Drake v. Edwards (INMATE2)

Filing 27

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS of the Mag Judge that: (1) def Edwards' 26 MOTION for Summary Judgment be GRANTED; (2) Judgment be entered in favor of def Edwards and against plf; and (3) the costs of this proceeding be taxed against plf for which execution may issue; Objections to R&R due by 12/8/2008. Signed by Honorable Terry F. Moorer on 11/18/08. (djy, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION _______________________________ J O M E D G A R DRAKE, #236 373 P l a in tif f , v. D O N N A EDWARDS D e f e n d a n t. _______________________________ * * * * * 2:06-CV-1059-MEF (WO) R E C O M M E N D A T I O N OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE P la in tif f , a state inmate, filed this 42 U.S.C. 1983 action on November 28, 2006 a g a in s t Donna Edwards ["Edwards"], a classification review board analyst for the Alabama D e p a rtm e n t of Corrections ["ADOC"]. Plaintiff complains that Edwards has classified him a s a sex offender even though he has never been convicted of a sex crime. He requests that E d w a rd s expunge any and all information in his inmate file which erroneously references a n d /o r classifies him as a sex offender. Pursuant to the orders of this court, Edwards filed an answer, special report and s u p p o r tin g evidentiary material addressing Plaintiff's claims for relief. (Doc. Nos. 9, 10.) T h e court then informed Plaintiff that Edwards' special report may, at any time, be treated a s a motion for summary judgment, and the court explained to Plaintiff the proper manner in which to respond to a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed a response to the s p e c ia l report filed by Edwards. (Doc. No. 12.) This case is now pending on Edwards' m o tio n for summary judgment. Upon consideration of such motion, the evidentiary materials f ile d in support thereof, and Plaintiff' opposition to the motion, the court concludes that E d w a rd s ' motion for summary judgment is due to be granted. I . STANDARD OF REVIEW " S u m m a r y judgment is appropriate `if the pleadings, depositions, answers to in te rro g a to rie s, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no g e n u i n e issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a m atter of law.'" Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11 th C ir.2 0 0 7 ) (per curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The party moving for summary ju d g m e n t "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis f o r its motion, and identifying those portions of the `pleadings, depositions, answers to in te rro g a to rie s, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes d e m o n s tra te the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U .S . 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence showing th e re is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to p re se n t evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden o f proof. Id. at 322-324. Defendant has met her evidentiary burden and demonstrated the absence of a genuine is s u e of material fact. Thus, the burden shifts to Plaintiff to establish, with evidence beyond th e pleadings, that a genuine issue material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 2 9 2 9 F.2d 604, 608 (11 th Cir.1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (non-movant must "go beyond th e pleadings and ... designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for tria l.'" ); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) ("When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported ... an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleading, but [h is] response ... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."). A genuine issue of material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces evidence that w o u ld allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263. In civil actions filed by inmates, federal courts must distinguish between evidence of disputed facts and disputed matters of p rof ess io n a l judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord d e f e r e n c e to the views of prison authorities. Unless a prisoner can point to su f f icie n t evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail o n the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage. B e a rd v. Banks, ___ U.S. ___, 126 S.Ct. 2572, 2578, 165 L.Ed.2d 697 (2006). Consequently, to survive Defendant's properly supported motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff is re q u ire d to produce "sufficient [favorable] evidence" which would be admissible at trial s u p p o rtin g his claims of constitutional violations. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 2 4 2 , 249 (1986). "If the evidence [on which the nonmoving party relies] is merely colorable ... or is not significantly probative ... summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U .S . at 249-250. "A mere `scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position w ill not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the [trier of fact] could reasonably 3 f in d for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L .E d .2 d 202 (1986)." Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1576-1577 (11 th Cir. 1990). C o n c lu s o ry allegations based on subjective beliefs are likewise insufficient to create a g e n u i n e issue of material fact and, therefore, do not provide sufficient evidence to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Assocs., Inc., 276 F.3d 1 2 7 5 , 1279 (11 th Cir. 2001); Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11 th Cir. 1997) (p la in tif f 's "conclusory assertions ..., in the absence of supporting evidence, are insufficient to withstand summary judgment."); Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 916 (11 th Cir. 1995) (g ra n t of summary judgment appropriate where inmate produces nothing beyond "his own c o n c lu so ry allegations" challenging a defendant's actions); Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 5 5 3 , 557 (11 th Cir. 1984) ("mere verification of party's own conclusory allegations is not su f f icie n t to oppose summary judgment...."). Hence, when a plaintiff fails to set forth s p e c if ic facts supported by appropriate evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an e lem e n t essential to his case and on which the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial, s u m m a ry judgment is due to be granted in favor of the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 3 2 2 ("[F]ailure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case n e c e ss a rily renders all other facts immaterial."); Barnes v. Southwest Forest Industries, Inc., 8 1 4 F.2d 607, 609 (11 th Cir. 1987) (if on any part of the prima facie case the plaintiff presents in s u f f ic ie n t evidence to require submission of the case to the trier of fact, granting of su m m ary judgment is appropriate). 4 F o r summary judgment purposes, only disputes involving material facts are relevant. W h a t is material is determined by the substantive law applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U .S . at 248. "The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment u n le s s that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case." M c C o rm ick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11 th Cir. 2003) (citation o m i tt e d ) . To demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact, the party opposing summary ju d g m e n t "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the m a ter ial facts. . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to fin d for the nonmoving party, there is no `genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. C o . v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In cases where the evidence before the c o u rt which is admissible on its face or which can be reduced to admissible form indicates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the party moving for summary ju d g m e n t is entitled to it as a matter of law, summary judgment is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. a t 323-324 (summary judgment appropriate where pleadings, evidentiary materials and af fid av its before the court show there is no genuine issue as to a requisite material fact); W a d d e ll, 276 F.3d at 1279 (to establish a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party m u st produce evidence such that a reasonable trier of fact could return a verdict in his favor). A lth o u g h factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the n o n m o v in g party, and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine 5 is s u e of material fact. Beard, ___ U.S. at ___, 126 S.Ct. at 2576; Brown v. Crawford, 906 F .2 d 667, 670 (11 th Cir. 1990). In this case, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate a requisite genuine is s u e of material fact in order to preclude summary judgment. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. I I . DISCUSSION A . The False Information Claim. According to Plaintiff's complaint, he entered into a consent decree at the age of 15 or 1 6 on a juvenile sex abuse case which involved his now deceased step-cousin.1 Because he w a s not actually convicted of a sex crime, Plaintiff argues that he is being erroneously c la ss if ie d as a sex offender which violates his due process rights. Plaintiff further alleges that th e sexual offender classification prejudices him because it effects his ability to be classified to a lower custody level, to be assigned to work release, as well as when he may be released f ro m prison. Because he never received a criminal conviction for sex crime, Plaintiff m a in ta in s that any information in his inmate file concerning him being classified as a sexual o f f e n d e r is erroneous and should be expunged. (Doc. No. 1.) Defendant Edwards is currently a classification review board analyst with the ADOC.2 P la in tif f 's institutional records show that he received an original classification on February 15, 2 0 0 6 at the Kilby Correctional Facility. During that proceeding, classification officials had b e f o re them information from a partial pre-sentence investigation ["PSI"] report on Plaintiff 1 Plaintiff states that his step-cousin committed suicide. Edwards affirms that she was not involved in Plaintiff's original classification as a sex offender. (Doc. No. 10, Exh. 1.) 