United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ROBERT L. DYKES-BEY, Plaintiff,
O.T. WINN, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER (1) GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANTS, (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT,
& (3) SUMMARILY DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
PATRICK J. DUGGAN, District Judge.
This is a prisoner civil rights lawsuit brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff Robert L. Dykes-Bey, an African-American prisoner confined to the Saginaw Correctional Facility (SRF), claims that prison officials provided greater protection to a white inmate than they did to Plaintiff in response to a threat made against both of them. The Court previously dismissed all of the claims asserted in Plaintiff's complaint except for his equal protection claim. See Dykes-Bey v. Winn, No. 13-CV-13813, 2014 WL 1431094 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 14, 2014).
On August 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. Defendants filed an untimely response to that motion on September 8, 2014. Defendants concede that their response was filed outside the twenty-one day deadline for filing a response to a dispositive motion. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(e)(1)(B). Defendants' counsel explains that he "incorrectly calendared the response date... using the 28-day response time of the Western District [of Michigan] instead of the 21-day response time used in the Eastern District." Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. for Default J. at 1 (ECF No. 43 Page ID 334).
In light of Defendants' untimely response to Plaintiff's summary judgment motion, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment on September 17, 2014. Plaintiff argues that default judgment should be entered in his favor because Defendants' failed to file a timely response to his summary judgment motion. The Court will summarily deny Plaintiff's motion for default judgment. Courts do not impose case-dispositive sanctions for a one-time, non-prejudicial, honest mistake of counsel, see United Coin Meter Co., Inc. v. Seaboard Coastline Railroad, 705 F.2d 839, 845 (6th Cir. 1983) ("Judgment by default is a drastic step which should be resorted to only in the most extreme cases."), and Plaintiff's request for such relief is inappropriate.
In their response to Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, Defendants request that summary judgment be entered in their favor pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f). Under that Rule, the Court may, "[a]fter giving notice and a reasonable time to respond, " "(1) grant summary judgment for a nonmovant; (2) grant the motion on grounds not raised by a party; or (3) consider summary judgment on its own after identifying for the parties material facts that may not be genuinely in dispute." On February 11, 2015, the Court issued an order notifying the parties that it would consider Defendants' request for summary judgment and inviting the parties to file anything they wish in support of their respective requests for summary judgment or in opposition to the opposing party's request for summary judgment by March 13, 2015. On March 6, 2015, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to Defendants' request for summary judgment.
The parties' summary judgment requests are now ready for decision. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of Defendants.
On September 16, 2011, Plaintiff sustained minor injuries after being assaulted by an unknown prisoner in the "800 unit" of SRF. See Pl. Decl. ¶ 2 (ECF No. 38 Page ID 263); Patient's Authorization for Disclosure of Healthcare Records (ECF No. 1 Page ID 15). The assault occurred one day after an anonymous threatening note was slid under Plaintiff's door. Pl. Decl. ¶ 1. Although the note is written in slang and partially incomprehensible to the Court, see Note (ECF No. 1 Page ID 12), Plaintiff viewed the note as a threat to himself and his friend, another prisoner by the name of Eckstein, who is white. Pl. Decl. ¶¶ 1, 3. Apparently, Eckstein owed a debt to another prisoner, and that debt was being imputed to Plaintiff due to his friendship with Eckstein. Id. ¶ 1.
Plaintiff and Eckstein were both placed in temporary segregation pending an investigation into the incident. Winn Aff. ¶ 4 (ECF No. 40 Page ID 314-17). The investigation was conducted by a prison official named A. Best, who is not a defendant in this case. Requests for Protection/Investigation Reports (ECF No. 40 Page ID 318-19). Both Plaintiff and Eckstein requested to be housed in protective custody following the assault on Plaintiff. Winn Aff. ¶ 3. The requests were reviewed by the prison's security classification committee, a two member committee consisting of Defendant Winn, the deputy warden at the time, and another individual. Id. ¶ 5. Winn determined that both prisoners could safely be released into the general prison population; neither was placed in protective custody and neither was returned to the unit in which the assault on Plaintiff took place. Id. ¶¶ 5, 7-8.
However, Eckstein was placed in a more secure unit than was Plaintiff. Specifically, Plaintiff was returned to "level II general population, " whereas Eckstein was returned to "level IV general population." Id. ¶¶ 7-8. Although the unit in which Eckstein was placed is more secure than the unit in which Plaintiff was placed, prisoners in Eckstein's unit have "fewer privileges" than do prisoners in Plaintiff's unit. Id.
Defendant Winn decided that Plaintiff and Eckstein should be returned to separate units "because the plaintiff was allegedly assaulted due to a debt owed by Eckstein, so removing him from association with Eckstein would remove any danger." Id. ¶ 6. In addition, prison officials suspected Plaintiff and Eckstein of being involved in a homosexual relationship; because "sexual relationships are prohibited by prison rules.... they could not be housed together." Id.
Moreover, Defendant Winn placed Eckstein in a more secure unit than the unit he assigned to Plaintiff because Winn deemed Eckstein to be a more vulnerable prisoner than Plaintiff. The paperwork governing Eckstein's request for protective custody reflects that Eckstein was transferred from a different prison to SRF in May 2011, about four months before the assault on Plaintiff occurred, because a prisoner at Eckstein's previous institution was "pressing him for sex." Request for Protection/Investigation Report (ECF No. 40 Page ID 319). In light of Eckstein's history of possible sexual victimization at the prior prison and Plaintiff's lack of any such history, Defendant Winn placed Eckstein in a more secure unit. According to Winn, "Eckstein was placed in level IV general population due to his prior complaint of being pressed for sex and this additional assaultive situation involving his alleged ...