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Ashford v. District of Columbia

September 21, 2006

EDWARD DWAYNE ASHFORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

As previously established, Edward Ashford, a pro se plaintiff, is a former District of Columbia inmate who seeks to hold the District of Columbia and two employees of the D.C. Department of Corrections liable for injuries resulting from an attack on him by inmates at the United States Penitentiary in Beaumont, Texas ("USP Beaumont"), in 2001. See Ashford v. District of Columbia, 306 F. Supp.2d 8 (D.D.C. 2004) (Collyer, J.) (granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion to dismiss). On January 24, 2006, the remaining defendants, the District of Columbia and Patricia Britton, filed a motion for summary judgment, which Mr. Ashford opposes.*fn1 Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, and the entire record, the Court will grant the defendants' motion.

I. BACKGROUND

On October 21, 1985, Mr. Ashford was a pretrial detainee in the custody of the D.C. Department of Corrections. He was being held in protective custody in the D.C. Jail because his father worked there as Officer-in-Charge of the SW-1 housing unit, which housed inmate Kelvin "Hollywood" Smith. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4-6. Mr. Ashford asserts that he was not kept separate from Mr. Smith and that he was attacked by Mr. Smith and other inmates on a "court bus" en route from D.C. Superior Court to the D.C. Jail. Id. ¶ 5. Mr. Smith later got into a "physical altercation" with Mr. Ashford's father and vowed to "get even." Id. ¶ 6. As a result, a second separation order was issued ("Separation Order") and made a permanent part of Mr. Ashford's file. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. The exact cause of the hostility between Messrs. Ashford and Smith is not stated in the amended complaint.

In August 1997, Mr. Ashford was transferred to the care of the BOP. He eventually wound up at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1998. Apparently, Mr. Smith was also placed at that facility and was "attempting to rally other D.C. Offenders to attack plaintiff." Id. ¶ 12. Mr. Ashford claims to have notified his correctional counselor of this threat, but nothing happened.

On November 14, 2001, Mr. Ashford was transferred to USP Beaumont from the Federal Correctional Complex at Beaumont. Id. ¶ 14. Unbeknownst to Mr. Ashford, Mr. Smith was already at USP Beaumont. Id. On November 16, 2001, as Mr. Ashford exited the prison commissary, he was approached by D.C. inmates Kobi Mowatt and Mark Bundy, who allegedly attacked him with homemade knives after stating, "'[Y]our [sic] about to get paid, Hollywood [Smith's nickname] sent us.'" Id. ¶ 15. Mr. Ashford was stabbed 13 times, requiring a three-week hospitalization to recover from his injuries. Some of his wounds appear to be permanent and may require additional medical treatment. Id. ¶¶ 15, 16.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). This procedural device is not a "disfavored legal shortcut" but a reasoned and careful way to resolve cases fairly and expeditiously. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Tao v. Freeh, 27 F.3d 635, 638 (D.C. Cir. 1994). To be "material" and "genuine," a factual dispute must be capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48; Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242-43 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

In considering whether there is a triable issue of fact, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; see also Wash. Post Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989). The party opposing a motion for summary judgment, however, "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The non-moving party must do more than simply "show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec., 475 U.S. at 586. Moreover, "any factual assertions in the movant's affidavits will be accepted as being true unless [the opposing party] submits his own affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting the assertion." Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir.1992) (quoting Lewis v. Faulkner, 689 F.2d 100, 102 (7th Cir.1982)). "The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, 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., 477 U.S. at 322.

III. ANALYSIS

The amended complaint sets forth two causes of action: (1) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and (2) a common law negligence claim.*fn2

A. The § 1983 Claim

Mr. Ashford asserts that the District and its "Interstate Compacts Administrators," Ms. Britton and Mr. Matthews, had a duty to relay any information about threats to the personal safety of inmates who were transferred elsewhere to serve their sentences.*fn3 See Am. Compl. ¶ 17. He also contends that the failure of the D.C. Department of Corrections to notify receiving institutions that there was a permanent separation order in his file resulted from "a local Municipal custom, policy and practice . . . to effect the objectives of the District . . . to effect the transfers of inmates outside the ambit of the D.C. Department of Corrections" who otherwise would not have been accepted by a State prison system or the BOP. Id. ¶ 18. This "local custom, policy and practice" was allegedly "based on negligence and recklessness pursuant to an official policy of the District of Columbia." Id. ¶ 19.

The defendants contend, through the declaration of Shana L. Frost (Ex. 5), that Mr. Ashford's inmate file does not contain an order requiring his separation from Mr. Smith, nor does Mr. Smith's file contain such an order with respect to Mr. Ashford. Frost Decl. ¶¶ 3-4. In fact, neither inmate's file mentions the other inmate. Id. Mr. Ashford has produced two memoranda dated October 22, 1985, and October 23, 1985, that he claims are the separation orders instructing that he be separated from six and eleven other inmates, respectively, including Mr. Smith. Pl.'s Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp."), Exs. 2, 3. The defendants, through the declaration of Dennis Harrison (Ex. 6), challenge these exhibits as "fabricated and not issued by" the D.C. Department of Corrections. Harrison Decl. ¶ 4. Mr. Harrison questions the authenticity of the Oct. 23 memorandum, Pl.'s Ex. 2, in part because of the different typefaces used therein. Id. ¶ 5. He doubts that the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bernard L. Braxton, would have approved the document without having it "re-done to be correct in both substance and appearance." Id. ¶ 8. However, this particular memorandum was signed by someone other than Lieutenant Colonel Braxton; although the signature is illegible, it is clear it is signed by the "acting c/o." Pl's Ex. 2. The most significant point that raises a question of the documents' authenticity is the fact that "the 'separation order' offered by inmate Ashford was not found in any of the institutional files of the inmates to whom the order pertains." Harrison Decl. ¶ 6; see Frost Decl. ¶ 3. Mr. ...


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