Francis v. Secretary, Dept. of Public Safety and Corr. Services (DPSCS)

Filing 13

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Jarrod Hazel on 11/30/2015. (kns, Deputy Clerk)(c/m 11/30/15)

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• IN THE UNITED STATES J)JSTRICT COURT __ FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND FIlED __ ~ __ E_Nll'REO RECEIVED Soutltem DiI';s;oll [0- NOV 3 02015 * CHRISTOPHER AT bnc.c.,".c. •. , et.ElIK U.S. DlSTRICT COUR, D'S11\lCT OF MAlMAIIo S. FRANCIS, * Plaintiff, BY O£PIJTy * Case No.: G./H-15-1255 v, * SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, • * * * Defendant. * * * * * * * * MEMORANDUM * * * * * * OPINION This is a 42 U.S.C. ~ 1983 Complaint brought by Plaintiff Christopher S. Francis against the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("'DPSCS") arising from Francis's intrastate transfer to a Western Maryland prison. This Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order address Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. or in the Alternative. Motion for Summary Judgment. See ECF No. 10. A hearing is unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below. Defendant' s Motion. treated as a motion for summary judgment. is GRANTED. I. BACKGROUND Francis, who is confined at the Western Correctional Institution ("WCI") in Cumberland. Maryland. complains that the administrative chaplain at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown. Maryland ("'RCI-H") had him moved to a higher security prison. the Western Correctional Institution. that was a distance Irom his family and "homc plan" address. in * retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights in Iiling administrative inmate request fonns and verbally questioning the chaplain's failure to honor "commitments"to the music program at RCI-H. He further claims that this caused him to lose his job as a Plant Maintenance Technician with Maryland Correctional Enterprises (""MCE") and the corresponding income and diminution credits. Francis claims that the move occurred in spite of his excellent work history and very good institutional record. ECF No. I. Francis's Complaint seeks punitive and compensatory damages. as well as "restorative relief' in the way of transfer to a Jessup. Maryland Correctional facility. back pay. and restoration of his job and lost diminution credits, II. STANDARD OF REVIEW A. Motion to Dismiss Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 12(b)(6)"") authorizes dismissal of a complaint if it lails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is •.to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts. the merits of a claim. or the applicability of defenses:' Presley \'. City (J{ Charlottesville. 464 F,3d 480. 483 (4th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted) (quoting Edll'ards 1'. City o{Goldshoro. 178 F.3d 231. 243 (4th Cir. 1999», When ruling on such a motion. the Court must "acceptthe well-pled allegations of the complaint as true." and "construe the tacts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff:" Iharm \'. United States, 120 F,3d 472. 474 (4th Cir. 1997). But this Court "need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from the tacts. and need not accept as true unwarranted interences, unreasonable conclusions or arguments:' Nel11etChevrolel, Lid. \'. Con.l'lIl11era[{airs.col11, Inc.. 591 F,3d 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), 2 The Supreme Court's opinions in Bell Allanlic Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and AshcrrJ/i v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required:' Wallers \'. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Twombly articulated ..[t]wo working principles" that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First. while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those tacts are not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements ofa cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suftice" to plead a claim). Second, a complaint must be dismissed ifit does not allege a "plausible" claim for relief. Id. at 678-79 ("A claim has facial plausibility when thc plaintiff pleads tactual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct allcged."). B. Summary Judgment Summmy judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Mesoll \'. GA 7X Tech. Sen's. Corp., 507 F.3d 803, 806 (4th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A genuine issue of materiallaet exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party:' Anderson Y. Liberly Lobby. Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 248 (J 986). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine dispute exists with regard to material facts. See Pulliam Inl'. Co.. Inc. Y. Cameo Props .. 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). Notably, the moving party can demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact by establishing that ..there is an absence of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's case:' See Celalex Corp. \'. Calre/l, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the party seeking summary judgment 3 demonstrates that there is no admissible evidence to SUPPOlt the nonmoving party's case. the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Lorraine v. Markel Am. Ins. Co.. 241 F.R.D. 534.535 (D. Md. 2007). However, the "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment ... :. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis in original). The evidentiary materials presented must show facts from which the fact finder could reasonably find for the party opposing summary judgment. See ill. at 252. The facts themselves. and the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts. must be viewed in the light most favorable to the opposing party. Scol/ v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372. 