Irons v. Lt. S. Goldman et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Theodore D. Chuang on 9/12/2017. (c/m 9/12/2017 tds, Deputy Clerk)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
LT. S. GOLDMAN,
CAPT. W. BENNETT,
OFFICER C. SHIELDS,
MAJOR W. MOTT,
WARDEN L. ARMSTEAD,
P. JUKNELIS, Hearing Officer of Record, and
C. SESSIONS, Headquarters Coordinator,
Civil Action No. TDC-16-0678
Plaintiff Darryl Irons, currently confined at Patuxent Institution, has filed this civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
1983 alleging that Lieutenant S. Goldman, Captain W.
Bennett, Officer C. Shields, Major W. Mott, Warden L. Armstead, Hearing Officer P. Juknelis,
and Headquarters Coordinator C. Sessions (collectively, "Defendants") denied him due process
through, and subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment as a result of, prison disciplinary
Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative,
Motion for Summary Judgment.
Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds no
See D. Md. Local R. 105.6 (2016).
For the reasons set forth below,
Defendants' Motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, is GRANTED.
The salient facts of this case are not in dispute. On April 19,2015, Irons was instructed
by a correctional officer to report immediately to the prison medical facility to provide a urine
sample for a random drug test. He promptly complied.
On April 27, 2015, Irons was issued a
Notice of Inmate Rule Violation ("Violation") charging him with violating Rule 115, which
prohibits inmates from, as relevant here, providing a diluted urine sample.
Corrections ("DOC") policy defines a diluted urine sample as one with a creatine level of 20
milligrams per deciliter or less. The Violation, signed by Defendant Goldman, stated that Irons's
creatine level was 19 milligrams per deciliter, that Irons had no medical conditions or prescribed
medications that would explain his creatine level, and that, in accordance with DOC policy, he
was being charged with deliberately consuming excessive amounts of water in order to avoid
detection of drug use. The Violation was reviewed by Defendant Bennett, who ordered a hearing
that Irons be placed in administrative
segregation pending that hearing.
Defendant Mott then approved the administrative segregation recommendation.
Irons was thus
placed into administrative segregation that same day. Irons received written notice of the alleged
At a May 13,2015 hearing, presided over by Defendant Juknelis, Irons pleaded not guilty
to violating Rule 115. Irons testified, and provided medical records to substantiate, that he had
been prescribed the medication Amitriptyline, which can cause dry mouth and dehydration, with
the latter symptom potentially causing liver damage.
Irons asserted that he drank increased
amounts of water to alleviate these side effects. Hearing Officer Juknelis did not admit Irons's
medical records into evidence, and no other witnesses testified.
Hearing Officer Juknelis
credited the written Violation and found Irons guilty of violating Rule 115.
As to Irons's
proffered defense, Hearing Officer Juknelis asserted that the amount of water Irons would have
had to drink to drop his creatine levels below 20 milligrams per deciliter was "far beyond what
ANY normal person would drink to quench their thirst or to take medications."
6 (Inmate Hearing Record), ECF NO.1-I.
Compi. Ex. 1 at
He further noted that there were many other inmates
in the prison who were prescribed Amitriptyline who had not been charged with urine dilution.
As punishment for the violation, Hearing Officer Juknelis revoked 60 days of Irons's goodconduct credits, imposed a 10-day segregation period, and suspended Irons's visitation privileges
for 180 days. As a result of the finding of guilt, Irons lost his institutional job assignment as an
Irons timely appealed the decision to Warden Armstead, arguing that the medical records
established his innocence because they demonstrated that dehydration is a side effect of his
prescribed medication, and that as a result of that side effect, he was required regularly to
consume fluids. As a remedy, Irons asked for restoration of his good-conduct credits, visitation
privileges, and position as an Observation Aide; an award of $100 per day from April 27, 2015
forward as damages; and the suspension of all of the officers involved in the disciplinary
Warden Armstead denied the appeal, noting that the information about Irons's
prescription had been taken into consideration by Hearing Officer Juknelis.
