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Patten v. Hall

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

September 30, 2019

THOMAS PATTEN, LESLIE TEACHEY, RYAN TURNER, BUDDHA VICTORIA, CHRIS YERRY, STUART GAIDOSH, DONNIE IVEY, SCOTT IVEY, T.J. LOCKLEAR, PHILLIP JARMAN, XAVIER MOORE, GARY PARKER, JAMEY LEE DOWLESS, BRYAN CRUMP, JR., JEREMY CLINE, DEXTER BROWN, JOSHUA BOYKIN, MARCELL ALSBROOK, STEVIE WILLIAMS, DONALD MORRISEY, PAUL BARTON, LEROY HUNT, CEDRIC WILLIAMS, ADEMAR MARTINEZ, and JOHNNY FAISON, Plaintiffs,
v.
LAFAYETTE HALL, JEFFREY MARKS, ANTHONY JACKSON, DAVID JONES, KENNETH N. JONES, JR., HENRY OUTLAW, CLEMENT BURNEY, CHARLES HOLLAND, EUGENE MURPHY, RONNIE BRITT, WILLIAM M. WARD, and NELSON SANCHEZ, Defendants.[1]

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment (DE 189), plaintiffs' motion for sanctions (DE 179), and the parties' consent motions to seal (DE 184, 187) certain filings. The motions for summary judgment and sanctions were fully briefed and in this posture are ripe for decision. For the reasons that follow, the court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment, denies plaintiffs' motion for sanctions, and grants the motions to seal.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On May 29, 2015, plaintiffs, current and former state prisoners acting through counsel, brought this action against Frank L. Perry (“Perry”), the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”), Lafayette Hall (“Hall”), Jeffrey Marks (“Marks”), Anthony Jackson (“A. Jackson”), David Jones (“D. Jones”), Kenneth N. Jones Jr. (“K. Jones”), Sergeant Wilson (“Wilson”), Henry Outlaw (“Outlaw”), Clement Burney (“Burney”), Charles Holland (“Holland”), Officer Hudson (“Hudson”), Eugene Murphy (“Murphy”), Ronnie Britt (“Britt”), William M. Ward (“Ward”), and Nelson Sanchez (“Sanchez”), alleging claims for violations of their civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and tort law claims under North Carolina law.

         Plaintiffs Thomas Patten (“Patten”), Leslie Teachey (“Teachey”), Ryan Turner (“Turner”), Buddha Victoria (“Victoria”), Chris Yerry (“Yerry”), Stuart Gaidosh (“Gaidosh”), Donnie Ivey (“D. Ivey”), Scott Ivey (“S. Ivey”), T.J. Locklear (“Locklear”), Phillip Jarman (“Jarman”), Xavier Moore (“Moore”), Gary Parker (“Parker”), Jamey Lee Dowless (“Dowless”), Bryan Crump, Jr. (“Crump”), Jeremy Cline (“Cline”), Dexter Brown (“Brown”), Joshua Boykin (“Boykin”), Marcell Alsbrook (“Alsbrook”), Stevie Williams (“S. Williams”), Donald Morrisey (“Morrisey”), Paul Barton (“Barton”), Leroy Hunt (“Hunt”), Cedric Williams (“C. Williams”), Ademar Martinez (“Martinez”), and Johnny Faison (“Faison”) are current or former North Carolina inmates who were incarcerated at the Sampson Correctional Institution (“Sampson C.I.”) between 2011 and 2012. Plaintiffs were assigned to the “Road Squad” at the Sampson C.I. - an inmate work crew that performed landscaping and maintenance activities in the community. Plaintiffs allege that defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones abused and humiliated them when they working on the Road Squad, and forced them to participate in a contraband smuggling operation.

         On September 2, 2015, plaintiffs filed amended complaint and alleged the following claims: 1) violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) against defendants A. Jackson, D. Jones, Hudson, Murphy, Britt, Ward, and Sanchez; 2) constructive fraud against all defendants; 3) civil conspiracy against defendants A. Jackson, D. Jones, Hudson, Murphy, Britt, Ward, and Sanchez; 4) denial of access to the courts in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution against defendants DPS and Perry; 5) intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against defendants A. Jackson, D. Jones, Hudson, Murphy, Britt, Ward, and Sanchez; 6) civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, premised on violations of the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, against defendants DPS, A. Jackson, D. Jones, Hudson, Murphy, Britt, Ward, Sanchez, K. Jones, Wilson, Outlaw, Burney, Holland, Hall, Marks, and Perry; 7) negligent employment and supervision against defendants DPS, K. Jones, Wilson, Outlaw, Burney, Holland, Hall, Marks, and Perry; 8) negligence by private contractors against unknown defendant medical contractors; and 9) punitive damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones in their individual capacities only. As relief, plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction directing the State of North Carolina to provide sufficient funding to allow inmates meaningful access to the courts.

