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Campbell v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division

September 5, 2019

LJUBICA CAMPBELL Plaintiff.
v.
TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMEDATION

          ANDREW M. EDISON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before me is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 32), which was filed on July 22, 2019. Plaintiff Ljubica Campbell's ("Campbell") response was originally due on August 12, 2019. In lieu of filing a response, Campbell sought an extension. See Dkts. 34, 36, 37. Over the objection of Defendant Texas Department of Criminal Justice ("TDCJ"), I extended Campbell's response deadline until August 22, 2019. See Dkt. 40. On August 22, Campbell sought another extension until August 23, 2019. See Dkt. 41. In an attempt to be incredibly accommodating, I granted Campbell one final extension until August 24, 2019-a day longer than she even requested. See Dkt. 43. The August 24 deadline has come and gone, and Campbell still has not filed a response. Accordingly, I treat Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as unopposed; and, for the reasons articulated below, I RECOMMEND that the motion be GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Campbell is a former correctional officer who worked for TDCJ at its Hospital Facility in Galveston, Texas, from 2006 until she was terminated in 2016. As a correctional officer, Campbell's job was to provide security for hospital staff and escort inmates to medical appointments.

         During her tenure with TDCJ, Campbell filed numerous complaints with the TDCJ Employee Relations Office about other TDCJ employees. These complaints ranged from accusing certain coworkers of creating a hostile work environment to accusing other coworkers of pushing her in an elevator. However, Campbell was not the only person filing complaints.

         Between March 2013 and February 2016, numerous individuals complained to TDCJ about Campbell's behavior, including multiple nurses, a medical doctor, and even a chaplain. Pertinent here, the TDCJ investigated the complaints, and several resulted in disciplinary convictions against her.

         In January 2015, Campbell filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").[1]She alleged discrimination and retaliation, referencing the many incidents underlying her various complaints to the TDCJ Employee Relations Office. Prior to the EEOC completing its review, Campbell was involved in a verbal altercation with a superior officer. After a thorough investigation of the altercation, Campbell was found guilty of instigating and participating in a verbal altercation with her superior officer. Based on this determination, coupled with her long disciplinary history, TDCJ terminated Campbell's employment in July 2016. After her termination, Campbell supplemented her EEOC charge to include the facts surrounding her recent termination. Thereafter, Campbell received a right to sue letter and filed suit.

         In this lawsuit, Campbell seeks money damages and alleges the following claims: violations of her constitutional rights to substantive and procedural due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"); race (Caucasian), national origin (Macedonian), and sex (female) discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, et seq. ("Title VII"); and retaliation under Title VII. TDCJ has moved for summary judgment as to each claim.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact does not exist unless "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Bur ell v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 820 F.3d 132, 136 (5th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). "The moving party . . . bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion." Brandon v. Sage Corp., 808 F.3d 266, 269-70 (5th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). If the burden of production at trial "ultimately rests on the nonmovant, the movant must merely demonstrate an absence of evidentiary support in the record for the nonmovant's case." Lyles v. Medtronic Sofamor Danek, USA, Inc., 871 F.3d 305, 310-11 (5th Cir. 2017). Once a party "meets the initial burden of demonstrating that there exists no genuine issue of material fact for trial, the burden shifts to the non-movant to produce evidence of the existence of such an issue for trial." Brandon, 808 F.3d at 270. The party opposing summary judgment "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. [It] must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts indicating a genuine issue for trial to avoid summary judgment." Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted). "In deciding whether a fact issue exists, courts must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Ray born v. Bossier Par. Sch. Bd, 881 F.3d 409, 414 (5th Cir. 2018) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Importantly, "[a]lthough it is reversible error for the Court to grant a summary judgment motion simply because the nonmovant fails to respond [as is the case here], the Court may decide the merits of the case based on the Defendant's Motion and supporting evidence since Plaintiff has proffered no controverting evidence." Daniels v. BASF Corp., 270 F.Supp.2d 847, 852 (S.D. Tex. 2003) (citations omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Due Process Claims under Section 1983

         TDCJ argues that Eleventh Amendment immunity bars Campbell's due process claims arising under Section 1983. I agree. As this Court has explained, "the Eleventh Amendment bars a suit for money damages against TDCJ, as a state agency, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Hampton v. Brindley, No. 3:17-CV-299, 2018 WL 3609034, at *5 (S.D. Tex. July 27, 2018) (citing Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 213 (5th Cir. 1998)). Thus, Campbell's due process claims must be dismissed.

         II. Discrimination and Retaliation ...


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