STEPHENS v. CANINO et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 11/26/2014. 11/26/2014 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE AND E-MAILED.(sg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MARY CANINO, MICHAEL TROYAN
and C.O. JOHN DOE
November 26, 2014
In this § 1983 civil rights action, the pro se plaintiff, Michael Stephens, alleges
that the defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by
returning him to prison from a halfway house and placing him in disciplinary custody,
and conducting a hearing without notice and an opportunity to present and crossexamine witnesses. He has named as defendants Michael Troyan, the correctional
officer who brought the charges against him, and Mary Canino, the prison hearing
officer who presided over his hearing.1
Stephens claims that Canino and Troyan deprived him of his Fourteenth
Amendment right to due process by charging him “with unsupported misconducts,
without adequate pre-hearing notice or due process at the hearing and finding him guilty
of the charges without sufficient evidence.”2
He contends that as a result of their
actions, he spent an additional seventeen months in prison and was placed in a
Stephens also nam es John Doe, a Pennsylvania Departm ent of Corrections (“DOC”) em ployee at
SCI-Graterford. Com pl. ¶ 7 (Doc. No. 3).
Com pl. ¶ 39.
restricted housing unit under “conditions atypical of incarceration.”3
The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint. Both defendants argue
that Stephens cannot make out a procedural due process claim because he did not
have a protected liberty interest.
Essentially, they contend that his placement in
disciplinary detention did not constitute atypical and significant hardship implicating a
protectable liberty interest, and the state prison regulations did not create a liberty
interest.4 Canino also argues that Stephens had adequate state remedies which he did
not pursue.5 Troyan contends that he cannot be liable because he had no involvement
or knowledge of any alleged procedural due process violations.6
In response, Stephens insists he had a liberty interest. He contends that he was
denied due process when his “pre-parole” status was taken away and he was
transferred from a halfway house to a correctional facility without timely notice as
prescribed by prison regulations, and without the opportunity to confront the evidence
presented against him and to present witnesses on his behalf.7
argues that the available state remedies were inadequate.8
Accepting as true the allegations in his complaint and drawing all reasonable
Id. Stephens calculates that he was incarcerated in prison for seventeen m onths after he was
returned from the halfway house to state correctional institutions to serve the balance of his m axim um
sentence. In any event, he was released upon the expiration of, not beyond, the sentence im posed.
Canino’s Mot. to Dism iss Com pl. at 5-8 (Doc. No. 8).
Id. at 8–9.
Troyan’s Mot. to Dism iss Com pl.at 5-8 (Doc. No. 7).
Pl.’s Resp. in Opp’n to Def. Canino’s Mot. to Dism iss Com pl. (Pl.’s Resp.”) at 6-8, 11-14.
Id. at 15-17.
inferences in his favor, we conclude that Stephens did not have a constitutionally
protected liberty interest of which he was deprived.
Because his tenure in the
Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) did not exceed his maximum sentence and did not
constitute an atypical and significant hardship, he had no protectable liberty interest
under the due process clause. Nor did the Department of Corrections (“DOC”) policy
confer a state-created liberty interest. Therefore, we shall grant the motions to dismiss.9
According to his complaint, on October 21, 2011, Stephens was taken from a
Community Corrections Center (“CCC”), a halfway house, to the State Correctional
Institution (“SCI”) at Graterford to face a misconduct charge filed by Troyan, the Security
Lieutenant at SCI-Laurel Highlands.11 Upon his arrival, Stephens was presented with a
notice of the charge that he had sent a false letter to SCI-Camp Hill about a planned
inmate escape at SCI-Laurel Highlands.12
He was then placed in pre-hearing
confinement in the RHU.13 Four days later, Canino, a hearing officer at SCI-Graterford,
dismissed the misconduct charge without prejudice with leave to file another charge.14
Because Stephens has not m ade out a due process claim , we do not address the issues of an
adequate state rem edy and the lack of personal involvem ent.
W hen considering a m otion to dism iss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), all
well-pleaded allegations in the com plaint are accepted as true and viewed in the light m ost favorable to the
plaintiff. Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp., 575 F.3d 329, 334 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)).
Com pl. ¶¶ 9, 11.
Id. ¶ 11.
Id. ¶ 12.
Id. ¶ 13.
Stephens remained in the RHU for approximately three more weeks until a
correctional officer confirmed the dismissal on November 16, 2011.15 He was released
into the general population the following day.16 The next day, on November 18, 2011,
Stephens was escorted back to Canino’s office for a hearing on two misconduct
charges. One alleged the same misconduct that was the subject of the charge that had
been dismissed, the letter sent to SCI-Camp Hill about a planned inmate escape. The
other charged him with sending a letter containing white powder to the Pennsylvania
Board of Probation and Parole.17 Canino found Stephens guilty of both misconduct
charges and sentenced him to 360 days in the RHU.18 After serving his time, he was
placed in administrative segregation for several days before being transferred back to
SCI-Laurel Highlands in February 2012, where he remained until his release in March
2013, upon the expiration of his maximum sentence.19
The dispositive issue is whether Stephens has sufficiently alleged facts that, if
proven, could establish that he had a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth
Id. ¶¶ 14-18.
