Santos v. Hutto (INMATE2)
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 1 Inmate 1983 Complaint filed by Nedolandez Leon Santos; it is the Recommendation of the Mag Judge that Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed with prejudice prior to service of process pursuant to the directives of 28 USC 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)&(ii); Objections to R&R due by 5/12/2009. Signed by Honorable Terry F. Moorer on 4/28/09. (vma, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION _____________________________ N E D O L A N D E Z L. SANTOS#140 896 P l a in tif f , v. M R . DON HUTTO, et al. D e f e n d a n ts . _____________________________ * * * * * 2:09-CV-135-TMH (WO)
R E C O M M E N D A T I O N OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE P la in tif f , an inmate incarcerated at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton, A lab a m a , filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on February 24, 2009.1 He brings this complaint, a s amended, against various administrators and educators at the Wallace Community College in Dothan, Alabama, including Don Hutto, Linda York, Brenda Wade, and Mr. William. He a ls o names as defendants several employees of the Easterling Correctional Facility including W a rd e n Boyd, Warden Davenport, Captain Bryant, and Officer Temple. In this damages a c tio n , Plaintiff contends that Defendant Hutto, a math and English instructor for the c o m m u n ity college, violated his constitutional rights by discharging him from school for re f u s in g to make jokes with the instructor (Mr. Hutto). (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff further c o n te n d s that the remaining defendants, despite their supervisory positions, failed to honor
Plaintiff filed the instant action while incarcerated at the Easterling Correctional Facility.
P la in tif f 's request to investigate the matter. (Doc. No. 28.)
Upon review of Plaintiff's
c o m p la in t, as amended, the court finds it is due to be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1 9 1 5 ( e )( 2 )( B ) prior to service of process.2 I . Background A c c o rd in g to the complaint, Defendant Hutto is a math and English instructor for the W a l la c e Community College located in Dothan, Alabama. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant H u tto violated his constitution right to an education by discharging him from school over his w ish not to make jokes with the instructor. Plaintiff requests that Defendant Hutto be held liab le for violating his right to equal protection in this regard and seeks a damage award in th e amount of $10,000.00. In his amended complaint, the court understands Plaintiff to a lle g e that he advised the remaining defendants of Defendant Hutto's conduct and requested a n investigation into the matter. He complains, however, that no action has been taken. (See D o c . Nos. 1, 28.) II. Discussion A . Equal Protection P la in tif f complains that Defendant Hutto violated his right to equal protection by
A prisoner who is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis in this court will have his complaint screened in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). This screening procedure requires the court to dismiss a prisoner's civil action prior to service of process if it determines that the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). Thus, notwithstanding payment of the filing fee or any initial partial filing fee, this court must dismiss a case prior to service of process if the court determines that the action is subject to dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii) or (iii).
d is c h a rg in g him from school over his refusal to make jokes with the instructor. Equal p ro te c tio n principles require generally that government officials behave in a way such "that a ll persons similarly situated should be treated alike." Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, In c ., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). Thus, in order to establish a claim cognizable under the Equal P ro tec tio n Clause, a plaintiff must, at the very least, allege that he is similarly situated with o th e r persons who were treated differently and that the reason for the differential treatment w a s based on a constitutionally protected interest. Jones v. Ray, 279 F.3d 944, 947 (11 th Cir. 2 0 0 1 ); Damiano v. Florida Parole and Probation Com'n, 785 F.2d 929, 932-33 (11 th Cir. 1 9 8 6 ). Inconsistency in the operation of a prison may not, in itself, constitute a denial of e q u a l protection. Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 2 5 2 , 265-66 (1977); Jones v. White, 992 F.2d 1548, 1573 (11 th Cir. 1993); E & T Realty v. S tr ic k la n d , 830 F.2d 1107 (11 th Cir. 1987). [ O ]f f icia l action will not be held unconstitutional solely because it results in a . . . disproportionate impact. . . . Proof of . . . discriminatory intent or p u rp o s e is required to show a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. D is c rim in a to ry purpose . . . implies more than intent as volition or intent as a w a re n e ss of consequences. It implies that the decision maker . . . selected . . . a particular course of action at least in part 'because of,' not merely 'in spite o f ,' its adverse effects upon an identifiable group.