Irons then appealed the Warden's determination to the Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO"),
and the matter was referred to an Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ") for a hearing.
requested permission to call Lt. Goldman, Major Mott, Hearing Officer Juknelis, and Warden
Armstead as witnesses at the hearing. The request was denied on the basis that Irons had called
no witnesses at the original hearing, and that none of the proposed witnesses could testify to the
underlying alleged infraction. Irons also asked to be allowed to present his medical records, his
psychiatric evaluation, and the Patuxent Institution Directive on urinalysis testing.
allowed to introduce his medical records, but not his psychiatric record or the prison's urinalysis
testing policy, which were deemed not relevant.
In a December 29, 2015 decision, the ALJ overturned the decision issued by Hearing
Officer Juknelis and affirmed by Warden Armstead, finding that the decision was not supported
by substantial evidence and was clearly erroneous. See Md. Code Regs. 12.07.01.08B(l)(a)
(2012) (providing that a Hearing Officer's decision should be affirmed if the ALJ determines that
it is supported by substantial evidence).
The ALJ concluded that Hearing Officer Juknelis
improperly refused to admit Irons's medical records into evidence, and that he cited insufficient
.evidence for his assertions that other inmates taking the same medication had not been found in
violation of Rule 115 and that Irons's urine was diluted beyond that of any normal person.
Lastly, the ALJ noted that Irons had no advance notice of the urine test, making it improbable
that he could have increased his fluid intake in order to alter the test results.
The ALJ thus proposed reversal of the Hearing Officer's decision and expungement of
the violation from Irons's record, but he recommended
against any of the additional relief
requested from the Warden. The Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional
Services affirmed the ALl's proposed decision on January 19, 2016.
accordingly expunged and his good-conduct credits restored.
Irons's violation was
By the time of the ALJ hearing,
however, Irons had already served his term of administrative segregation and completed the sixmonth period without visitation privileges.
On February 23, 2016, Irons filed a Request for Administrative
Remedy under the
Remedy Procedure ("ARP") seeking the additional relief he requested in his
appeal to the Warden, specifically, reinstatement to his Observation Aide position, damages of
$100 per day since the violation finding, and the suspension of the officers involved.
sought additional relief in the form of good-conduct credits he would have earned during the
period that the violation was on his record, back pay for the time he was not employed as an
Observation Aide, an additional $100 per day for the 16 days he spent in administrative
segregation, and a letter of apology.
Defendant Shields denied the ARP on the ground that
inmates cannot seek relief from disciplinary proceedings through the ARP process.
appealed the denial, Defendant Sessions denied his appeal on March 10, 2016 on the same basis.
That same day, Irons was reinstated to his position as an Observation Aide. On March 27,2016,
Irons appealed the matter to the IGO, which administratively dismissed his appeal because it
repeated the claims Irons had asserted in the prior ALJ proceeding.
Meanwhile, on March 7, 2016, Irons filed his Complaint in this Court in which he asserts
his rights under the Eighth Amendment
to the United
Constitution by subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment in the form of deliberate
indifference throughout this process, and his right to due process of law under the Fourteenth
He seeks a declaratory judgment that his constitutional rights were violated, a
injunction ordering Defendants to adhere to all relevant DOC
policies, compensatory and punitive damages, suspension of each Defendant for five days, an
apology, and an exoneration letter. Irons has attached to his Complaint: (1) the Notice ofInmate
Rule Violation, (2) the Inmate Hearing Record, (3) his medical records, (4) his appeal to and the
response from Warden Armstead, (5) his appeal to the IGO, and (6) the ALJ opinion.
response to Irons's Complaint, Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative,
Motion for Summary Judgment to which they attached exhibits that largely duplicate Irons's
exhibits. Defendants also include Irons's ARP and IGO appeal filed after the ALJ decision.
Defendants move to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule
56, on the grounds that: (I) Irons's claims are moot because his Violation was reversed and his
good-time credits restored by the ALl; (2) Irons fails to state a claim on which relief can be
granted because he has no constitutionally protected liberty interest on which to base his claim;
are immune to suit under the Eleventh Amendment
to the United States
Constitution; (4) Defendants have qualified immunity; and (5) Irons fails to plead sufficient facts
of Defendants' personal involvement in any alleged wrongdoing.