         Defendants Hall, K. Jones, Wilson, Outlaw, Burney, Holland, Murphy, Britt, Ward, and Sanchez filed answer to plaintiffs' amended complaint on December 22, 2015. Defendant D. Jones, proceeding pro se, filed answer on December 23, 2015. Defendant A. Jackson did not respond to plaintiffs' amended complaint.

         On April 20, 2016, the court granted plaintiffs' motion to voluntarily dismiss the action as to formerly-named defendants Perry and DPS, and the court dismissed the action as to formerly-named defendants Wilson and Hudson for failure to perfect service. On April 29, 2016, the court entered case management order governing discovery and pretrial motions practice. On June 3, 2016, the court entered default against defendant A. Jackson for failure to plead or otherwise defend.

         Discovery in this action has been protracted and contentious. As relevant to the instant motions, on August 10, 2017, plaintiffs filed motion to compel responses to plaintiffs' written discovery requests. The court referred the motion to a magistrate judge. On December 7, 2017, the magistrate judge entered order granting in part and denying in part the motion to compel, and directed defendants Hall, K. Jones, Burney, Holland, Murphy, Britt, Ward, Marks and Sanchez (together, “responding defendants”) to produce responses to certain of plaintiffs' written discovery requests by December 20, 2017.

         The responding defendants did not produce their discovery responses by December 20, 2017, and thus plaintiffs filed their first motion for sanctions on December 29, 2017. The motion was fully briefed. On April 25, 2018, the court granted the motion for sanctions, imposed monetary sanctions, and reopened discovery for a period of four months (subsequently extended to five months on consent motion of the parties) to allow plaintiffs to obtain the necessary discovery.

         On August 14, 2018, responding defendants filed notice of compliance with the court's April 25, 2018, order, noting that all responding defendants except defendant Marks had complied with the order. The notice explained defendant Marks failed to cooperate with counsel's efforts to obtain the discovery from him. The supplemental discovery period closed on September 30, 2018.

         On October 18, 2018, plaintiffs filed the instant second motion for sanctions based on defendant Marks's failure to respond to the court's December 7, 2017, and April 25, 2018, orders directing him to respond to plaintiffs' discovery requests. Plaintiffs seek an array of sanctions, including entry of default judgment against defendant Marks. The motion was fully briefed.

         On November 30, 2018, defendants Hall, Marks, K. Jones, Outlaw, Burney, Holland, Murphy, Britt, Ward and Sanchez (together, “moving defendants”) filed the instant motion for summary judgment, relying on a memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and the following: 1) excerpts of depositions from defendants Holland, Burney, D. Jones, Outlaw, Marks, Hall, Britt, Murphy, Sanchez, K. Jones, Ward, and A. Jackson, plaintiffs Boykins, Jarman, Patten, D. Ivey, Dowless, and Parker, Rule 30(b)(6) witness Captain Robert Van Gorder (“Gorder”), the Sampson C.I. assistant superintendent of custody and operations, Alvin Keller (“Keller”), a DPS corrections officer, Rommie Barts (“Barts”), a DPS corrections officer, William Jackson (“W. Jackson”), a DPS corrections officer, Kathy Poole (“Poole”), a DPS administrator, and Emilio Pagan (“Pagan”), a DPS investigator; 2) declarations of Gorder, Karen R. Pardue (“Pardue”), a DPS correctional programs director, and Linda Clark (“Clark”), a DPS records coordinator; 3) complaint in Parker et al. v. Sampson Corr. Inst., No. 1:12-CV-769-CCE-JEP (M.D. N.C. July 23, 2012); and 4) plaintiffs' initial disclosures.

         Plaintiffs responded in opposition to the instant motion for summary judgment on March 21, 2019. In support, they rely upon a memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and the following: 1) full depositions from the same parties and witnesses filed in support of defendants' motion, with the exception of defendant Outlaw; 2) deposition from Eric Warren (“Warren”), a DPS employee in the information security office; 3) inmate grievance forms from plaintiffs Brown, Dowless, D. Ivey, Jarman, Parker, Patten, Williams, and Yerry; 4) affidavits from plaintiffs Cline, Gaidosh, Faison, Locklear, and Williams; 5) records from defendant D. Jones's appeal of DPS's decision to terminate his employment (“Jones Appeal”); and 6) DPS Investigation Findings of Fact related to plaintiffs' claims.

