Santos v. Hutto (INMATE2)

Filing 33

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, )

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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 _____________________________ 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 1 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). 2 2 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 4 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 5 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). 3 Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). 6 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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