United States District Court, District of Columbia
B. WALTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Sean Harris, filed this civil suit against the
defendants, the District of Columbia ("District" or
"D.C.") and three officers who work at the District
of Columbia Jail ("D.C. Jail" or "Jail"),
alleging that in January 2014 the officers violated federal
and state laws by "savagely beat[ing]" him and
"injur[ing] him physically, mentally, and
emotionally." Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.")
¶ 7. Currently pending before the Court is the
Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment
("Defs.’ Summ. J. Mot."), which is opposed by
the plaintiff, Plaintiff’s Opposition to
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
("Pl.’s Opp’n"). Upon careful
consideration of the parties’ submissions,
Court concludes for the reasons that follow that the
defendants’ motion must be granted.
"[p]laintiff was incarcerated in D.C. Jail on January 8,
2014, when he learned that his grandmother died."
Pl.’s Facts ¶ 1. At some point during that day,
the plaintiff spoke with the defendant officers at the jail,
requesting that they take him to a "safe cell" in
the jail’s infirmary instead of his normal inmate cell
("cell"), so that he could potentially receive
mental health services, after learning about his
grandmother’s death. See id. ¶ 2. They
denied his request, see id. ¶ 3(A), and
thereafter, the plaintiff was handcuffed and escorted to his
by two of the three defendant officers, see id.
¶ 3(B); see also Pl.’s Opp’n,
Exhibit ("Ex.") 1 (Defendant Officer
Allison’s Discovery Responses) at 6; Pl.’s
Opp’n, Ex. 3 (Defendant Officer Hargraves’
Discovery Responses) at 6. Upon arriving at his cell, the two
defendant officers removed the handcuffs and placed the
plaintiff in his cell. Pl.’s Facts ¶ 4. However,
the plaintiff refused to remain inside his cell. Id.
("[The plaintiff] refused to go inside his cell . . .
."). Rather, he insisted on going to the safe cell,
believing that going to the safe cell was
"protocol" for individuals with mental health
complaints and that the protocol was not being followed.
Id. (citing Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 4
(Deposition of Sean Harris ("Harris Dep.")) at 46,
47, 67, 69). Moreover, he also felt unsafe when he was with
his cellmate. See Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 4
(Harris Dep.) at 46:16-47:2. Based on these perspectives, the
plaintiff "came out of [his] cell, " Pl.’s
Facts ¶ 5; see also Pl.’s Opp’n at
5 ("[The plaintiff] came out of the cell."), and
was physically restrained ultimately by all three of the
defendant officers,  see Pl.’s Facts ¶ 5;
see also Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 2 (Defendant
Officer Walker’s Discovery Responses) at 6. After the
defendant officers subdued the plaintiff, they took him to
the infirmary, where he was examined by a doctor.
See Pl.’s Facts ¶ 5; see also
Defs.’ Summ. J. Mot., Ex. 4 (January 8, 2014 Medical
Note ("Jan. 8, 2014 Medical Note")) at 1. According
to the doctor, the plaintiff suffered neither "acute
lesion[s]" nor "gross edema/ecchymosis, "
Defs.’ Summ. J. Mot., Ex. 4 (Jan. 8, 2014 Medical Note)
at 1, and he complained only of experiencing "neck
pain" and "elbow pain." Id. The
plaintiff insists that he also experienced pain in his back
and legs. See Pl.’s Facts ¶ 6.
encounter with the three defendant officers resulted in the
filing of this case by the plaintiff.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
will grant a motion for summary judgment "if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A fact is material if it
‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law, ’ and a dispute about a material fact is
genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the non[-]moving
party.’" Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689,
692 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
reviewing a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence
of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable
inferences are to be drawn in his favor."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (citation omitted).
"Credibility determinations, the weighing of the
evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the
facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling
on a motion for summary judgment . . . ." Id.
The movant has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact and that the non-moving party
"fail[ed] 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, 477 U.S. 317,
responding to a summary judgment motion, the non-moving party
"must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts."
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (citations omitted). Accordingly,
the non-moving party must not rely on "mere allegations
or denials . . . but must set forth specific facts showing
that there [are] genuine issue[s] for trial."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (one ellipsis omitted)
(quoting First Nat’l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv.
Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288 (1968)). "The mere existence
of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving
party’s] position [is] insufficient" to withstand
a motion for summary judgment; instead "there must be
[some] evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for
the [non-movant]." Id. at 252.
significant to this case, where the court has the benefit of
video evidence, as it does here, it should "view the
facts in the light depicted by the videotape" and need
not rely on "visible fiction" when the non-moving
party’s version of events is "so utterly
discredited by the record that no reasonable jury could have
believed [it]." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment Claim
to the complaint, the three defendant officers "used
excessive force against [the plaintiff] in violation of . . .
the Fourth Amendment" of the Constitution. Am. Compl.