         On April 4, 2019, moving defendants filed reply in further support of their motion for summary judgment, supported by reply statement of material facts.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         Where moving defendants move for summary judgment, the court recounts the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiffs.

         The Sampson C.I. Road Squad is an inmate work crew that performs maintenance and landscaping services in the community surrounding the prison. (Patten Dep. (DE 202-18) at 19:12-16; A. Jackson Dep. (DE 202-9) at 9:17-23). Between 2011 and July 2012, defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones were the primary supervisors of the Road Squad. (A. Jackson Dep. (DE 202-9) at 9:2-7; D. Jones. Dep. (DE 202-12) at 42:6-24, 45:6-25; Ward Dep. (DE 202-22) at 14:13-19). As noted, plaintiffs allege defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones abused and humiliated them when they worked on the Road Squad, and forced them to participate in a contraband smuggling operation.

         The alleged abuse started with an “initiation” ritual. (DPS Investigation Findings of Fact (DE 202-39) at 1).[2] When a new Sampson C.I. inmate joined the Road Squad, defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones told him to stick his fingers into a sandwich bag containing extremely spicy hot sauce and lick the hot sauce off his fingers. (Id.; Murphy Dep. (DE 202-16) at 28:5-29:15).

         Defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones's abuse of plaintiffs continued after this initiation ritual, and included physical, psychological, and emotional abuse, racial harassment, and forcing plaintiff to perform humiliating, embarrassing, and dangerous acts on each other and with animals. (Cline Aff. (DE 202-32) ¶ 7; Gaidosh Aff. (DE 202-33) ¶ 6; Faison Aff. (DE 202-34) ¶ 7). For example, plaintiffs reported defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones forced them to consume hot sauce, physically assault other inmates, allow other inmates to hold them down and squeeze their genitals, and rub hot sauce on their genitals or anus. (Cline Aff. (DE 202-33) ¶ 7; Gaidosh Aff. (DE 202-33) ¶ 6; Faison Aff. (DE 202-34) ¶ 7; Locklear Aff. (DE 202-35) ¶¶ 10-15; Williams Aff. (DE 202-36) ¶ 25; Jarman Dep. (DE 202-11) at 90:15-91:8).

         Defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones also allegedly ran a contraband smuggling operation, primarily involving tobacco, illicit narcotics, and cellular telephones, and forced plaintiffs to participate. (Gaidosh Aff. (DE 202-33) ¶ 10; Patten Dep. (DE 202-18) at 32:10-11; Ivey Dep. (DE 202-8) at 47:2-10; Dowless Dep. (DE 202-5) at 37:15-38:7, 53:16-54:23; Jarman Dep. (DE 202-11) at 44:21-45:5; Parker Dep. (DE 202-17) at 100:5-21, 107:3-13). Some plaintiffs were forced to conceal contraband in their body cavities in order to smuggle it into the prison. (Gaidosh Aff. (DE 202-33) ¶ 10; Ivey Dep. (DE 202-8) at 47:2-10; Dowless Dep. (DE 202-5) at 37:15-38:7, 53:16-54:23; Jarman Dep. (DE 202-11) at 44:21-45:8; Parker Dep. (DE 202-17) at 100:5-21, 107:3-13). Plaintiffs Parker and Dowless testified that they transferred some of the profits they made from selling the contraband to defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones. (Parker Dep. (DE 202-17) at 100:5-21, 107:3-13; Dowless Dep. (DE 202-5) 52:3-21, 56:20-23). Defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones rewarded plaintiffs who cooperated with the contraband smuggling scheme and the inmate abuse, including by permitting them to consume outside food and drinks, smoke cigarettes, and use cellular telephones. (Jarman Dep. (DE 202-11) at 69:11-19).

