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Media Alerts - Boone v. Everett, et al. -- Fourth Circuit
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February 23, 2017
  Boone v. Everett, et al. -- Fourth Circuit
Both Sides of Story Must Be Considered in Pro Se Eighth Amendment Case

Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Eighth Amendment

Issue Presented: Whether the District Court properly granted a motion for summary judgment on a defendant's excessive force claims against two prison officers.

Brief Summary: The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia erred in granting Officer C.D. Everett summary judgment on a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 excessive force claim when the court based its decision solely on the affidavits and story of the prison where the defendant was incarcerated. However, the Fourth Circuit upheld the motion for summary judgment for Sergeant L. Rodriguez because the only evidence Boone, a pro se appellant, offered to support his Eighth Amendment claims against Rodriguez were conclusory allegations.

Extended Summary: Wally Boone asked Fourth Circuit to review the District Court's grant of summary judgment and denial of relief on his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 excessive force claim. In his claim to the district court, Boone alleged that two prison officials, Officer C.D. Everett and Sergeant L. Rodriguez, used excessive force against him. Specifically, he alleged that Officer Everett slammed his head into a wall, threw him on the floor, jumped on top of him, and choked him until he lost consciousness. He also alleged that Sergeant Rodriguez dragged him to the medical department while threatening to drop him and allowed his genitals to remain exposed. The district court granted the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings.

The Fourth Circuit noted that a district court can only award summary judgment if no genuine dispute of material fact remains and the record indicates that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. When the moving party shows there is no genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must "go beyond the pleadings" and rely on evidence, including affidavits, to demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Thus, to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must produce competent evidence that is more than conclusory or speculative allegations. The Fourth Circuit noted that in reviewing the evidence submitted by the parties, a court cannot "credit the evidence of the party seeking summary judgment and fail to properly acknowledge key evidence offered by the party opposing that motion." In other words, at the district court level, the district court could not only credit the evidence of Everett and Rodriguez, but had a duty to credit that proffered by Boone as well.

In making an Eighth Amendment claim for excessive force, a prisoner must prove that the official possessed a culpable state of mind and caused the prisoner a sufficiently serious deprivation or injury. Specifically, a prisoner must prove that the official acted "maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm" rather than "in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline." Factors used to analyze malicious or sadistic intent include: (1) the need for force, (2) the degree of force used in relation to the need for force, (3) the existence of a threat reasonably perceived by the official, (4) any efforts made to lessen the severity of a forceful response, and (5) the extent of a prisoner's injury. In analyzing the excessive force claim against Everett, the Fourth Circuit held that the district court's opinion contained flaws that necessitated remand. The Fourth Circuit noted that the opinion made no mention of the evidence Boone proffered to support his claim which included (1) his affidavit attesting to his account of the incident, (2) his prison grievances detailing injuries consistent with his allegations, and (3) affidavits from three other inmates who attested that they observed Everett's alleged conduct. The Fourth Circuit stated that a court may only reject the nonmoving party's evidence, such as Boone's, when uncontroverted evidence in the record "blatantly contradicts it." The court found no such blatant contradictions to exist in the record below. The Fourth Circuit noted that by overlooking Boone's evidence, the district court's opinion relied almost exclusively on the Defendant's account.

Turning to Boone's excessive force claims against Sergeant Rodriguez, the Fourth Circuit held that the district court applied the proper standard in granting Rodriguez's motion for summary judgment. The Fourth Circuit held that Boone's conclusory allegations coupled with an affidavit by a witness (who testified to seeing the alleged violation, but failed to identify the officer or explain why the officer dragged Boone), presented "a mere scintilla of evidence." Thus, the Fourth Circuit found that Boone had not raised a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether Rodriguez acted maliciously or sadistically.

The Fourth Circuit vacated the grant of summary judgment to Everett and affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Rodriguez. They affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case.

To view a full version of the opinion, clickhere.

Panel: Judges Traxler, Keenan, and Wynn

Argument Date: 09/28/2016

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/21/2016

Docket Number:
No. 16-6843

Decided: Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded by unpublished per curiam opinion

Case Alert Author: Dena Robinson, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Wally Boone, Appellant Pro Se. John Michael Parsons, Assistant Attorney General, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Per curiam

Case Alert Supervisor:
Professor Renee Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 02/23/2017 03:36 PM     1st Circuit  

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