Broadhead v. Canty et al (INMATE 1)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (1) the defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED; (2) judgment is GRANTED in favor of the defendants; (3) this case is DISMISSED with prejudice; and (4) the costs of this proceeding are taxed against the plaintiff. Signed by Honorable Judge Wallace Capel, Jr on 9/24/113. (djy, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ALONZO E. BROADHEAD, #206627,
STEVEN CANTY, et al.,
CASE NO. 2:10-CV-892-WC
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER
In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Alonzo E. Broadhead [“Broadhead”], a state inmate
currently incarcerated at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, challenges the constitutionality
of two disciplinary actions lodged against him during his prior incarceration at the Easterling
Correctional Facility [“Easterling”]. Specifically, Broadhead complains that the defendants
denied him due process during the disciplinary proceedings because his custody level was
listed as medium when at the time of the disciplinaries his custody level was, in fact,
minimum-in. Aff. in Support of Compl. - Doc. No. 1 at 1. Broadhead also alleges that the
actions of the defendants violated an administrative regulation. Id. Broadhead seeks
declaratory relief and expungement of the disciplinaries from his record. Compl. - Doc. No.
1 at 4. Broadhead names Steven Canty, the arresting officer, Stephanie Govan, the
disciplinary hearing officer, and Deputy Warden Kenneth Sconyers as defendants in this
cause of action.
The defendants filed a special report and supporting evidentiary materials, including
affidavits and relevant prison records, addressing Broadhead’s claims for relief. Pursuant
to the orders entered in this case, the court deems it appropriate to construe the
aforementioned report as a motion for summary judgment. Order of January 20, 2011 Doc. No. 11. Thus, this case is now pending on the defendants’ motion for summary
judgment. Upon consideration of this motion, the evidentiary materials filed in support
thereof and the plaintiff’s response, the court concludes that the defendants’ motion for
summary judgment is due to be granted.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
“Summary judgment is appropriate ‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no
genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.’” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir.
2007) (per curiam) (citation to former rule omitted); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (“The court shall
grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”).1 The party moving
Effective December 1, 2010, Rule 56 was “revised to improve the procedures for presenting and
deciding summary-judgment motions.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 Advisory Committee Notes. Under this revision,
“[s]ubdivision (a) carries forward the summary-judgment standard expressed in former subdivision (c),
changing only one word -- genuine ‘issue’ becomes genuine ‘dispute.’ ‘Dispute’ better reflects the focus of
a summary-judgment determination.” Id. “‘Shall’ is also restored to express the direction to grant summary
for summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court
of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings,
discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue [- now dispute -] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of
material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in
support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at
The defendants have met their evidentiary burden and demonstrated the absence of
any genuine dispute of material fact. Thus, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish, with
appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists.
Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324;
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(3) (“If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to
properly address another party’s assertion of fact by [citing to materials in the record
including affidavits, relevant documents or other materials] the court may . . . grant summary
judgment if the motion and supporting materials -- including the facts considered undisputed
-- show that the movant is entitled to it.”). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the
nonmoving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a
judgment.” Id. Thus, although Rule 56 underwent stylistic changes, its substance remains the same and,
therefore, those cases citing the prior versions of the rule remain equally applicable to the current rule.
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
professional judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord
deference to the views of prison authorities. Unless a prisoner can point to
sufficient evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail
on the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage.
Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530, 126 S.Ct. 2572, 2578, 165 L.Ed.2d 697 (2006) (internal
citation omitted). Consequently, to survive the defendants’ properly supported motion for
summary judgment, Broadhead is required to produce “sufficient [favorable] evidence”
which would be admissible at trial supporting his claims for relief. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). “If the evidence [on which the
nonmoving party relies] is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative . . . summary
judgment may be granted.” Id. at 249-50. “A mere ‘scintilla’ of evidence supporting the
opposing party’s position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the [trier
of fact] could reasonably find for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1576-77 (11th
Cir. 1990). Conclusory allegations based on subjective beliefs are likewise insufficient to
create a genuine issue of material fact and, therefore, do not suffice to oppose a motion for
summary judgment. Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11th Cir. 1997) (A
plaintiff’s “conclusory assertions . . . , in the absence of [admissible] supporting evidence,
are insufficient to withstand summary judgment.”); Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 916 (11th
Cir. 1995) (grant of summary judgment appropriate where inmate produces nothing beyond
“his own conclusory allegations” challenging actions of the defendants); Fullman v.
Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 557 (11th Cir. 1984) (“[M]ere verification of party’s own
conclusory allegations is not sufficient to oppose summary judgment . . . .”); Evers v. Gen.
Motors Corp., 770 F.2d 984, 986 (11th Cir. 1985) (“[C]onclusory allegations without specific
supporting facts have no probative value.”). Hence, when a plaintiff fails to set forth specific
facts supported by requisite evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to his case and on which the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary
judgment is due to be granted in favor of the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322
(“[F]ailure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case
necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.”); Barnes v. Southwest Forest Indus., Inc., 814
F.2d 607, 609 (11th Cir. 1987) (If on any part of the prima facie case the plaintiff presents
insufficient evidence to require submission of the case to the trier of fact, granting of
summary judgment is appropriate.).
For summary judgment purposes, only disputes involving material facts are relevant.
United States v. One Piece of Real Prop. Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Florida, 363
F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). What is material is determined by the substantive law
applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Lofton v. Sec’y of the Dep’t of Children
& Family Servs., 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004) (“Only factual disputes that are material
under the substantive law governing the case will preclude entry of summary judgment.”).
“The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that
factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case.” McCormick v. City
of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). To demonstrate
a genuine dispute of material fact, the party opposing summary judgment “must do more than
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party,
there is no ‘genuine [dispute] for trial.’” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In cases where the evidence before the court, which is admissible
on its face or which can be reduced to admissible form, indicates that there is no genuine
dispute of material fact and that the party moving for summary judgment is entitled to it as
a matter of law, summary judgment is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24 (Summary
judgment is appropriate where pleadings, evidentiary materials and affidavits before the court
show there is no genuine dispute as to a requisite material fact.); Waddell v. Valley Forge
Dental Assocs., Inc., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001) (To establish a genuine dispute
of material fact, the nonmoving party must produce evidence such that a reasonable trier of
fact could return a verdict in his favor.).
Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the
nonmoving 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
dispute of material fact. Beard, 548 U.S. at 525, 126 S.Ct. at 2576; Brown v. Crawford, 906
F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Thus, the plaintiff’s pro se status alone does not mandate
this court’s disregard of elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case. In this
case, Broadhead fails to demonstrate a requisite genuine dispute of material fact as is
necessary to preclude summary judgment. Matsushita, supra.
A. Relevant Facts
On September 2, 2010, correctional officers conducted a search of Broadhead’s cell
in disciplinary segregation at which time they discovered various items of contraband.
During the search, Broadhead directed profane and recalcitrant remarks towards Sgt. Larry
Peavy in the presence of defendant Canty. As a result of this search and Broadhead’s
actions, Canty initiated disciplinaries against Broadhead for possession of contraband and
insubordination. Pl.’s Ex. B - Doc. No. 1-2 at 1-2 and Pl.’s Ex. C - Doc. No. 1-3 at 1-2;
Defs.’ Ex. A - Doc. No. 11-1 at 23-29. On September 3, 2010, a correctional officer served
Broadhed with notice of the disciplinary charges and the scheduled date for the disciplinary
hearings related to these charges. Upon completion of the noticed disciplinary hearings, at
which time Canty provided testimony and Broadhead was allowed the opportunity to
question Canty and present evidence, which included Broadhead’s admission of guilt to
possession of contraband and a written statement in which Broadhead acknowledged
directing a derogatory comment to Sgt. Larry Peavy, defendant Govan found Broadhead
guilty of the charged offenses. The sanctions imposed upon Broadhead for possession of
contraband included twenty-five days disciplinary segregation and twenty-five days loss of
all privileges. Pl.’s Ex. B - Doc. No. 1-2 at 2; Defs.’ Ex. A - Doc. No. 11-1 at 24. The
sanctions levied for his act of insubordination consisted of thirty-five days in disciplinary
segregation and thirty-five days loss of all privileges. Pl.’s Ex. C - Doc. No. 1-3 at 2; Defs.’