         In January or February 2012, defendant Marks, the assistant superintendent at the Sampson C.I., received a report from an inmate that defendant A. Jackson instructed him to use a racial epithet towards another member of the Road Squad. (See Marks Dep. (DE 202-15) at 52:6-54:1, 62:8-63:1, 107:10-23). He informed defendant Hall, the superintendent of the Sampson C.I., about the allegation, and defendant Hall stated it was being investigated. (Id. at 53:6-21).[3]

         In July 2012, DPS officials launched an investigation after plaintiff Dowless reported that defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones instructed white Road Squad inmates to hold black inmates down and torture them by grabbing their genitals, purchased contraband for Road Squad inmates, and engaged in other inappropriate behavior. (Internal Investigation Report (DE 191-27)). Approximately a week after learning about the allegations, Sampson C.I. officials removed defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones from the Road Squad pending the investigation. (Moving Defs' SOMF (DE 190) ¶ 172; Van Gorder Decl. (DE 191-25) ¶ 10; Internal Investigation Report (DE 191-27)). Defendant A. Jackson resigned from his DPS position in December 2012. (A. Jackson Dep. (DE 202-9) at 78:3). Following an investigation into the allegations, DPS terminated defendant D. Jones's employment. (Van Gorder Decl. (DE 191-25) ¶ 11).

         The moving defendants did not generally supervise plaintiffs when they were working on the Road Squad. (Hall Dep. (DE 202-6) at 8:21-9:2, 10:10-11; Marks Dep. (DE 202-15) at 35:20-37:2; K. Jones Dep. (DE 202-13) at 59:7-19, 61:8-20, 62:10-13; Outlaw Dep. (DE 191-5) at 22:6-23, 23:11-14; Burney Dep. (DE 202-4) at 38:15-23, 32:16, 33:5, 38:21-23; Holland Dep. (DE 202-7) at 10:12, 11:9, 12:2-8, 17:10, 18:2, 46:21, 47:5; Murphy Dep. (DE 202-16) at 37:2-9; Britt Dep. (DE 202-3) at 17:1-6, 22:4-12; Ward Dep. (DE 202-22) at 10:20-23; Sanchez Dep. (DE 202-20) at 9:15-10:3). Plaintiffs, however, allege they were aware of the abuse and contraband smuggling operation described above, and failed to report it or otherwise protect plaintiffs from further abuse. In support of these claims, plaintiffs offer the following evidence.[4]

         A. Prisoner Abuse

         Defendant Murphy, a Sampson C.I. corrections officer, trained with the Road Squad for approximately 40 hours in 2011 or 2012. (Murphy Dep. (DE 202-16) at 25:12-24). During that time, defendant Murphy observed members of the Road Squad taste defendant A. Jackson's hot sauce. (Id. at 28:5-30:22). Defendant Murphy explained that “I think probably my first day they talked about . . . anybody involved with the road squad . . . it was customary . . . to taste this hot sauce.” (Id. at 28:5-8). Defendant Murphy further testified that defendant A. Jackson asked him to taste the hot sauce one day during their lunch break and he confirmed it was uncomfortably spicy. (Id. at 29:8:15). Defendant Murphy assumed defendant A. Jackson brought the hot sauce in his lunch bag. (Id. at 29:24-25). Finally, defendant Murphy witnessed defendant A. Jackson tell one inmate who was new to the Road Squad that all new members of the Road Squad needed to taste the hot sauce. (Id. at 30:5-13). He did not observe any other inmates taste the hot sauce during his time on the Road Squad. (Id. at 31:2-7). Barts, a Sampson C.I. corrections officer, also testified that he observed defendant Jackson with a glass bottle of hot sauce on the Road Squad bus, in violation of DPS policy. (Barts Dep. (DE 202-1) at 20:5-21:5).

         Plaintiff Jarman testified that defendant Marks found the hot sauce on the bus on one occasion and asked defendant A. Jackson “is this what you use?” (Jarman Dep. (DE 202-11) at 54:18-20). Defendant A. Jackson then responded, “Yeah, that's it.” (Id.). Plaintiff D. Ivey testified that he observed defendant Marks holding the hot sauce on the bus. (D. Ivey Dep. (DE 202-8) at 61:17-62:1).

         B. Contraband Smuggling

         Defendant Ward, a Sampson C.I. corrections officer, testified that he found contraband on the Road Squad bus, including cigarette lighters, tobacco, and ashtrays, and that inmates often attempted to conceal this contraband in rubber gloves hidden in the seats. (Ward Dep. (DE 202-22) at 15:14-16:4)). Defendant Ward also searched inmates when they returned from the Road Squad. (Id. at 21:10-16). On various occasions, defendant Ward found cigarettes, bags of tobacco, cell phone chargers, condoms and money that Road Squad inmates were attempting to smuggle into the Sampson C.I. (Id.). He also recalled that he discovered “a lot more contraband” on inmates between 2011 and 2012 . (Id. at 22:17-25).

