Ahmed R. Rucker v. Lt. George Harrison, II
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Originating case number: 8:16-cv-00371-GJH Copies to all parties and the district court/agency. . Mailed to: Ahmed R. Rucker WESTERN CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION 13800 McMullen Highway, SW Cumberland, MD 21502-2150. [16-7638]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
AHMED R. RUCKER,
Plaintiff - Appellant,
LT. GEORGE HARRISON, II, Individual and Official Capacity,
Defendant - Appellee.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt.
George J. Hazel, District Judge. (8:16-cv-00371-GJH)
Submitted: July 31, 2017
Decided: August 7, 2017
Before NIEMEYER, SHEDD, and AGEE, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Ahmed R. Rucker, Appellant Pro Se. Thomas E. Dernoga, OFFICE OF THE
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
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Ahmed R. Rucker, a Maryland prisoner, filed suit against correctional officer
Lieutenant George Harrison, II, in his individual and official capacities, under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 (2012), alleging that Harrison retaliated against him for filing grievances
complaining about Harrison’s conduct. The district court granted summary judgment to
Harrison, finding that (1) sovereign immunity barred the claims against Harrison in his
official capacity; (2) qualified immunity barred Rucker’s First Amendment retaliation
claim against him in his individual capacity; and (3) Rucker’s retaliation claims regarding
administrative segregation, and transfer did not implicate constitutionally protected
liberty interests. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and
We review a district court’s award of summary judgment, including an award
based on qualified immunity, de novo, viewing the facts and inferences reasonably drawn
from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Durham v. Horner, 690
F.3d 183, 188 (4th Cir. 2012). Summary judgment is appropriate only when no genuine
dispute of material fact remains and the record shows that the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
“Qualified immunity protects officers who commit constitutional violations but
who, in light of clearly established law, could reasonably believe that their actions were
lawful.” Henry v. Purnell, 652 F.3d 524, 531 (4th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Thus, to enjoy
qualified immunity, Harrison must show either that no constitutional violation occurred
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or that Rucker’s purported First Amendment right was not clearly established at the time
it was violated. Id. In evaluating whether the right was clearly established, courts look
“not to whether the right allegedly violated was established ‘as a broad general
proposition’ but whether ‘it would be clear to a reasonable official that his conduct was
unlawful in the situation he confronted.’” Raub v. Campbell, 785 F.3d 876, 882 (4th Cir.
2015) (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201-02 (2001)).
In awarding summary judgment to Harrison on Rucker’s First Amendment
retaliation claim, the district court observed that this court had not yet addressed whether
inmates have a First Amendment right to be free from retaliation for filing grievances
based on prison officials’ misconduct and, in any event, concluded that the right was not
clearly established. Thus, the district court found Harrison was entitled to qualified
immunity on this claim. After the district court’s order issued, in Booker v. South
Carolina Dep’t of Corr., 855 F.3d 533 (2017), we held that the First Amendment right to
be free from retaliation for filing prison grievances was clearly established at least since
2010. Harrison’s alleged conduct occurred after 2010, in 2015.
In light of Booker, we vacate the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to
Harrison in his individual capacity on the First Amendment retaliation claim and remand
for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We affirm the denial of Rucker’s
claims against Harrison in his official capacity for the reasons stated by the district court.
Rucker v. Harrison, No. 8:16-cv-00371-GJH (D. Md. filed Oct. 31, 2016; entered Nov. 1,
2016). We dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are
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adequately presented in the materials before this court and argument would not aid the
AFFIRMED IN PART,
VACATED IN PART,
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