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Cook v. Woodard

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

August 26, 2019

JOHNNIE D. COOK, Plaintiff,
v.
RYAN WOODARD, et al., Defendants.

          Stephanie K. Bowman, Magistrate Judge

          DECISION AND ENTRY ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE (DOC. 49)

          Timothy S. Black, United States District Judge

         This case is before the Court pursuant to the Order of General Reference to United States Magistrate Judge Stephanie K. Bowman. Pursuant to such reference, the Magistrate Judge reviewed the pleadings filed with this Court and, on June 4, 2019, submitted a Report and Recommendation recommending that the Court grant Defendant Ryan Woodard's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 35) and grant in part and deny in part Defendant William Cool's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 37). (Doc. 49).

         On June 14, 2019, Plaintiff filed objections. (Doc. 52). Defendant Cool filed objections on July 2, 2019. (Doc. 55). Plaintiff proceeded to file a response to Cool's objections (Doc. 56), to which Cool filed a reply (Doc. 58). Plaintiff also filed a sur-reply. (Doc. 59).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, a pro se prisoner, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging an Eighth Amendment excessive use of force claim again Correctional Officer Ryan Woodard. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his complaint to add a retaliation claim against Defendant Cool. (See Doc. 15). Plaintiff alleges that Cool retaliated against Plaintiff for issuing subpoenas to three prison employees, including Cool, by submitted a false conduct report claiming the subpoenas were forged. (Doc. 4; Doc. 15 at 4). Plaintiff further alleges that he was threatened prior to his disciplinary hearing regarding the subpoenas and told he needed to drop his civil action. (Doc. 49, at 10). Plaintiff was found guilty by the Rules Infraction Board (“RIB”) and sentenced to twenty days in disciplinary control. Plaintiff appealed his disciplinary conviction, but the appeal was denied. (Id.).

         Following preliminary review and Defendant Woodard's motion to dismiss, this Court entered a Decision and Entry adopting Judge Bowman's Report and Recommendation, permitting Plaintiff's excessive force claim against Woodard and retaliation claim against Cool to proceed. (Doc. 27).

         Subsequently, Defendants Woodard and Cool separately moved for summary judgment. (Docs. 35, 37). The Magistrate Judge entered a Report and Recommendation recommending that this Court grant Defendant Woodard's motion for summary judgment and grant in part and deny in part Defendant Cool's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 49). As to Defendant Woodard, the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff's claims against Woodard are barred by claim and issue preclusion and waived pursuant to the Leaman Doctrine. (Id. at 5). The Magistrate Judge alternatively found that Plaintiff's excessive force claim against Woodard fails on the merits, because Plaintiff failed to respond to Woodard's motion for summary judgment that included witness affidavits and video evidence refuting Plaintiff's claim. (Id. at 8-9).

         Defendant Cool argued he was entitled to summary judgment on three bases: (1) failure to exhaust administrative remedies, (2) lack of a material fact showing retaliation, and (3) qualified immunity. (Id. at 10). As to Cool's first argument, the Magistrate Judge found Plaintiff failed to exhaust his retaliation claim but proceeded to find Plaintiff exempt from the exhaustion requirement, as Plaintiff was informed that no administrative remedies were available. (Id. at 13-14). Second, the Magistrate Judge rejected Cool's argument that no dispute of material fact exists as to whether Cool engaged in retaliation (Id. at 14-27). In doing so, the Judge found that Plaintiff's act of filing a non-frivolous lawsuit and issuing subpoenas to prosecute the case constituted a constitutionally-protected activity. (Id. at 15-17). Judge Bowman also found that Plaintiff's punishment of twenty days in disciplinary segregation constituted an “adverse action” and was not de minimis. (Id. at 17). However, because Plaintiff was not able to produce evidence refuting Defendant Cool's affidavits asserting he did not threaten Plaintiff prior to or during the administrative hearing, the Magistrate Judge found Cool entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's retaliation claim related to this particular conduct. Finally, Judge Bowman found a dispute of material fact exists as to Defendant's subjective motive, rejecting Cools' argument concerning causation. (Id. at 23).

         In addition, Judge Bowman found that Defendant Cool is not entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. (Id. at 27-32).

         II. Plaintiff's Objections

         Plaintiff made a letter filing following the Magistrate Judge's issuance of the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 52). In this letter, Plaintiff explains that although he provided his response to Defendant Woodard's motion for summary judgment to prison officials for mailing, the officials did not place the document in the mail. (Id. at 1). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Cool came to his cell and told him “you can't win a claim of retaliation if you can't prove Woodards [sic] response was filed.” (Id. at 2). The Court construes this filing as an objection to the Report and Recommendation.

         Even assuming prison officials did not place Plaintiff's response to Defendant's Woodard's motion for summary judgment in the mail, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to grant Woodard's motion for summary judgment stands. This is because in addition to finding summary judgment warranted on the merits, the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff's claims against Woodard are barred by claim preclusion and issue preclusion, as well as by the Leaman Doctrine. (Doc. 49 at 5-8). Plaintiff does not refute these findings of the Magistrate Judge. The Court agrees with the Report and Recommendation that as a result of Plaintiff's previously filed state-court case, ...


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