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Johnson v. G.E.O.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 27, 2018

JAMES J. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
G.E.O. and R. Prus, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants G.E.O and R. Prus' (collectively referred to as “the Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment. Also before the Court is Plaintiff James Johnson's (“Johnson”), cross Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion to Freeze R. Prus Estate, dkt. [69]. Johnson, an inmate at the New Castle Correctional Facility (“NCCF”), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his rights were violated when he was touched inappropriately during a search and that he was retaliated against when he complained about these actions. For the following reasons, the Defendants' motion for summary judgment, dkt. [63], is granted in part and denied in part and Johnson's motion for summary judgment, dkt. [68], is denied.

         I. Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment should be granted when the evidence 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986). The purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Disputes concerning material facts are genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In deciding whether genuine issues of material fact exist, the court construes all facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Id. at 255. However, neither the “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties, ” id., 477 U.S. at 247, nor the existence of “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, will defeat a motion for summary judgment. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000).

         Courts often confront cross motions for summary judgment because Rules 56(a) and (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow both plaintiffs and defendants to move for such relief. In such situations, courts must consider each party's motion individually to determine if that party has satisfied the summary judgment standard. Kohl v. Ass'n. of Trial Lawyers of Am., 183 F.R.D. 475 (D. Md. 1998). Thus, in determining whether genuine and material factual disputes exist in this case, the Court has considered the parties' respective motions and the exhibits attached thereto, and has construed all facts and drawn all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the respective nonmovant. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 574.

         II. Facts

         The following statement of undisputed material facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to the non-moving party with respect to the motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         GEO Group, Inc. (“GEO”) is a Florida-based company that specializes in privatized corrections and is the correctional administrator of NCCF. Johnson is an offender housed by the IDOC at NCCF. At the time of the allegations in the complaint, he worked in the kitchen. Robert Prus (“Officer Prus”) is a correctional officer employed by GEO who has worked in the kitchen of the NCCF since 2011.

         Officer Prus receives training each year on the proper methods of searching offenders and conducts searches of all offender employees of the kitchen before permitting them to leave the kitchen so as to thwart theft. On July 14, 2015, Officer Prus conducted a pat-down search of Johnson. Following the pat-down search, Johnson made a report that Officer Prus squeezed his testicle during the search. A formal Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) investigation, coordinated by Compliance Administrator Jacob Pruis, was initiated on August 18, 2015. During the investigation, there was put in place a no-contact order between Officer Prus and Johnson. Compliance Administrator Pruis met with Johnson on a weekly basis. The investigation lasted until December 3, 2015, when it was concluded with an unsubstantiated finding. Before Johnson filed a PREA claim against Johnson, there had not been any previous PREA complaints against Officer Prus. In addition, Officer Prus had received no prior disciplinary actions taken against him for matters related to contact or interaction with offenders housed at NCCF.

         On July 16, 2015, Officer Prus filed a disciplinary write up for lying to staff against Johnson. Because of this write up, Johnson lost six months of earned credit time. On July 29, 2015, before the PREA investigation began, Officer Prus sought a reclassification for Johnson and removal from his kitchen job, for an alleged theft. The approval and reclassification to idle status was granted by persons other than Officer Prus.

         III. Discussion

         Johnson and the defendants have each moved for summary judgment on Johnson's claims, including his claim that Officer Prus violated his rights in the course of the search, his claim that Officer Prus retaliated against him, and his claim that GEO maintained a policy that resulted in the violation of his rights.

         A. The Search

         Officer Prus moves for summary judgment arguing that the search did not violate Johnson's rights, while Johnson argues that Officer Prus did violate his Eighth Amendment rights during the search. “The Eighth Amendment prohibits punishments which involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, are grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime for which an inmate was imprisoned, or are totally without penological justification.” Whitman v. Nesic, 368 F.3d 931, 934 (7th Cir. 2004), as amended (June 4, 2004) (citing Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821 F.2d 408, 415 (7th Cir. 1987)). In the context of bodily searches, only those searches that ...

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