Ex. A - Doc. No. 11-1 at 26.
B. Alleged Violation of Administrative Regulations
Broadhead complains that the misstatement of his custody level in the disciplinary
report violated Administrate Regulation No. 403 as the regulation requires that the
information “on all disciplinary reports lines 1 through 5 has to be complete and correct.”
Aff. in Support of Compl. - Doc. No. 1-1 at 1. This claim, however, entitles Broadhead to no
relief as an alleged violation of departmental rules or policies, standing alone, does not
infringe upon an inmate’s constitutional rights. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 481-82
(1995) (prison regulations are not intended to confer rights or benefits on inmates but are
merely designed to guide correctional officials in the administration of prisons); United
States v. Caceres, 440 U.S. 741, 751-52 (1979) (finding mere violations of agency
regulations do not raise constitutional questions); Magluta v. Samples, 375 1269, 1279 n.7
(11th Cir. 2004) (noting that “procedural requirements set out in [an administrative]
regulation are not themselves constitutional mandates.”); Myers v. Klevenhagen, 97 F.3d 91,
94 (5th Cir. 1996) (“[F]ailure to follow prison rules or regulations do not, without more, give
rise to a constitutional violation.”); Caruth v. Pinkney, 683 F.2d 1044, 1052 (7th Cir. 1982)
(The failure of correctional officials to comply with directives of a prison regulation “does
not amount to a violation of constitutional magnitude.”); see also Riccio v. Cnty. of Fairfax,
Va., 907 F.2d 1459, 1469 (4th Cir. 1991) (holding that if state law grants more protections
than Constitution requires state’s failure to abide by its law is not a federal constitutional
issue); Harris v. Birmingham Bd. of Educ., 817 F.2d 1525, 1527-28 (11th Cir. 1987)
(violation of state statute defining due process does not establish violation of a federal
constitutional right actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983).
In light of the foregoing, it is clear that the mere violation of an administrative
regulation entitles Broadhead to no relief. Thus, the defendants are entitled to summary
judgment on this claim.
C. Due Process Challenge to Disciplinary Actions
Broadhead complains that the defendants denied him due process in the disciplinary
proceedings related to the insubordination and possession of contraband charges because his
custody level was not properly identified on the initial disciplinary reports. As previously
set forth, the punishment imposed for these disciplinaries included temporary loss of store,
visitation and telephone privileges and a limited period of time in disciplinary segregation.
Under the circumstances of this case, Broadhead’s due process challenge entitles him to no
The Supreme Court has identified two circumstances in which a prisoner, an
individual already deprived of his liberty in the ordinary sense, can be further deprived of his
liberty such that due process is required. “The first is when a change in a prisoner’s
conditions of confinement is so severe that it essentially exceeds the sentence imposed by the
court. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2300, 132 L.Ed.2d 418
(1995); see, e.g., Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 492-93, 100 S.Ct. 1254, 1263-64, 63 L.Ed.2d
552 (1980) (holding that a prisoner is entitled to due process prior to being transferred to a
mental hospital). The second is when the state has consistently given a certain benefit to
prisoners (for instance, via statute or administrative policy), and the deprivation of that
benefit ‘imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary
incidents of prison life.’ Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484, 115 S.Ct. at 2300; see, e.g., Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 558, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 2976, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974) (prisoners may
not be deprived of statutory ‘good-time credits’ without due process); cf. Dudley v. Stewart,
724 F.2d 1493, 1497-98 (11th Cir. 1984) (explaining how the state creates liberty interests).
In the first situation, the liberty interest exists apart from the state; in the second situation,
the liberty interest is created by the state.” Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312, 1318 (11th Cir.
