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Mathis v. Milem

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

May 26, 2017

J.A. MILEM, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Steven L. Hopkins and John L. Kempf s motion for summary judgment. (Docket Entry 30.) Also before the Court is Plaintiff Quentin Mathis's letter document, which in part, appears to be a motion for an extension of time to obtain discovery. (Docket Entry 43.) All matters are ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiffs motion for an extension of time to obtain discovery, and recommend that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be denied.


         On March 11, 2015, Plaintiff, a pro se prisoner, filed a Complaint asserting that Defendants[1] used excessive force upon Plaintiff after conducting a routine and scheduled search at the Rowan County Detention Center. (See generally Compl., Docket Entry 2.) Defendants Hopkins and Kempf thereafter filed an Answer (Docket Entry 16) and the Court entered a discovery order in this matter. (Docket Entry 18.) The completion date of all discovery was October 10, 2016. (Id.) Plaintiff subsequently filed an Amended Complaint which was stricken for failure to comply with the Local Rules and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Text Order dated 9/12/2016; see also Docket Entry 21.) In light of Plaintiff's pro se prisoner status, the Court did allow Plaintiff additional time to file a proper motion for leave to amend his Complaint. (Text Order dated 9/12/2016.) Plaintiff filed subsequent motions for leave to amend, and for an order compelling discovery. (Docket Entries 23, 24.) On November 8, 2016, Defendants Hopkins and Kempf filed their motion for summary judgment. (Docket Entry 30.) Thereafter the Court ruled upon Plaintiffs motions. (Text Order dated 12/21/2016.) In particular, the Court ordered that Defendants respond to Plaintiffs request for certain documentation and the video of the alleged assault. (Id.) As to interrogatory requests, the Court further instructed Plaintiff to submit to Defendants "a one (1) page document clarifying exact interrogatory questions Plaintiff seeks to ask Defendants." (Id.) It further stated that "Plaintiff shall have until Wednesday, January 11, 2017 to submit those questions." (Id.)

         On January 26, 2017, Defendants filed a status report indicating their compliance with the Court's December 2016 Order. (Docket Entry 38.) Defendants also informed the Court that they never received a clarification of the interrogatory questions from Plaintiff. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, Defendants received Plaintiffs interrogatory requests, and filed objections for untimeliness and Plaintiffs failure to comply with the Court's instructions. (Docket Entry 39.) Plaintiff filed a response indicating that he filed the interrogatories with the Court before the January 11, 2017 deadline. (Docket Entry 40.) However, no such record is apparent from the Court's record. Defendants thereafter reasserted their motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry 42) and Plaintiff filed a response seeking, in part, additional time to obtain discovery responses. (Docket Entry 43.) The Court will deny Plaintiffs request. Plaintiff failed to comply with the Court's previous Order in that he failed to timely submit to Defendants "a one (1) page document clarifying exact interrogatory questions Plaintiff seeks to ask Defendants." (Text Order dated 12/21/2016.) Moreover, Plaintiffs lack of compliance is prejudicial to Defendants and also hinders the Court in its efforts to dispose of this matter in the most efficient manner. As such, in making the recommendation herein upon Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the Court will consider evidence now before the Court.