2 6 which reflected, among other things, a record of his prior arrests. Plaintiff's arrest history in d ic a te d that he was charged with burglary in the third degree in September of 2002 and c h a rg e d with first degree sexual abuse in February 2000. According to Plaintiff's PSI the d is p o s itio n of the former charge shows that he received probation and for the latter charge h e received a disposition of "consent decree." Based on the information before them, ADOC c la s s if ic a tio n personnel determined that Plaintiff's prior criminal history warranted his c la s s if ic a tio n as a sex offender. (Doc. No. 10, Exhs. 1, A, B, D.) Due to the nature and details surrounding Plaintiff's charge for first degree sexual a b u s e , Edwards states that classification personnel determined that enough information e x is te d to classify him as a sex offender. Edwards notes that Plaintiff does not deny that the s e x u a l offense occurred; rather, he believes the classification is improper because he did not re c e iv e a conviction for the offense and the only result was a consent decree which he claims w as binding only between him and his step-cousin. Defendant Edwards maintains, however, th a t the ADOC classification manual directs that if a juvenile receives an adjudication of a s p e c if ic crime enumerated under the sex offender notification law (Megan's Law), of which f irs t degree sexual abuse is one such enumerated crime, the "S" suffix is added to the inmate's A IS number. With regard to juvenile offenders, this designation only prompts a referral to th e Department of Public Safety in order to implement appropriate and applicable procedures s e t forth under state law. Community notification is made, if at all, only after those procedures h a v e been followed and if the criterion for notification is met. (Doc. No. 10, Exhs. 1, E.) In Monroe v. Thigpen, 932 F.2d 1437 (11 th Cir. 1991), the court considered a pro se in m a te 's complaint in which the inmate argued a deprivation of due process as a result of e rro n e o u s information in his prison file which the inmate alleged was used to deny him fair co n side ratio n for parole and minimum custody status. Monroe alleged that presentence report in f o rm a ti o n indicating he had raped the victim of his crime was false. The defendants a d m itte d the presentence information was false. Acknowledging that he had no liberty in te re s t in parole, Monroe claimed a due process right to be fairly considered for parole. He c o n ten d e d that the defendants' reliance on admittedly false information in order to deny him p a r o le or minimum security classification violated due process. T h e Monroe court held that the defendants' reliance on admittedly false information to deny Monroe consideration for parole was arbitrary and capricious treatment violative of th e constitution. In Monroe, however, the court was careful to distinguish its holding from its p rio r decision in Slocum v. Georgia State Bd. of Pardons and Paroles, 678 F.2d 940 (11 th Cir. 1 9 8 2 ). O u r holding today does not conflict with our earlier holding in Slocum, supra. In Slocum, the plaintiff, who had been denied parole, made the conclusory a lle g a t io n that the Board must have relied upon erroneous information because o th e rw is e the Board would surely have granted him parole. Slocum, 678 F.2d a t 941. The plaintiff then sought to assert a due process right to examine his p ris o n file for the alleged errors. Unlike the instant case, in Slocum the state d i d not admit that it had relied upon false information in denying parole nor d id the plaintiff present any evidence that his prison file even contained any f a ls e information. We held in Slocum that prisoners do not state a due process c la im by merely asserting that erroneous information may have been used d u rin g their parole consideration. Id. at 942. We also determined that prisoners d o not have a due process right to examine their prison files as part of a g e n e ra l fishing expedition in search of false information that could possibly e x i s t in their files. Id. In the case at bar, we are confronted with prison 8 a u th o ritie s who admit that information contained in Monroe's files is false and th a t they relied upon such information, at least in part, to deny Monroe parole a n d to classify him as a sex offender. As we stated, the parole statute does not a u th o riz e state officials to rely on knowingly false information in their d e te rm in a tio n s . Thomas [v. Sellers], 691 F.2d [487] at 489 [(11 th Cir. 1982)]. M o n r o e , 932 F.2d at 1442. S lo c u m controls the disposition of the instant case. The Slocum court held that p r is o n e rs do not state a due process claim by merely asserting that erroneous information e x is ts in their prison files. Moreover, "prisoners cannot make a conclusory allegation re g a rd in g the use of [false] information as the basis of a due process claim." Jones v. Ray, 279 F .3 d 944, 946 (11 th Cir. 2001). Edwards does not admit that information contained in P la in tif f 's prison file, including the