Scott v. Byars et al
ORDER ADOPTING 80 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION re 66 Motion for Summary Judgment, filed by William R Byars, Jr, Geraldine Miro. It is ordered that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 66) is granted. Accordingly, Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Honorable R Bryan Harwell on 2/27/2014. (abuc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
ROCK HILL DIVISION
JAMES DARNELL SCOTT, #
RESPONSIBLE AUTHORITY FOR )
POLICY PS-10.08; WILLIAM R.
BYARS, JR., SOUTH CAROLINA )
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS )
Civil Action No.: 0:11-cv-03169-RBH
Plaintiff James Darnell Scott, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this action, alleging
violations of his constitutional rights. Defendants Geraldine Miro and William R. Byars, officials
with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”), filed a motion for summary
judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 66. The motion is
now before the Court after the issuance of the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) by United
States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett.1 In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the
Court grant Defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Lieber Correctional Institution, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 19832
action in November 2011, alleging his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 (D.S.C.), this matter was
referred to the Magistrate Judge for pretrial handling.
Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, the Court liberally construes his constitutional claims as raised
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
he was denied delivery of a newsletter he was sent as the result of policies adopted by Defendants
and the SCDC.3
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff’s
complaint, which alleges a claim that SCDC’s policies regarding an inmate’s access to publications
are unconstitutional, should be dismissed. The Magistrate Judge issued her R&R on February 4,
2014, recommending that Defendants’ motion for summary judgment should be granted. R&R, ECF
No. 80. Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R. Pl.’s Objs., ECF No. 82.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has
no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court.
Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo
determination of those portions of the R&R to which specific objection is made, and the Court may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or
recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
The right to de novo review may be waived by the failure to file timely objections. Orpiano
v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The Court need not conduct a de novo review when a
party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a specific
error in the [M]agistrate’s proposed findings and recommendations.” Id. Moreover, in the absence
of objections to the R&R, the Court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the
recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). However, in the absence of
objections, the Court must “ ‘satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in
order to accept the recommendation.’ ” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d
310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee’s note).
Because the facts are adequately stated in the Magistrate Judge’s R&R, which the Court adopts,
the Court need not elaborate on them further.
The Magistrate Judge recommends granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
Specifically, the Magistrate Judge reports (1) that Plaintiff has “failed to present sufficient evidence
demonstrating that SCDC’s rationale for the policy is not ‘reasonably related to legitimate
penological interests,’ ” (2) that Plaintiff has “failed to allege a liberty or a property interest that
would trigger due process protections,” and (3) that Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently plead any
other claim in his complaint.4 In his objections, Plaintiff contends that the Magistrate Judge erred in
recommending that Defendants’ motion be granted because (1) Defendants failed to present any
evidence to support their argument regarding the purpose of the policy, (2) all evidence was not
viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, and (3) Defendants’ arguments did not support a
finding that the SCDC policy is constitutional.
After a de novo review, however, the Court finds the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation to
be proper. Plaintiff’s attack of the SCDC policy is facial, and he has not made any allegations in his
complaint that Defendants failed to follow the policy or misapply the policy as it relates to him. He
does not dispute that the SCDC policy challenged by him is applicable to him. Nor does he dispute
the fact that he was an inmate in the SCDC’s special management unit (“SMU”) and was denied
receipt of a newsletter. Plaintiff’s claim, winnowed to its core by the R&R and his objections, is
that the policy that prohibits him from “receiv[ing] any publications [from a publisher], to include
newspapers and magazines, while in SMU” violates his First Amendment rights. SCDC Policy P.S.10.08 ¶ 9.1. SMU inmates, however, are not prohibited from receiving publications altogether. See
SCDC Policy OP-22.12. To that end, the undisputed facts are important because courts, including
this Court, have time and again upheld the constitutionality of the SCDC policy at issue here against
The Magistrate Judge rejected Defendants’ argument that Plaintiff’s complaint is barred by the
statute of limitations. R&R 4–5. Defendants did not object to the recommendation.