As discussed below, the Court
grants summary judgment on the grounds that the undisputed evidence establishes that Irons's
constitutional rights were not violated because the ALl decision reversed the alleged violations
and, to the extent that he has claims left unaddressed by that decision, those claims do not
implicate any constitutionally protected liberty interest. The Court need not, and thus does not,
address Defendants' remaining arguments.
In order to consider the exhibits submitted by Defendants in support of their Motion, the
Court must construe the Motion as seeking summary judgment.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d).
Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate "where the parties have not had an opportunity
for reasonable discovery." E.l du Pont De Nemours and Co. v. Kalan Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435,
448-49 (4th Cir. 2012). Here, however, no discovery appears necessary.
submitted to the Court-as
exhibits attached to Irons's
The parties have each
Complaint and as attachments
In his Opposition to Defendants' Motion,
Irons neither objects to consideration of Defendants' Motion as a motion for summary judgment
nor asserts that there are disputed issues of fact. Instead, he urges this Court to grant summary
judgment in his favor. Under these circumstances, where the record appears to be undisputed
and complete, it is appropriate to consider the Motion as a motion for summary judgment.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the Court grants summary judgment if the
moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In assessing the Motion, the Court views the facts in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, with all justifiable
inferences drawn in its favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The Court may rely only onfacts
supported in the record, not simply assertions in the pleadings. Bouchat v. BaIt. Ravens Football
Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). The nonmoving party has the burden to show a
genuine dispute on a material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 586-87 (1986). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
A dispute of material fact is only "genuine" if
sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for
that party. Id. at 248-49.
Irons asserts that throughout the disciplinary hearing process, Defendants acted with
"deliberate indifference" to his claims and thus subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in
violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Such a claim cannot succeed. The Eighth Amendment was
designed "to proscribe torture and other barbarous methods of punishment."
429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976).
Estelle v. Gamble,
The United States Supreme Court has held that prison officials can
violate the Eighth Amendment if they act with "deliberate indifference" to the safety of an
inmate, or to the serious medical needs of an inmate. Id at 104. Here, Irons's allegations and
the record evidence contain nothing that can plausibly be construed as cruel and unusual
punishment generally, or actions or omissions that could be construed as jeopardizing
safety or ignoring his medical needs. He therefore cannot succeed on his claim for relief under
the Eighth Amendment.
Irons also claims that Defendants' failure to grant him the requested relief through the
disciplinary hearing process violated his right to due process of law under the Fourteenth
do not dispute the factual assertions underlying
Accordingly, there is no genuine dispute of material fact between the parties, only a legal dispute
whether Irons has adequately established a due process claim based on the asserted facts.
First, there is no viable due process claim arising from the Hearing Officer's finding of a
violation or the imposed punishment of a loss of good-conduct credits because the ALl reversed
the Hearing Officer's decision and restored those credits. Under Wolffv. McDonnell, 418 U.S.
539, 557 (1974), Irons has a constitutionally
protected liberty interest under the Fourteenth
Amendment in maintaining earned good-conduct credits, which allow for an inmate's early
release, such that his good-time credits may not be revoked without procedural due process. See
id at 558. Here, although Irons's good-conduct credits were revoked based on the disciplinary
hearing, those credits were restored based on his appeal to the ALl. Any infringement ofIrons's
due process rights based on the first disciplinary hearing was therefore cured by his successful
appeal, because "[t]here is no denial of due process if the error the inmate
complains of is corrected in the administrative appeal process."