         In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that on December 29, 2013, Defendant Kempf entered the detention center dorm at approximately 9:00am to conduct a routine search. (See generally Compl, Docket Entry 2 at 5.) After all detainees were asked to move to the front of the dorm, Defendant Kempf "singled out" Plaintiff and asked him what was in his pocket. (Id.) Plaintiff responded, "My radio, why what's going on?" (Id.) Defendant Kempf then instructed Plaintiff to place his radio on his bed and to move back to the front of the dorm. (Id.) Defendant Kempf told all detainees that no personal items could be taken from the dorm. (Id.) Plaintiff then asked if the detainees were leaving the dorm and Defendant Kempf allegedly replied, "Shut up! And follow the order!" (Id.) Plaintiff proceeded to remove his shower shoes and put on his tennis shoes, at which point he was approached by Defendant Kempf who yelled, "Take them off!" (Id.) Plaintiff stated that no policies prohibited him from wearing his shoes, and Defendant Kempf responded, "Ok, get in line." (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the detainees were then taken to the storage room behind the control room for approximately thirty minutes while the dorm search was executed. (Id.) Defendant Kempf returned to the storage room and told Plaintiff and another inmate (Gibson) to step into the hallway. (Id.) Plaintiff followed behind inmate Gibson and stepped into the hallway where another officer, Kevin M. Holshouser ("Holshouser"), was also standing. (Id.) Defendant Kempf then informed Plaintiff that he was being moved to another unit and that he would find out why he was being moved "once he got there." (Id.) Plaintiff then asked Officer Holshouser what was going on and Plaintiff was told that he was being "locked down for contraband." (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that without warning, Defendant Kempf then shoved Plaintiff, and "grabbed [Plaintiff] by the arm and throat area, hitting [Plaintiff] in the jaw [and] face area." (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff tried to defend himself. (Id.) Defendant Kempf tackled Plaintiff to the floor, "punched [Plaintiff] in the face and rib area, [and] squeezed [Plaintiff] in his lower private parts causing an instant pain." (Id.)

         Plaintiff further alleges that he laid "flat on the ground with his hands placed on his head, while asking officers to stop the assault by [Defendant Kempf]." (Id.) Defendant Hopkins "started shocking [Plaintiff] repeatedly with the Taser gun while being placed in handcuffs." (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Hopkins shocked Plaintiff three more times with the Taser gun while Plaintiff was in handcuffs. (Id.) Defendant Kempf also "placed his knee in [Plaintiffs] head applying pressure with his entire body weight pressing down on the temple area of [Plaintiffs] head causing more pain." (Id.) According to Plaintiff, another officer arrived and told Defendant Kempf to get off Plaintiff. (Id.) Defendant Kempf complied, then started pulling Plaintiffs hair. (Id.) Defendant Kempf received further orders to move away from Plaintiff before he ceased use of excessive force. (Id.)

         Plaintiff thereafter filed a "force report" and requested to file a complaint against Defendants Kempf and Hopkins. (Id.) Plaintiff states that the grievance was not located in his Inmate File when he asked for a copy of it. (Id.) On January 3, 2014, Plaintiff requested witnesses for his disciplinary hearing surrounding the incident. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiffs hearing was held several days later with two of the three witnesses which Plaintiff requested. (Id.) Plaintiff indicated that he wanted all of his witnesses present. (Id.) Plaintiff thereafter filed a grievance with regard to the hearing. (Id.) He appealed the initial response for his grievance, but did not receive any further response. (Id.) Also, Plaintiff was asked to sign a properly sheet, but refused because he stated that it was inaccurate. (Id.) Once Plaintiff returned from the segregation unit, Plaintiff noticed some of his items missing. (Id.) Plaintiff also wrote a grievance about his missing properly and alleges that all of his items were never recovered. (Id.) Lastly, Plaintiff complained of his inability to send or receive mail while in the segregation unit, which is the policy at the Rowan County Detention Center. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks a declaration that his constitutional rights have been violated, an injunction against Defendant J.A. Milem, and compensatory and punitive damages against all Defendants. (Id. at 4.)