facial challenges by inmates in the custody of the SCDC. See Koon v. Ozmint, No. 8:06-cv-02000RBH, 2007 WL 1486067 (D.S.C. May 18, 2007); cf. Williams v. Ozmint, No. 6:07-02409-DCN,
2008 WL 4372986 (D.S.C. Sept. 22, 2008), aff’d, 351 Fed. App’x 825 (4th Cir. 2009). Indeed, the
facts and procedural history of Koon are nearly indistinguishable from the facts and procedural
In Koon, this Court thoroughly considered both Turner v. Saftley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), and
Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006), in analyzing the constitutionality of SCDC Policy OP-22.12,
which applies specifically to inmates in the SMU. The Court noted the similarities between the
SCDC policy and the prison policy examined in Beard, and addressed each of the four factors
recognized by the Supreme Court in Turner. The Court found that the policy is “rationally related
to legitimate and neutral governmental objectives,” that “alternative avenues remain open for the
plaintiff to exercise his rights,” that the absence of the restriction would deprive prison officials of a
“method of rewarding good behavior and for punishing inappropriate behavior,” and that the
plaintiff had “not offered any reasonable alternative.” Koon, 2007 WL 1486067, at *4–5.
Ultimately, and consistent with other courts that have reviewed the policy, this Court concluded the
policy, on its face, passed constitutional muster.
Plaintiff, in his objections, demands that Defendants provide evidence of the legitimate
government objectives for which the policy was promulgated.
Moreover, he insists that all
favorable inferences from all of the evidence he offers in response to Defendants’ motion entitles
him to a trial. The Court, however, disagrees—for the same reasons expressed by the Magistrate
Judge in the R&R. Plaintiff himself recognizes the deference that the Court must give to prison
officials to promulgate policy pertinent to prison safety and security. In that light, the record of
court decisions explaining the objectives for the very policy now before the Court is significant. In
Koon, this Court noted the following:
The policy creates an incentive or motivation for inmates placed in
SMU to change their behavior to either obtain release from SMU or
to avoid placement in SMU. The policy also places limitations on the
amount of reading material to promote and maintain order and
discipline. Limiting the number of books and periodicals reduces a
potential fire hazard in the SMU. Limiting the number of books and
periodicals reduces clutter and thus an SMU inmate has less places to
hide drugs and weapons. In addition, the policy deters improper uses
of paper available from books, newspapers and magazines. Inmates
use paper from books, magazines, and newspapers to cover cell
windows to conceal activity within their cell, jam the locks to prevent
entry into their cell, and stop up toilets.
2007 WL 1486067, at *4. Moreover, the policy itself describes the SMU inmates as “requiring
more intense levels of supervision and monitoring in separate areas” and explains that it is intended
“[t]o promote good behavior and conformance with Agency rules and regulations.”
As to the other Turner factors, the Court observes that the policy permits SMU inmates to
possess a “Bible/Qura’n” (“religious materials”), as well as one book or magazine at a time from the
prison library. SMU inmates are thus given a reasonable avenue to exercise their First Amendment
liberties against the backdrop of prison officials’ interests in maintaining safety and security. For
that reason, the policy has routinely been upheld. Here, Plaintiff does not offer any reasonable
alternative that takes the considerations of Turner in mind, arguing only that the evidence he
provides shows that publications exist that could benefit inmates. Turner, however, requires a
neutral policy, and thus Plaintiff’s alternative suggestion—to discriminate against content—is not
reasonable. As the reasons outlined in Koon suggest, it, of course, is not unreasonable for a
“beneficial” publication to be used in a way most unbeneficial to prison safety. Accordingly, as
recommended by the Magistrate Judge, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to overcome the
deference a court must accord to prison officials, and Plaintiff’s objections must be overruled.
The Court has thoroughly analyzed the entire record, including the complaint, the parties’
briefs, the Magistrate Judge’s R&R, objections to the R&R, and the applicable law. For the reasons
stated above and by the Magistrate Judge, the Court hereby overrules Plaintiff’s objections and
adopts and incorporates the Magistrate Judge’s R&R.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (ECF
No. 66) is GRANTED. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s complaint is DISMISSED with prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ R. Bryan Harwell
R. Bryan Harwell
United States District Judge
February 27, 2014
Florence, South Carolina
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?