials on or about September 2, 2014, see R. Doc. 12-4 at p. 11, and that the referenced grievance remained pending for approximately one hundred thirty-six (136) days, until the denial thereof on January 16, 2015. See id. at p. 10. Accordingly, the one-year limitations period was extended by that period of time, see Harris v. Hegmann, supra. Notwithstanding, even discounting the period of time during which his administrative grievance was ...

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