P e rs o n n e l Administrator of Mass. v. Feeney, 442 U.S. 256, 279 (1979) (footnote and citation o m itte d ); see also Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 359 (1991). Evidence which merely in d ic a te s disparity of treatment or erroneous or even arbitrary administration of state powers, ra th e r than instances of purposeful or invidious discrimination, is insufficient to show 3
d is c rim in a to ry intent. McKleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 292 (1987). Conclusory allegations or assertions of personal belief of disparate treatment or discriminatory intent are insufficient. G J R Inv., Inc. v. County of Escambia, 132 F.3d 1359, 1367-68 (11th Cir. 1998); Coon v. Ga. P a c . Corp., 829 F.2d 1563, 1569 (11 th Cir. 1987). In m a te s themselves do not constitute a suspect or quasi-suspect class entitling such p e rs o n s to "strict scrutiny" of disparate government treatment. Here, what Plaintiff
c o m p la in s of is his disappointment in being discharged from educational classes for not w is h in g , as he claims, to make jokes with the instructor. Plaintiff regards this conduct as a c tio n a b le unequal treatment. Nevertheless, Plaintiff not only fails to allege that he was s im ila rly situated to other inmates who were treated differently but also fails to allege that D e f en d a n t Hutto's conduct subjected him to any tangible unequal treatment such as
D e f e n d a n t Hutto's decision being based upon a constitutionally protected interest. As a m a tter of law, therefore, the allegations supporting this claim, without more, do not rise to th e level of a constitutional violation. B . Respondeat Superior P la in tif f alleges that Defendants Wade, York, William, Boyd, Davenport, Bryant, and T e m p le failed to investigate Defendant Hutto's actions despite Plaintiff's request that they lo o k into the matter. He asserts that "[t]hese highly respected people who [are] trusted w ith high possition [sic] and authority refused or ignored [his] cry for help and justice..." (D o c . No. 28 at pg. 3.) To the extent Plaintiff seeks to impose liability on these defendants
o n the basis of respondeat superior, he is entitled to no relief. The law is well settled that a defendant cannot be held liable in an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 under th e theory of respondeat superior or on the basis of vicarious liability. Monell v. Dep't of S o c ia l Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-92 (1978); Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 917 (11 th Cir. 1 9 9 5 ); Belcher v. City of Foley, 30 F.3d 1390, 1396 (11 th Cir. 1994); LaMarca v. Turner, 9 9 5 F.2d 1526, 1538 (11 th Cir. 1993). In light of the foregoing, the court concludes that P la in tif f 's claims against the above-named defendants lack an arguable basis in law and are, th e re f o re , subject to dismissal in accordance with the directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1 9 1 5 (e )( 2 )( B )( i). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). C . Due Process T o the extent Plaintiff alleges that his dismissal from educational classes deprived him o f due process, he is entitled to no relief. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth A m e n d m e n t to the United States Constitution provides that no state "shall deprive any person o f life, liberty, or property without due process of law." Thus, the Constitution is implicated o n ly if a person is deprived of an interest which is in some way protected by the Due Process C la u se . In Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995), the Supreme Court abandoned its former m e th o d o lo g y for determining the existence of a liberty interest. Under such previous case law , a federal court ascertained whether a state created a constitutionally protected liberty in te re st by parsing language of statutes and regulations to determine if the language was "of a n unmistakably mandatory character" placing "substantive limitations on official
d is c re tio n ." Id. at 480. The Sandin Court held, however, that federal courts must instead lo o k to the nature of the restraint imposed, rather than statutory or regulatory language, to d e ter m in e if a state created a liberty interest. F o l lo w in g Wolff,3 we recognize that States may under certain circumstances c re a te liberty interests which are protected by the Due Process Clause. . . But th e se interests will be generally limited to freedom from restraint which, while n o t exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to p ro te c tio n by the Due Process Clause of its own force, . . . nonetheless imposes atyp ical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary in c id e n ts of prison life. 5 1 5 U.S. at 483-484 (1995) (footnote added) (citations omitted). Moreover, the Court s p e c if ic a lly rejected the contention that any action taken by correctional officials as a p u n itiv e measure necessarily encroaches upon a liberty interest protected under the Due P ro c e s s Clause. Id. at 484. H e re , the court understands Plaintiff to argue that Defendant Hutto's decision to d is c h a rg e him from school amounted to a violation of his right to due process by impeding h is "constitution[al] right to education." Plaintiff, however, as an inmate in the Alabama p riso n system has no state-created liberty interest which entitles him to participation in f a v o ra b le prison programs, including educational classes. See Sandin, 515 U.S. 484. B e c au s e Plaintiff's claims regarding his discharge from education classes at the Easterling C o rre c tio n a l Facility fails to state a constitutional violation, it is due to be dismissed under th e provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974).
III. Conclusion A c c o rd in g ly, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that Plaintiff's c o m p la in t be DISMISSED with prejudice prior to service of process pursuant to the d irec tiv es of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) & (ii). It is further O R D E R E D that the parties are DIRECTED to file any objections to the said R e c o m m e n d a tio n on or before May 12, 2009. Any objections filed must specifically identify th e findings 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 . Reynolds Securities, Inc., 667 F.2d 33 (11 th Cir. 1982). See also Bonner v. City of P r ic h a r d , 661 F.2d 1206 (11 th Cir. 1981) ( en banc), adopting as binding precedent all of the d e c is io n s of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the close of business on S e p te m b e r 30, 1981.
Done, this 28 th day of April 2009.
/s/Terry F. Moorer TERRY F. MOORER U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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