378 (2007); Iko v. Shreve. 535 F.3d 225. 230 (4th Cir. 2008). who may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading but instead must. by aflidavit or other evidentiary showing. set out specific facts showing a genuine dispute for trial. fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)( I). Supporting and opposing aflidavits arc to be made on personal knowledge. contain such facts as would be admissible in evidence. and show aflirmatively the competence of the affiant to testify to the matters stated in the aflidavit. See fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(4). Where. as here. defendant's motion relies on materials outside the scope of the pleadings. the dispositive motions shall be converted into a motion for summary judgment. See MeBl/mey \'. Cl/eeinelli. 616 F.3d 393. 409 n.2 (4th Cir. 2010), For reasons to follow. the Court-construed motion for summary judgment shall be granted. III.ANALYSIS Plaintiffs Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U,S,c. ~ 1983. which '''is not itselfa source of substantive rights.' but provides 'a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred:-- Albright \'. Oliver. 510 U.S, 266. 271 (1994) (quoting Baker \'. MeCo/lan.443 4 U,S, 137,144 n.3 (1979)). A suit under ~ 1983 allows "a party who has been deprived ofa federal right under the color of state law to seck relief:' eily o(M011lerey I'. Del M011leDunes £/1 MOnlerey. Lid.. 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999). To state a claim under ~ 1983. a plaintifTmust allege that (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See lVesl 1'. Aikins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). This Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. see 8eOl/l'. Harris, 550 U.S. at 378; Erickson. 551 U.S. at 94, and liberally construes Francis's pleadings in light of the fact that he is selt~represented, see Gordon \'. Leek, 574F.2d 1147, 1151 (4thCir.I978). Defendants contend that Administrative Chaplain Keith Kitchen spoke to Francis about Francis's request to become the inmate facilitator of the band and music activities in the RCl-11 music program. The request was denied. Kitchen states that he had no involvement in the decision to transfer Francis. ECF NO.1 0-3. RCI-H Case Management Manager, Mark Myers. maintains that an inmate has a security status review at least once every twelve months and on August 13,2013. Francis had that review and it was recommended and approved in September 2013 that he be placed on "Any Medium Transfer List:' ECF No. 10-5. A former Case Management Manager at RCI-H, Frances Geist. states that RCI-H has a Special Needs Unit ("'SNU") as part of its programming. ECF No. J 0-6. Geist states that when she receives a request for inmates from other institutions to be housed at RCl-lrs SNU. she needs to transfer an equal number of inmates from RCI-H to the requesting institution. Id. According to Geist. she responded to a request to accept the transfer of two inmates from WCI to RCI-II SNU's program 5 on or around January 24. 2014. Id. As Francis met the criteria for transfer based upon his security instruments. his name was submitted for transfer to WCI. Id Geist aflirms that this was a "routine" transfer and neither Chaplain Kitchen nor the Secretary of the DPSCS had any involvement in the movemcnt. Id. In Opposition. Francis seeks recusal of Defendant's counsel. ECF No. 12. He asks that counsel be appointed to represent him. Id. Francis seemingly maintains that Kitchen has "misremembered" the substance and timing of the encounter he had with him. Id. He further argues that the timing of his transfer. soon alier his tiling of a "staff complaint:' represents a suspicious chronology and the rationale for his transfer as set out by Ms. Geist is merely a convenient excuse to "swap" him to a higher security facility. Id. Francis opines that there were more qualified candidates for transfer to WCI. lie further contends that the conditions at WCl are more strict and oppressive than those at RCI-Illd. The basis of Francis's claim is that he was transferred out of RCI-H to WCI in retaliation for his administrative complaints against Administrative Chaplain Kitchen. His claim fails. First. Francis has failed to set out a claim against the named Defendant. the Secretary for the DPSCS. alleging how he personally participated in violating his rights under the law. 1 See Shaw v. Shroud. 13 F.3d 791. 799 (4th Cir. 1994); Vinnedge v. Gihhs. 550 F.2d 926. 928 (4th Cir. 1977). In certain circumstances. supervisory officials may be held liable for the constitutional injuries inflicted by their subordinates. See Shaw \'. Slroud. 13 F.3d 791. 798 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing S/akan \'. Porler. 737 F.2d 368 (4th Cir. 1984)). This liability. however. is not Under ~ 1983. individual liability must be based on personal conduct. See Wrighl v. Col/illS. 766 F.2d 841.850 (4th Cir. 1985); see also Foole \'. Spiegal. 118 F.3d 1416. 1423 (10th Cir. 1997). Further. absent subjective knowledge, a prison official is not liable. Farmer \'. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825. 847 (1994); see 6 premised on responJem superior. but rather upon "a recognition that supervisory indifference or tacit authorization of subordinates' misconduct may be a causative factor in the constitutional injuries they inflict on those committed to their care:' Id. at 798 (quoting Siakan. 