         Defendant Britt, a Sampson C.I. corrections officer, observed inmates smoking on a bus that transferred some members of the Road Squad to other work assignments or back to the Sampson C.I. (Britt Dep. (DE 202-3) at 102:16-103:16).

         W. Jackson, a Sampson C.I. lieutenant, was personally aware of three incidents when Road Squad inmates attempted to bring contraband into the prison in a hollowed-out cooler. (W. Jackson Dep. (DE 202-10) at 23:6-24:17). However, DPS officials did not charge the Road Squad inmates or defendants A. Jackson and D. Jones with possession of contraband because the contraband was not found on them personally. (Id. at 23:22-24:7). W. Jackson also testified that DPS did not investigate whether any of the Road Squad corrections officers were responsible for modifying the coolers, because he believed the inmates were responsible. (Id. at 25:24-26:23). Although DPS officials questioned the inmates, none of them claimed responsibility for modifying the coolers, and DPS did not conduct further investigation. (Id. at 26:24-27:12).

         Poole, a DPS administrator who completed the internal DPS investigation about the Road Squad, also testified concerning one incident in which a large amount of contraband was found coming into the Sampson C.I. from the Road Squad. (Poole Dep. (DE 202-19) at 63:25-64:6). The tobacco was in a cooler that had been on the Road Squad bus, and plaintiff Locklear was holding the cooler before officials searched it and discovered the contraband. (Id. at 64:10-19). The investigating officer initiated a disciplinary report, but defendant K. Jones decided not to proceed with formal disciplinary charges against plaintiff Locklear. (Id.; see also id. at 66:17-67:17). The initial disciplinary report has been lost, and defendant K. Jones may have destroyed it after he decided not to pursue formal charges against plaintiff Locklear. (See id. at 66:17-67:17).

         Plaintiff Jarman testified that he believed defendant Ward allowed him to smuggle contraband into the Sampson C.I. because he was friends with plaintiff A. Jackson. (Jarman Dep. (DE 202-11) at 49:19-24). Defendant Ward searched plaintiff Jarman on at least one occasion when he had contraband after returning from the Road Squad and did not find it. (See id.). Another DPS corrections officer searched plaintiff Jarman on two occasions when he was concealing contraband on his person (but not in a body cavity) and did not find it. (Id. at 53:3-24). Plaintiff Jarman also testified that he believed defendant Ward and another DPS corrections officer were not randomly assigned to search him when he returned from working on the Road Squad, in order to facilitate the contraband smuggling operation. (Id. at 48:20-49:24). However, plaintiff Jarman also testified that, corrections officers “rotated out” and “there was no real rhyme or reason” to how Sampson C.I. officials assigned officers to conduct strip searches of Road Squad inmates. (Id. at 51:14-19).

         Plaintiff Parker successfully transported contraband he received while working on the Road Squad into the Sampson C.I., noting that he smuggled contraband into the prison almost every day. (Parker Dep. (DE 202-17) at 60:14-17; 109:23-110:21). According to plaintiff Parker, Sampson C.I. corrections officers did not perform proper body cavity searches when the plaintiffs returned from their work on the Road Squad. (Id.). Plaintiff Parker also testified that at times he was not searched at all. (Id. 73:17-19). Plaintiff Patten testified similarly. (Patten Dep. (DE 202-18) at 56:17-57:6). Defendant D. Jones reported that he informed his supervisors that some Road Squad inmates had cellular telephones and other contraband while they were performing work outside the prison, but the “supervisors did not seem bothered by it.” (Jones Appeal (DE 202-37)).

         C. Miscellaneous Evidence

         When conducting her investigation, Poole also determined that defendant Hall, the Sampson C.I. superintendent, had not followed DPS policy and procedure because he had failed to check the Road Squad at least once a month. (Poole Dep. (DE 202-19) at 71:11-72:2). Poole believes some of the alleged incidents that took place on the Road Squad could have been avoided if defendant Hall and others had properly completed their inspections of the Road Squad. (Id. at 72:3-73:1).[5]

         On at least one occasion, plaintiff Jarman overhead defendant A. Jackson tell defendants Outlaw, Wilson, and Burney, that he was taking out his “slaves” on the Road Squad. (Jarman Dep. (DE 202-11) at 57:1-10).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for ...


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