Morissette v. Peters, 45 F.3d
1119, 1122 (7th Cir. 1995); see Young v. Hoffman, 970 F.2d 1154, 1156 (2d Cir. 1992) (holding
that the prisoner-plaintiff
"was ultimately afforded his due process protections" because the
administrative reversal of his disciplinary proceedings "cured any procedural defect that may
have occurred"); Harper v. Lee, 938 F.2d 104, 105 (8th Cir. 1991) (finding no due process
violation when the wrongful failure to permit a prisoner to offer log book evidence at a
disciplinary hearing was reversed on appeal and corrected at a second disciplinary hearing,
because the "administrative
appeal process is part of the due process protection
Moreover, because Irons's constitutionally protected liberty interest extends only to
maintaining good-time credits already earned, he has no viable claim for credits he might have
earned during the period before his violation was expunged. See Wolff, 418 U.S. at 557 (stating
that "the Constitution itself does not guarantee good-time credit for satisfactory behavior while
in prison"); Bulger v. Us. Bureau of Prisons, 65 F.3d 48, 50 (5th Cir. 1995) (holding that the
loss of an opportunity to earn good-time credits through a prison job did not implicate a liberty
Second, to the extent that Irons asserts a due process violation arising from the ALl's
failure completely to undo the Hearing Officer's punishment
or grant the additional relief
requested, he cannot succeed because the imposition of administrative segregation, the loss of
visitation rights, and the temporary loss of his prison job do not implicate a constitutionally
protected liberty interest. As to his placement in administrative segregation, the Supreme Court
has held that liberty interests protected by due process generally extend only to those conditions
that impose "atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents
of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995).
In Sandin, an inmate who was
sentenced to 30 days of disciplinary segregation, served that time, then had the disciplinary
decision overturned on appeal, filed a due process claim under 42 U.S.C. ~ 1983, relying on
Wolff. Id at 476.
The Court held that the disciplinary segregation, which did not affect the
duration of the prison sentence, did not present the type of deprivation that implicates a
constitutional liberty interest giving rise to due process rights. Id at 486. Likewise, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that inmates have no liberty interest in
avoiding, and thus no due process claim stemming from, being placed into administrative
Beverati v. Smith, 120 F.3d 500, 502-04 (4th Cir. 1997) (rejecting a due process
claim by inmates held in administrative segregation for six months after disciplinary charges
The Court so held even though the actual conditions in segregation were
markedly "more burdensome than those imposed on the general prison population," because
those conditions were "not so atypical" that they "imposed
hardship in relation to
the ordinary incidents of prison life." Id at 504 (noting the inmates' claims that segregation
included vermin-infested cells, human waste in cells, leaking toilets, unbearable heat, less food,
reduced access to clean clothes and linens, reduced out-of-cell time, no outdoor recreation time,
and no educational or religious services). Where Irons has neither claimed nor offered evidence
that the conditions of his segregation went beyond those in Sandin and Beverati such that they
meet this "atypical and significant hardship" standard, the Court finds no due process violation
arising from Irons's time in segregation. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484.
Similarly, a loss of visitation rights does not implicate a constitutionally protected liberty
See Williams v. Ozmint, 716 F.3d 801, 807-08 n.9 (4th Cir. 2013) (holding, in the
context of a qualified immunity analysis, that a two-year suspension of an inmate's visitation
privileges did not violate a clearly established constitutional right); White v. Keller, 438 F. Supp.
110,120 (D. Md. 1977), aff'dper
curiam 588 F.2d 913 (4th Cir. 1978) (holding that there is no
constitutional .right to pnson
gIvmg nse to procedural
Because Irons was reinstated to his position as an Observation Aide in March 2016, any
claim relating to the Hearing Officer's order removing him from the position would be limited to
his temporary loss of the job between April 27, 2015 and March 10,2016.
claim cannot succeed because an inmate does not have a constitutionally
interest in maintaining a specific prison job.
Regardless, such a
Bulger, 65 F.3d at 50 Goining with the United
States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits in
holding that "an inmate's expectation of keeping a specific prison job, or any job, does not
implicate a protected property interest").
Even if Irons may have a legitimate claim that additional relief would be necessary to
make him whole following the reversal of the Hearing Officer's violation finding, his claim
before this Court is an alleged violation of his constitutional rights.
Because Irons has not
identified any potential due process violation arising from his disciplinary proceedings or the
failure to grant his additional requested relief, he cannot succeed on his claims before this Court.
Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants'
Motion, construed as a motion for summary
judgment, is GRANTED. A separate Order shall issue.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?