737 F.2d at 372-73). "[Ljiability ultimately is determined 'by pinpointing the persons in the decision-making chain whose deliberate indifference permitted the constitutional abuses to continue unchecked.' .. Id at 798 (quoting Siakan, 737 F.2d at 376). To establish supervisory liability against the Secrctary under * 1983. Francis must show: "( 1) that the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate was cngaged in conduct that posed 'a pervasive and unreasonable risk' of constitutional injury to citizcns like the plaintiff.2; (2) that thc supervisor's responsc to that knowledge was so inadcquate as to show "deliberate indiffercnce to or tacit authorization ofthc alleged ollcnsive practices"; and (3) that there was "an 'allirmative causal link' between the supervisor's inaction and the particular constitutional injury sut1cred by the plaintiff" Shall'. 13 F3d at 799. Francis has not made or supported any such allegations. Moreover, Francis's transfer to another prison facility. while possibly proving a travel hardship for family members who live at a distance. does not implicate a libcrty interest. Generally, prisoners do not have a constitutional right to demand to be housed in one prison setting verses another. "[Gjiven a valid conviction. thc criminal defendant has been Johnson v. Quinones. 145 F.3d 164. 168 (4th Cir. 1998). 2 "Establishing a 'pervasive' and 'unreasonable' risk of harm requires evidence that the conduct is widespread. or at least has been used on several dinerent occasions and that the conduct engaged in by the subordinate poses an unreasonable risk of harm or constitutional injury." Shall'. 13 F.3d at 799."A plaintiff may establish deliberate indifference by demonstrating a supervisor's continued inaction in the face of documented widespread abuses." ld. 7 constitutionally deprived of his liberty to the extent that the State may confine him and subject him to the rules of its prison system so long as the conditions in SandinI'. Conner. 515 U.S. 472 (1995), the focus on mandatory pronouncement language in prison regulations imposes an "atypical was rejected. A liberty interest may be created when state action and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life" without regard to mandatory language in prison regulations. due process inquiry must foeus on the nature of the deprivation of particular prison regulations. experience segregation. as an ordinary and significant Id. at 484. Thus. the alleged and not on the language Id. Following the reasoning of the Supreme Court in Sandin. the Fourth Circuit held that a liberty interest is not implicated administrative do not otherwise Jvleachlllll v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215. 224 (1976). Under the Supreme violate the Constitution:' Court's of confinement because when compared when inmates are placed on with these conditions incident of prison life, such placement hardship. See Beverati 1'. they would expect to does not constitute an atypical SlIlith. 120 F.3d 500. 502-04 (4th Cif. 1997); R~ffill ". Nixon, 917 F. Supp. 409, 413 (E.D. Va. 1996). In Beverati. the Fourth Circuit. in aflirming placement in segregation did not comparatively rise to a liberty interest in avoiding comprised the type of hardship necessary to give See Bel'erati. 120 F.3d at 503. Likewise. here which shows that the nature of transfer to WCI the atypical hardship contemplated reclassification constitute such placement. there is nothing in the record or pleadings the decision of this Court. held that Beverati's by Sandin or Beverati. Thus. Francis's to that facility does not implicate a liberty interest. 8 In addition. following the reasoning of the Supreme Court in Sandin. it appears that an inmate has no liberty intcrest in bcing assigned to a specific job3 See Penrod \'. Zamrlls. 94 F.3d 1399. 1407 (10th Cir. 1996): Frazier I'. Coughlin. 8 I FJd 3 I 3 (2d Cir. 1996) (per curiam): Bulger v. United States Bureau a/Prisons. 65 F.3d 48. 49 (5th Cir. 1995): see also Olill1\'. Wakinekana, 461 U.S. 238, 244-45 (1983): Paoli \'. [ally. 812 F.2d 1489. 1492-93 (4th Cir. 1987). Francis's transfer to WCl is not an atypical event in the ordinary day-to-day prison life and cannot be said to have imposed a significant incidents of hardship on him. Simply put. Francis does not have a general due process right to obtain a particular job.~ IV. CONCLUSION Plaintiffs Defendant's Dated: claims against Defcndant Motion for Summary November Judgment Secretary arc legally unsupported. will be GRANTED. Accordingly. A separate Order follows. 4-A-- JQ . 20 15 GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge Prior to Sandin, the Fourth Circuit held that inmates did nol have a constitutionally protected righlto an institutional job or to remain in a particular job once assigned. See Altizer I'. Paderick. 569 F.2d 812. 815 (4th Cir. 1978): Bowring v. Godwin, 551 F.2d 44, 48 n.2 (4th Cir. 1977): see also Awalt I'. Whalen, 809 F. Supp.414,416-17(E.D. Va, 1992). I,,, Likewise. Francis's claim that he was transferred in rctaliation his questions and inmate rcquest forms regarding Chaplain Kitchen's handling of the RCI-H music program is not actionable, Thc inmatc alleging retaliation "[b Jears the burden of showing that thc conduct at issue was constitu! ionally protected and that the protected conduct was a substantial motivating fact in the prison ollicials' decision Graham ". Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1996). Francis has no constitutional right in making such inquiries or administrative complaints, See Adams v. Rice. 40 F.3d 72. 75 (4th Cir. 1994) ("[T]he Constitution creates no entitlement to [prison] grievance procedures or access to any such procedurc voluntarily established by a state,") (citations omitted), Further. Defendant has shown that Francis's transfer occurred in a routine manner and was put into motion prior to his conduct. 9

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