Id. ¶¶ 18-19.
Id. ¶¶ 20, 22-26.
Id. ¶ 29.
The plaintiff’s com plaint does not state the exact dates of his transfer or his release. See Com pl.
¶¶ 35-36. Although not necessary to the disposition of the m otions, we note that Stephens elected to serve
his m axim um sentence and declined to apply for parole. According to the Notice of Board Decision issued
by the Board of Probation and Parole, Stephens m ade a “written request to serve [his] m ax.” The Board
acceded to his request, which it characterized as his “negative interest in parole,” and ordered Stephens to
serve until March 21, 2013, his m axim um . See Troyan’s Mot. to Dism iss, Ex. A.
Amendment. If he did not, he cannot make out a due process claim.
The due process analysis starts with determining whether the liberty interest
asserted is one that is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Montanez v. Sec’y
Dep’t of Corr., 2014 WL 5155040, at *6, __ F.3d __ (3d Cir. Aug. 15, 2014) (quoting
Evans v. Sec’y Pa. Dep’t of Corr., 645 F.3d 650, 663 (3d Cir. 2011)). If it is a protected
interest, we must then determine what process is necessary to protect it. Newman v.
Beard, 617 F.3d 775, 783 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
If the interest is not
protected, no process is necessary. Thus, at the threshold, Stephens must establish
that he had a protected liberty interest that triggered due process rights. See Fraise v.
Terhune, 283 F.3d 506, 522 (3d Cir. 2002) (finding that succeeding on a due process
claim requires demonstrating that the plaintiff was deprived of a liberty interest).
Prisoners do not enjoy the same liberty interests as ordinary citizens do. See
Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 485 (1995). Their incarceration “brings about the
necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by
the considerations underlying our penal system.” Id. (quoting Jones v. N. Carolina
Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 125 (1977)). Yet, prisoners do not leave all
of their constitutional rights at the prison gate. See Sandin, 515 U.S. at 485; Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-90 (1987).
A protected liberty interest is either inherent in the Due Process Clause or
created by state law or regulations. Asquith v. Dep’t of Corr., 186 F.3d 407, 409 (3d Cir.
1986) (citing Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466 (1983)).
The Due Process Clause does not afford Stephens a protected liberty interest
because he was not imprisoned beyond his maximum sentence. If an inmate is not
confined beyond the sentence imposed and the sentence is typically administered, the
Due Process Clause does not confer a liberty interest in freedom. Sandin, 515 U.S. at
The Due Process Clause does not guarantee a prisoner’s placement in any
particular prison during the term of imprisonment imposed. Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S.
215, 224 (1976); see Fraise, 283 F.3d at 522. Nor does it protect a prisoner against a
transfer from one institution to another. Meachum, 427 U.S. at 225.
An inmate’s transfer from a halfway house back to prison falls “within the normal
limits or range of custody which the conviction has authorized the state to impose.” It
does not confer a liberty interest.
Meachum, 427 U.S. at 225.
Thus, it does not
implicate due process protections under the Due Process Clause. Asquith, 186 F.3d at
In Asquith, the Third Circuit held that a person serving his sentence in a halfway
house did not have a liberty interest in remaining at the halfway house under the Due
Process Clause because he never left institutional confinement. Id. at 411. See also
Brennan v. Cunningham, 813 F.2d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 1987) (“An inmate in a halfway house . .
. . enjoys some significant liberty, [but] he remains under confinement in a correctional
institution.”). Although appellant could leave at certain times for work or to visit family,
he still lived in a strictly monitored building where he was subject to curfew and other
restrictions. The Third Circuit held that because he was still in confinement, Asquith’s
transfer to a more restrictive confinement did not trigger due process protections under
the Due Process Clause. Id.
Although life in a halfway house is less restrictive than within the prison, the
prisoner remains in state custody subject to restraints on his freedom. In other words,
placement in a halfway house is still confinement. Transferring the inmate from a
halfway house to prison is a permissible transfer from one facility to another in the
prison system. Thus, placement in a halfway house does not give rise to a protected
liberty interest. See Meacham, 427 U.S. at 225.
Though Stephens was afforded more freedom at the CCC than in prison, his
tenure there still constituted institutional confinement.20 See Asquith, 186 F.3d at 41011; Brennan, 813 F.2d at 5.
Stephens’ transfer from a halfway house back to a
correctional facility did not implicate due process protection. See Meachum, 427 U.S. at
225 (holding that liberty interests are not implicated when an inmate is transferred from
one institution to another with less favorable conditions).