pre-sentence report describing the details of his prior c rim in a l history, is incorrect or erroneous nor does she dispute Plaintiff's assertion that he was n o t convicted of a sex offense. Rather, Edwards states that the details of Plaintiff's 2000 juv en ile adjudication were obtained from him as well as court records. Plaintiff's mere c o n te n tio n that there is false or erroneous information in his inmate file which is being used to classify him improperly as a sex offender within the Alabama Department of Corrections, w ith o u t evidence of its falsity, is insufficient.3 Edwards is, therefore, entitled to summary Summary judgment is not precluded merely because the inmate disputes the validity of the information. In Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460 (1983), the Court stated that "prison officials have broad administrative and discretionary authority over the institutions they manage and . . . lawfully incarcerated persons retain only a narrow range of protected liberty interest . . . broad discretionary authority is necessary because the administration of a prison is "at best an extraordinarily difficult undertaking," . . . and . . . to hold . . . that any substantial deprivation imposed by prison authorities triggers the procedural protections of the Due Process Clause would subject to judicial review a wide spectrum of discretionary actions that traditionally have been the business of prison administrators rather than of the federal courts." Id. at 467. 3 9 ju d g m e n t on this claim. B. The Custody Classification Claim P la in tif f complains that his sexual offender classification affects his ability to engage in favorable prison programs. Edwards argues that Plaintiff has no constitutional right to w o rk release placement or any specific classification decision regarding custody levels. (Doc. N o . 10, Exh. a.) The court need not decide whether Plaintiff has been classified improperly b e c au s e , even if his classification is incorrect, his constitutional rights have not been violated. A n inmate in the Alabama prison system has no constitutionally protected interest in th e procedure affecting his classification because the resulting restraint, without more, does n o t impose an "atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary in c id e n ts of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995) (failure to place inmate in a lower classification level and/or less restrictive prison environment does not impose an " a typ ic a l and significant hardship on [him] in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison lif e ." ). See also Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238 (1983); Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 2 2 4 (1976); Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460 (1983); Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 88 n.9 (1 9 7 6 ). Because Plaintiff has no constitutional right to a specific classification and/or security s ta tu s , correctional officials may change his classification for a good reason, a bad reason, or n o reason at all. Thus, a decision to deny Plaintiff a less restrictive classification or custody s ta tu s and/or placement on work release does not violate his constitutional rights. C o n s e q u e n tly, the motion for summary judgment with respect to this claim is due to be 10 g r a n te d in favor of Edwards. III. CONCLUSION A c c o rd in g ly, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that: 1 . Defendant Edwards' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 10), be GRANTED 2 . Judgment be ENTERED in favor of Defendant Edwards and against Plaintiff; and 3 . The costs of this proceeding be taxed against Plaintiff for which execution may is s u e . It is further O R D E R E D that on or before December 8, 2008 the parties are DIRECTED to file any o b je c tio n s to the said Recommendation. Any objections filed must specifically identify the f in d in g s in the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation to which a party objects. Frivolous, co n clus ive or general objections will not be considered by the District Court. The parties are a d v is e d that this Recommendation is not a final order of the court and, therefore, it is not a p p e a la b le . F a ilu re to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations in the M a g is tra te Judge's report shall bar the party from a de novo determination by the District C o u rt of issues covered in the report and shall bar the party from attacking on appeal factual f in d in g s in the report accepted or adopted by the District Court except upon grounds of plain e rr o r or manifest injustice. Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404 (5 th Cir. 1982). See Stein v. R e y n o ld s Securities, Inc., 667 F.2d 33 (11 th Cir. 1982). See also Bonner v. City of Prichard, 11 6 6 1 F.2d 1206 (11 th Cir. 1981) (en banc), adopting as binding precedent all of the decisions o f the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981. D o n e , this 18th day of November 2008. /s/Terry F. Moorer TERRY F. MOORER U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 12

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