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Scaife v. Favre

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 4, 2019

NERAK SCAIFE, Plaintiff,
v.
NAOMI FAIVRE[1] and SHANE DAVIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Nerak Scaife, who at the relevant time was incarcerated at the DeKalb County Jail, filed a pro se lawsuit against correctional officers Naomi Faivre and Shane Davis, alleging they used excessive force against him while extracting him from his cell on May 4, 2017. Counsel was appointed to represent Scaife. The Court thanks appointed counsel, Richard Dvorak of Dvorak Law Offices, LLC, and Rebecca McCorkle, a 7-11 licensed student at the Northern Illinois University Zeke Giorgio Legal Clinic, for their diligent work on Scaife's behalf.

         The defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendants' motion.

         Facts

         Scaife was a pretrial detainee at the DeKalb jail at the time of the incident, and Faivre and Davis were working as correctional officers. Davis told Scaife that he was being transferred to the Kendall County Jail due to overcrowding. (Scaife notes that the top bunk in his cell was empty at the time.) Scaife did not want to move; among other reasons, he had an enemy at the Kendall County Jail and feared for his safety there. The relocation would also made it harder for his family to visit him. Scaife told the officers that he did not want to be transferred, but they told him he had to move. To be clear, there is no evidence that Faivre or Davis had anything to do with the decision to transfer Scaife; rather they were carrying out orders.

         Scaife decided to resist transfer. He took off his clothes-ostensibly to show he had no weapons-and he sat down on the floor of his cell and wrapped his arms and legs around the bars of his cell door. Scaife also wrapped his shirt around his head and face, anticipating that the officers might use pepper spray.

         A reasonable jury could find that the officers did not make any effort, or any appreciable effort, to verbally convince Scaife to leave his cell. That said, Scaife does not deny that he was resisting transfer or that this was apparent to Davis and Faivre from his actions.

         Davis pried at Scaife's fingers to loosen them from the bars and also kicked Scaife's shins and feet. When this was unsuccessful, Davis pulled the shirt off Scaife's face and stepped aside. Faivre then approached. She initially intended to use a taser on Scaife but opted not to do so. Instead, she sprayed pepper spray toward Scaife's face. But Scaife had his head pointed downward to avoid being sprayed in the face, so the spray hit only his forehead. At this point, Scaife says, Faivre deliberately sprayed the pepper spray onto his genitals. Scaife says that this was painful and that he screamed out. But he still did not release his arms or legs from the cell bars.

         Davis then approached again and pried Scaife's fingers from the cell bars and started kicking Scaife's feet or legs again. The officers got the cell door open slightly, but Scaife was then able to thwart them by getting his arm back through the bars. After further use of force, the officers were able to enter the cell. They handcuffed Scaife and removed him from the cell gave him pants to wear, and removed him from the cell. Scaife says he had pain in his hands, arms, and legs as well as a burning sensation on his genitalia and forehead.

         The next day, May 5, a nurse examined Scaife and cleared him for transfer to the Kendall County Jail. The nurse's notes do not reflect any residual effects from the pepper spray. Scaife was also assessed by a mental health counselor, who reported that he said he was fine and was not in any crisis. About two weeks later, at the Kendall County Jail, Scaife's hand was x-rayed based on his complaint to a nurse that he had damage to his arms from the cell extraction; the x-ray showed no dislocation or fracture. Notes from examinations by a nurse on May 17 and by a physician on June 28 make no reference to any complaint by Scaife about any injury or harm to his penis. Medical records reflect a complaint of a penile itch in January 2018, but that was eight months after the incident. He was prescribed an anti-fungal cream. Scaife says, however, that he has experienced discoloration and desensitization. He also contends that he has nerve damage in his hand, though there is no medical evidence to support this.

         The Court assumes for purposes of discussion that the officers did not try to talk Scaife out of his cell; Davis deliberately kicked and hit Scaife's hands and feet; under Sheriff's department procedure, Faivre was supposed to get approval from her sergeant before using pepper spray, but she did not; Faivre deliberately sprayed pepper spray onto Scaife's genitals despite knowing that this was contrary to department procedure; and that Scaife suffered some injuries, albeit relatively minor ones.

         Discussion

         As indicated, the defendants have moved for summary judgment. In considering the motion, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to Scaife and draws reasonable inferences in his favor. See, e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Martin v. Marinez, 934 F.3d 594, 597-98 (7th Cir. 2019). Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine disputes of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

         Because Scaife was a pretrial detainee at the time of the incident, his excessive force claim arises under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2472 (2015). Under that provision, assuming force was knowingly used (which it was), the issue is whether the force was objectively unreasonable. Id. at 2473. The determination must be made from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene knowing what the officer knew at the time, not with hindsight. Id. And there must be appropriate deference to ...


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