Neither did Stephens’ confinement in disciplinary custody deprive him of a
protected liberty interest. Because the time he spent in the RHU did not exceed his
maximum sentence, there was no violation under the Due Process Clause.
complaint, Stephens asserts he “experienced approximately seventeen months
He spent approximately 360 days in the RHU.22
completion of his disciplinary detention, he was returned to the general prison
Stephens does not allege that he was able to travel freely without any restriction. In fact, those
housed in a CCC m ust have a specific reason for leaving and sign out and return at a specific tim e.
Residents are also subject to m isconduct notices and can face return to prison. John E. W etzel, W hat is a
C om m unity C orrections Center?, 69 T he PAPPC Journal, 1, 6 (2012), available at
Com pl. ¶ 37.
Com pl. ¶ 33.
population to serve the remainder of his sentence.23 He does not allege that he was
confined beyond his maximum sentence date.24
State-created liberty interests are limited to situations where the prison’s action
“imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary
incidents of prison life.” Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484. In Sandin, the Court held that an
inmate sentenced to thirty days in disciplinary confinement did not endure atypical and
significant hardship. Id. at 486; see also Burns v. Pa. Dep’t of Corr., 642 F.3d 163, 171
(3d Cir. 2011) (citing Sandin, 515 U.S. at 483-84) (holding that inmates in disciplinary
hearings are not entitled to procedural due process because the resulting sanctions do
not affect a protected liberty interest);25 Griffin v. Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703, 708 (3d Cir.
1997) (holding that a prisoner’s placement in administrative custody for fifteen months
did not impose an atypical and significant hardship, implicating due process
Because Stephens’ confinement in disciplinary custody did not amount to atypical
or significant hardship, there was no violation of any state-created liberty interest.
See Troyan Mot. to Dism iss at 5 n.2, and note 3, supra.
See Com pl. ¶¶ 35-36.
See also Thomas v. Rosemeyer, 199 F. App’x 195 (3d Cir. 2006). In Rosemeyer, the inm ate
alleged a violation of his Fourteenth Am endm ent right to procedural due process when he was taken from SCISom erset and placed in the RHU for 270 days without being able to call witnesses or see the evidence against
him during his m isconduct hearing. Id. at 197. The court, citing Sandin and Griffin, held that this disciplinary
confinem ent did not constitute atypical and significant hardship. Id. The court further held that the existence
of state procedures did not confer a liberty interest. Id. at 197-98. Therefore, the inm ate’s Fourteenth
Am endm ent claim s failed. Id. at 198.
Though adm inistrative custody is not, on its face, the sam e as disciplinary custody, the analysis is
the sam e. Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 532 (3d Cir. 2003).
Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484 (holding that, in order to have a state-created liberty interest,
there must be atypical and significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of
prison life). Even though one may consider one year in disciplinary confinement a
substantial amount of time, it is not an atypical or significant hardship. 112 F.3d at 708
(finding that placement in administrative custody for fifteen months did not constitute
atypical or significant hardship).
Placement in disciplinary confinement is not
uncommon. Nor has there been any inference or allegation that the conditions of his
disciplinary confinement were any different than those imposed upon other prisoners
who have been disciplined for similar conduct. Thus, Stephens’ tenure in disciplinary
detention did not create a liberty interest.
Nor does Stephens’ assertion that Canino and Troyan’s failures to comply with
DOC policy DC-ADM 801 constitute a deprivation of due process.27 The regulation
does not confer a state-created liberty interest. See Griffin, 112 F.3d at 708 (stating that
a state statute or regulation conferring a right was not enough to trigger due process
The mere existence of state procedures or regulations does not create a
protectable liberty interest.
As recognized in Griffin, “a state statute or regulation
conferring a right is not alone enough to trigger due process.”
112 F.3d at 708.
Therefore, the fact that a state has established procedures does not necessarily mean it
See Pl.’s Resp. at 13-14. DOC policy DC-ADM 801, Section VI, specifically states that it “does not
create rights in any person nor should it be interpreted or applied in such a m anner as to abridge the rights
o f a n y in d iv id u a l.”
D C -A D M 8 0 1 , a t 2 , a v a ila b le a t h ttp s ://w w w .p o r ta l.s ta te .p a .
us/portal/server.pt/docum ent/916568/801 _inm ate_ discipline pdf3.
has created a liberty interest. See id. (citing Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484).28
Stephens was not entitled to due process protection because his confinement
and treatment did not give rise to a protected liberty interest.
His placement in
disciplinary detention, his removal from a halfway house, and the correctional facility’s
failure to comply with a prison regulation did not create one. Therefore, because he has
failed to state a cause of action for a deprivation of a protected liberty interest, we shall
grant the motions to dismiss the complaint.29
See also Larry Jenkins v. Murray, Civ. A. No. 08-01034, 2008 W L 3832638, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug.
13, 2008) (holding that a failure to follow a DOC Adm inistrative Directive did not im plicate due process
protections because state procedures alone did not create a liberty interest).
It appears that Stephens cannot add anything to overcom e the absence of a protected liberty
interest. Nevertheless, we shall grant him leave to am end his com plaint.
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