The Constitution itself does not give rise to a liberty interest in avoiding transfer to
more adverse conditions of confinement. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 485-86, 115 S.Ct. at 2305
(disciplinary confinement of inmate in segregation does not implicate a constitutionally
protected liberty interest); Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976) (no liberty interest
arising from Due Process Clause itself in transfer from low-to maximum-security prison
because “[c]onfinement in any of the State’s institutions is within the normal limits or range
of custody which the conviction has authorized the State to impose”); Olim v. Wakinekona,
461 U.S. 238, 245-46 (1983) (a prisoner has no constitutional right to be confined in a
Moreover, an inmate in the Alabama prison system has no
constitutionally protected interest in the privileges bestowed upon him or confinement in the
least restrictive prison environment because the resulting restraints are not so severe that they
exceed the sentence imposed upon him. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 485, 115 S.Ct. at 2301
(“Discipline by prison officials in response to a wide range of misconduct falls within the
expected parameters of the sentence imposed by a court of law.”). In addition, an inmate
confined in the Alabama prison system has no constitutionally protected interest in the
procedure affecting his classification level because the resulting restraint, without more, does
not impose an “atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary
incidents of prison life.” Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484, 115 S.Ct. at 2300. Thus, the deprivations
imposed upon Broadhead based on the challenged disciplinaries did not “exceed the sentence
[imposed by the trial court] in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the
Due Process Clause of its own force.” Id. This court must therefore determine whether the
actions about which Broadhead complains involve the deprivation of a state-created liberty
interest as defined by the standard set forth in Sandin.
As the Supreme Court opined,
Sandin involved prisoners’ claims to procedural due process protection
before placement in segregated confinement for 30 days, imposed as discipline
for disruptive behavior. Sandin observed that some of our earlier cases, Hewitt
v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 103 S.Ct. 864, 74 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983), in particular,
had employed a methodology for identifying state-created liberty interests that
emphasized “the language of a particular [prison] regulation” instead of “the
nature of the deprivation.” Sandin, 515 U.S., at 481, 115 S.Ct. 2293. In
Sandin, we criticized this methodology as creating a disincentive for States to
promulgate procedures for prison management, and as involving the federal
courts in the day-to-day management of prisons. Id., at 482-483, 115 S.Ct.
2293. For these reasons, we abrogated the methodology of parsing the
language of particular regulations.
“[T]he search for a negative implication from mandatory language in
prisoner regulations has strayed from the real concerns undergirding the liberty
protected by the Due Process Clause. The time has come to return to the due
process principles we believe were correctly established in and applied in
Wolff and Meachum. Following Wolff, we recognize that States may under
certain circumstances create liberty interests which are protected by the Due
Process Clause. But these interests will generally be limited to freedom from
restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected
manner as to give rise to protection by the Due Process Clause of its own
force, nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in
relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Id., at 483-484, 115 S.Ct.
2293 (citations and footnote omitted).
After Sandin, it is clear that the touchstone of the inquiry into the
existence of a protected, state-created liberty interest in avoiding restrictive
conditions of confinement is not the language of regulations regarding those
conditions but the nature of those conditions themselves “in relation to the
ordinary incidents of prison life.” Id., at 484, 115 S.Ct. 2293.
Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 222-223, 125 S.Ct. 2384, 2393-94 (2005).
Applying the Sandin inquiry, the court concludes that the temporary loss of canteen,
phone and visitation privileges and placement of an inmate in disciplinary segregation for a
short period of time “though concededly punitive, do not represent a dramatic departure
from the basic conditions” of the sentence imposed upon the plaintiff. Id. at 485. In light
of the foregoing, it is clear that the aforementioned sanctions fail to “impose atypical and
significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Id. at
484. Consequently, the plaintiff’s theory of liability under the law as established in Sandin
is indisputably meritless and, therefore, frivolous within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).2
For the foregoing reasons, it is
ORDERED and ADJUDGED that:
1. The defendants’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED;
2. Judgment is GRANTED in favor of the defendants;
3. This case is DISMISSED with prejudice; and
4. The costs of this proceeding are taxed against the plaintiff.
A separate Final Judgement will accompany this Memorandum Opinion.
Done this 24th day of September, 2013.
/s/ Wallace Capel, Jr.
WALLACE CAPEL, JR.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
In addition, the record before the court establishes that Broadhead received all procedural
protections afforded to prisoners, including notice of the charges, a copy of the disciplinary reports, an
opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence, the presentation of some evidence establishing his
commission of the offenses, and a written statement by the hearing officer outlining the evidence supporting
her decisions. Wolff v.McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974); O'Bryant v. Finch, 637 F.3d 1207, 1213 (11th
Cir. 2011). Thus, the mere misidentification of Broadhead’s custody classification on the disciplinary reports
did not deprive him of due process.
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