         In support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants have submitted their affidavits along with the affidavits and declarations of Rowan County Detention Officers Holshouser and Mandy D. Tew, and Jail Nurse Tammy Yon. (John L. Kempf Aff, Docket Entry 31-2; Steven L. Hopkins Aff, Docket Entry 31-3; Kevin M. Holshouser Aff, Docket Entry 31-4; Mandy D. Tew Decl., Docket Entry 31-5; Tammy Yon Aff, Docket Entry 31-6.) Beyond the fact that the officers were conducting a routine search of the dorm on December 29, 2013, the parties differ in opinion as to what happened during the incident. Defendants Kempf and Hopkins, and Officer Holshouser all assisted in conducting the search of the dorm. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 3; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 3; Holshouser Aff. ¶ 3.) Defendant Kempf states that Plaintiff "became verbally argumentative with [officers], telling [them] that [their] inspection was 'bullshit' and that [they] had no right to wake the prisoners up to perform the inspection." (Kempf Aff. ¶ 3.) The prisoners, including Plaintiff, were removed from the area and placed in the Day Room behind the Control Room until the search was complete. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 3; Holshouser Aff. ¶ 3; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 3.) During the course of the search, Plaintiff and another prisoner were both found to be in possession of contraband. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 3; Holshouser Aff ¶ 3; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff was in possession of a salt packet and a quarter. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff and the other prisoner were removed from the secured room and informed by Defendant Kempf that they were being moved to Pod 2 (administrative segregation). (Kempf Aff. ¶ 4; Holshouser Aff. ¶ 4; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 4.) At this point, Officer Tew was also assisting the other officers, and witnessed Defendant Kempf tell the prisoners that they were being moved to another unit. (Tew Decl. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff refused to move and asked why he was being locked down. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 4; Holshouser Aff. ¶ 4; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 4, Tew Decl. ¶ 3.) Defendant Kempf responded that he would tell Plaintiff after he arrived at Pod 2. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 4; Holshouser Aff. ¶ 4; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 4, Tew Decl. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff continued to refuse Defendant Kempf s orders and Officer Holshouser then told Plaintiff that he was being moved for possession of contraband. (Holshouser Aff. ¶ 4; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff continued to refuse the officers' commands, and Defendant Kempf then "took [Plaintiff] by the arm to guide him to Pod 2 and ordered him to move along." (Kempf Aff. ¶ 4; see also Holshouser Aff. ¶ 4; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 4, Tew Decl. ¶ 3.) Defendant Kempf asserts that he then reached for Plaintiffs shoulder, "but [Planitiff] was able to move away." (Kempf Aff. ¶ 4.) Defendant Kempf reached towards his belt to retrieve his Taser, but was punched in the left side of his face by Plaintiff. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 4.) The other officers also observed Plaintiff pulling away from Defendant Kempf and suddenly punching him in the face. (Holshouser Aff. ¶ 4; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 4, Tew Decl. ¶ 4.)

         Plaintiff then pushed Defendant Kempf backwards, knocking Defendant Hopkins against the wall. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 4; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 4; Tew Decl. ¶ 4.) Officer Holshouser then grabbed Plaintiff around his waist, placed his right foot behind Plaintiffs foot, and threw Plaintiff over his right shoulder and onto the floor. (Holshouser Aff. ¶ 5; Kempf Aff, ¶ 5; Hopkins Aff. ¶ 5; Tew Decl. ¶ 4.) Officer Holshouser grabbed Plaintiffs arm and attempted to pull it behind his back so that the officers could handcuff him. (Holshouser Aff. ¶ 5.) However, Officer Holshouser was unable to gain control of Plaintiffs arm. (Id.) During this time, Defendant Kempf was underneath Plaintiff on the floor, and Defendant Kempf repeatedly ordered Plaintiff to stop biting him. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 6; Holshouser Aff. ¶ 5.) As Defendant Kempf freed his right hand (both hands were pinned between his body and Plaintiffs body), Plaintiff continued to bite Defendant Kempf. (Kempf Aff. ¶ 6.) Defendant Kempf then used his right arm to push Plaintiffs head back, and Plaintiff bit Defendant Kempf again. (Id.) Defendant Kempf admits that he grabbed Plaintiff by the hair to stop him from biting Defendant Kempf and spitting at him. (Id. ¶ 7.)

         Also during this time, Officer Holshouser yelled for Defendant Hopkins to use his Taser in order to gain control of Plaintiff. (Holshouser Aff. ¶ 6.) Defendant Hopkins deployed his Taser in drive-stun mode (direct contact for pain compliance only) to Plaintiffs legs. (Hopkins Aff. ¶ 5; Holshouser Aff. ¶ 6; Tew Decl. ¶ 5.) Defendant Hopkins ordered Plaintiff to place his hands behind his back, and Plaintiff begin to swipe at the Taser and kick at Defendant Hopkins. (Hopkins Aff. ¶ 5.) Defendant Hopkins applied several more drive stuns to Plaintiff, and the officers were ultimately able to gain control of Plaintiff and secure his wrists with handcuffs. (Holshouser ...

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