¶ 19. As an initial matter, the Court concludes that the
plaintiff has failed to state a claim under the Fourth
Amendment because he does not dispute that he was
"incarcerated" at D.C. Jail on the day of the
alleged altercation between him and the defendant officers.
Pl.’s Facts. ¶ 1. Given his status as a convicted
prisoner,  the plaintiff’s claim of excessive
force must derive from the Eighth Amendment, and not the
Fourth Amendment, of the Constitution. Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n.10 (1989) ("After
conviction, the Eighth Amendment ‘serves as the primary
source of substantive protection in cases where the
deliberate use of force is challenged as excessive and
unjustified.’" (ellipses omitted) (quoting
Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 327 (1986)));
Hamlett v. Mattox, No. 90-CV-55 (OG), 1990 WL
236103, at *3 (D.D.C. Dec. 21, 1990) ("In
Graham, the Supreme Court indicated that the
Eight[h] Amendment does not provide protection against claims
of excessive force until after conviction." (citation
omitted)). Because the plaintiff has not sought leave of the
Court to cure this deficiency, and it will not now allow him
to amend his complaint through his summary judgment
submissions, e.g., Tuttle v. Jewell,
___F.Supp. 3d ___, ___, 2016 WL 1048775, at *11 n.18 (D.D.C.
2016) ("It is well-established that a party may not
amend a complaint through summary judgment briefing."
(citing District of Columbia v. Barrie, 741
F.Supp.2d 250, 263 (D.D.C. 2010))); Council on
Am.-Islamic Relations Action Network, Inc. v. Gaubatz,
31 F.Supp. 3d 237, 274 (D.D.C. 2014) (same), summary judgment
must be granted in favor of the defendant officers. And the
same result would be required even if the plaintiff had
properly pleaded an excessive force claim under the Eighth
Eighth Amendment bars the infliction of ‘cruel and
unusual punishments.’" Chandler v. D.C.
Dep’t of Corr., 145 F.3d 1355, 1360 (D.C. Cir.
1998) (quoting U.S. Const. amend. VIII). "The Supreme
Court has recognized two categories of prisoner cases as
actionable under the [Eighth] [A]mendment: complaints
regarding prisoners’ conditions of confinement, and
those alleging excessive use of force."Id.
(citations omitted). There are "subjective" and
"objective" elements to these cases. See
Powers-Bunce v. District of Columbia, 479 F.Supp.2d 146,
156 (D.D.C. 2007) (quoting Collins v. Seeman, 462
F.3d 757, 760-61 (7th Cir. 2006)). "Thus, courts
considering a prisoner’s [Eighth Amendment] claim must
ask both [(1)] if ‘the officials acted with a
sufficiently culpable state of mind’ and [(2)]) if the
alleged wrongdoing was objectively ‘harmful
enough’ to establish a constitutional violation."
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992) (quoting
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298, 303 (1991)). In
the context of an excessive force claim under the Eighth
Amendment, "the prisoner must prove that a government
official acted ‘maliciously and sadistically for the
very purpose of causing harm, ’ and that the consequent
injury was more than de minimis."
Chandler, 145 F.3d at 1360 (quoting
Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320-21) (citing
Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9-10); see also Wilson,
501 U.S. at 302 (a "very high state of mind" is
required in cases involving government officials who
"act in response to a prison disturbance" because
"their actions are necessarily taken ‘in haste,
under pressure, ’ and balanced against ‘competing
institutional concerns for the safety of prison staff or
other inmates’" (quoting Whitley, 475
U.S. at 320)). Factors to consider in making this subjective
inquiry are the extent of the injuries suffered by the
inmate, "the need for application of force, the
relationship between that need and the amount of force used,
the threat ‘reasonably perceived by the responsible
officials, ’ and ‘any efforts made to temper the
severity of a forceful response.’"
Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7 (quoting Whitley, 475
U.S. at 321). The objective inquiry that must be made is
"contextual, " id. at 8, and is satisfied
where there is more than a "de minimis use of
physical force, provided that the use of force is not of a
sort ‘repugnant to the conscience of mankind,
’" id. at 10 (quoting Whitley,
475 U.S. at 327). Courts must bear in mind that the excessive
force claim "ultimately turns on ‘whether force
was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore
discipline or [applied] maliciously and sadistically for the
very purpose of causing harm.’" Wh ...