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Solomon v. Petray

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 29, 2015

James Clayton Solomon, Plaintiff - Appellee
Hunter Petray, Captain, Benton County Detention Center; Sheriff Keith Ferguson; Sgt. Tomlin; Sgt. Robbins; Sgt. Torrez; Deputy Johnson; Deputy Johnston; Deputy Morrison; Deputy Roland; Deputy Rankin; Deputy Wales; Deputy Elkington; Deputy Lockhhart; Deputy Engleman; Deputy Wright; Deputy Fry; Deputy Reyes; Deputy Holly; Deputy Carlton; Deputy Lowther; Deputy Duncan; Deputy Hernandez; Deputy Bryson; Major Gene Drake; Lt. Carter; Sgt. Vaughn, Defendants, Deputy U.S. Marshal Cory Thomas; Deputy U.S. Marshal Susan Jones, Defendants - Appellants, John Does, Unknown U.S. Marshals; Benton County Deputy Stickland, Defendants

Submitted April 13, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas - Fayetteville.

For James Clayton Solomon, Plaintiff - Appellee: John Jason Boyeskie, J. Jason Boyeskie, Pllc, Fayetteville, AR; William F. Clark, Colin M. Johnson, Davis & Clark, Fayetteville, AR.

James Clayton Solomon, Plaintiff - Appellee, Pro se, Beaumont, TX.

For Deputy U.S. Marshal Cory Thomas, Deputy U.S. Marshal Susan Jones, Defendants - Appellants: Claude Shackelford Hawkins Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith, AR.

Before BYE, BEAM, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.


SMITH, Circuit Judge.

United States Marshals Susan Jones and Cory Thomas appeal the district court's[1] denial of summary judgment to dismiss James Solomon's Bivens [2] civil-rights lawsuit against them. The district court held that, according to the facts as pleaded by Solomon, Jones and Thomas were not entitled to qualified immunity against Solomon's excessive force claim. We affirm.

I. Background

In January 2008, Solomon was convicted of violating the terms of his supervised release in the Western District of Arkansas. The court sentenced him to five years' imprisonment and allowed him to voluntarily surrender himself to the custody of the United States Marshals on or before April 2, 2008. In February 2008, Solomon instead absconded. Before doing so, Solomon wrote a letter in which he stated his hope that the Honorable Jimm Larry Hendren, then Chief Judge of the Western District of Arkansas, " dies of a slow and painful disease." He sent the letter to Judge Hendren's chambers and a local newspaper, which subsequently published the letter. Solomon was later apprehended in Los Angeles on April 10, 2008, and was charged with failing to surrender himself by April 2.

Marshals transported Solomon to the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. On April 25, 2008, Solomon was then driven from Oklahoma City to Fort Smith, Arkansas, by Marshal Susan Jones, who was accompanied by a contract guard. According to Solomon's addendum to his pro se complaint, " [w]hen [he] was transported from Oklahoma [City] Federal Transfer Center by Marshals they showed [him] their copy of the letter and said [he]'d 'pay for writing that type of letter to the judge.'"

After arriving in Fort Smith, Solomon was then transferred to the Benton County Criminal Detention Center (BCCDC). According to Solomon's addendum, while marshals were driving him to the BCCDC, Solomon recognized the route they were taking was not to a local detention center as he had anticipated. When Solomon asked the marshals where they were going, they responded that he was being transported to the BCCDC. They said that going to the BCCDC " was like going to hell [because] they were known for their abusive handling practices." According to Solomon, the marshals also told him that he would get " 'special treatment' at BCCDC 'cause they'd make sure of it." During this trip, the marshals also allegedly told Solomon that he " should never have written that letter to the judge and they were going to make sure [he] was punished for that letter." In a later motion, Solomon alleged that " [o]n or about [the] time" that Marshals told him he was being transported to the BCCDC, Marshal " Cory Thomas struck [Solomon] with a blow to the lower body, causing [his] knees to buckle. [Solomon] stated that he received medical treatment for his injuries."

After a few days at the BCCDC, Solomon alleged in his complaint that he " was handcuffed in the middle of the night . . . and a dark cloth was slipped over [his] head and he was . . . carried out of his cell . . . into a hallway and then into another room and given a 'blanket-party' by the deputies." Solomon believed that a blanket party refered to a beating in which the assailants wrap the victim in a blanket so that the victim cannot see or identify the assailants. Solomon further alleged that " [t]he deputies told [him], 'that one's for the marshals' or something to that effect to let [him] know the U.S. Marshal Service asked them to give [him] the 'blanket party.'"

Solomon brought this Bivens action pro se against Jones and Thomas, among others.[3] Solomon alleged Jones and Thomas " violated [his] civil rights . . . guarantee[ing] due process and to be free of excessive force" ; Solomon did not offer further specifics. Solomon's complaint also alleged that the Marshals Service sent Solomon to the BCCDC to retaliate against Solomon for the letter he wrote to Judge Hendren.

Jones and Thomas filed separate motions to dismiss, or in the alternative, motions for summary judgment. Jones and Thomas both argued that Solomon's complaint failed to state a claim against them because they were not responsible for transporting Solomon from Fort Smith to the BCCDC. They both submitted a declaration from Mark Spellman, the Supervisory Deputy United States Marshal of the Western District of Arkansas (" Spellman Declaration" ). In his declaration, Spellman indicated that neither Jones nor Thomas were responsible for deciding where Solomon would be housed. Further, the Spellman Declaration averred that BCCDC deputies transported Solomon from Fort Smith to the BCCDC. Of the two marshals, only Jones had actually transported Solomon, and she transported Solomon from Oklahoma City to Fort Smith. Therefore, Jones and Thomas moved for dismissal because they could not have made the threats alleged by Solomon during his transport from Fort Smith to the BCCDC or otherwise arranged for the blanket party at the BCCDC. Additionally, both Jones and Thomas moved for dismissal based on qualified immunity.

The district court, pursuant to Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, treated the motions as those for summary judgment because he considered " matters outside the pleadings" by considering the Spellman Declaration. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The court construed the facts in the light most favorable to Solomon but also made factual findings consistent with the undisputed Spellman Declaration that Jones and Thomas were not responsible for assigning Solomon to the BCCDC and that neither were present during Solomon's transportation from Fort Smith to the BCCDC. The court denied summary judgment stating " Solomon correctly notes that his complaint against [Jones and Thomas] does not depend upon a finding that they transported him from the federal building in Fort Smith to the [BCCDC]."

Jones and Thomas appealed the decision to this court. Solomon v. Petray, 699 F.3d 1034, 1038 (8th Cir. 2012). Thomas did not challenge the district court's declination to dismiss Solomon's excessive-force claim. In his appellate briefing, Thomas applied Anthony v. Runyon, 76 F.3d 210, 214 (8th Cir. 1996), and concluded that " Solomon has raised a[n excessive-force] claim which on its face is not subject to dismissal at this time." We ultimately remanded the case back to the district court " for a more detailed consideration of the claims of qualified immunity." Solomon, 699 F.3d at 1038. We found that there was a " complete absence in the order of any explicit reference to, or analysis of, Jones's and Thomas's claims of qualified immunity which ...

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