Goodman v. Ramey et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER adopting and incorporating the 8 Proposed Findings and Recommendation; directing that this action is dismissed with prejudice and Mr. Goodman's 1 Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Fees and Co sts is denied; Mr. Goodman's 7 Motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction are denied; and this action is stricken from the docket. Signed by Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. on 11/29/2012. (cc: pro se plaintiff; attys; United States Magistrate Judge) (taq)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
Civil Action No. 2:12-0439
ROBIN RAMEY, Correctional Officer,
SHERRY COOK, Unit Manager,
VALORIE ADKINS, Case Manager,
DAVID BALLARD, Warden,
BRIAN GREENWOOD, Disciplinary Hearing Officer,
SHERRILL LYNN SNYDER, Mental Health Director,
JASON COLLINS, Associate Warden of Programs,
MARK CRAWFORD, Librarian,
CHERYL CHANDLER, Warden’s Executive Assistance,
all at Mount Olive Correctional Complex,
JAMES RUBENSTEIN, Commissioner of Division of Corrections,
and JOHN AND JANE DOE, Unknown Defendants,
each sued in their individual capacities, unless
the court deems it proper and just to modify,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This action was previously referred to Mary E.
Stanley, United States Magistrate Judge, who has submitted her
Proposed Findings and Recommendation ("PF&R") pursuant to the
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).
The court has reviewed the PF&R entered by the
magistrate judge on May 17, 2012.
The magistrate judge
recommends that the court dismiss the complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C.§ 1915A and Supreme Court precedent, that the Application
to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs be denied, and
that the motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary
injunction be denied as well.
On May 25, 2012, Mr. Goodman sought an extension of 60
days within which to object to the PF&R.
On June 4, 2012, the
court received a 25-page objection, with attachments, to the
PF&R ("first set of objections").
On June 6, 2012, the court
granted the requested extension, permitting Goodman until July
25, 2012, to file objections ("second set of objections").
July 27, 2012, the 42-page objection, with attachments, was
Mr. Goodman's claims result from several alleged
injuries, which consist of (1) a deprivation of his First
Amendment right to exercise his faith, arising out of Mr.
Goodman being written up for receiving a prohibited financial
gift from a party outside the facility, (2) a similar
deprivation arising out of Mr. Goodman not being permitted to
call the outside party during the disciplinary hearing
concerning the gift, (3) a deprivation of his Fourteenth
Amendment procedural due process rights, and his right to be
free from retaliation under the First Amendment, arising out of
certain correctional officials reducing a portion of his legal
and other records, (4) a deprivation of his Fourteenth Amendment
procedural due process rights arising out of one or more
correctional officers serving on his classification and
administrative segregation committee despite their alleged
personal animus against him, (5) the making of certain verbal
threats against him, without reference to any particular
constitutional right allegedly being violated, and (6) his
termination from a long-held prison library job.
The magistrate judge recommends that Mr. Goodman's
claims be dismissed.
A familiarity with the magistrate judge's
well-reasoned recommendation is assumed.
Respecting the statute of limitations, the magistrate
judge suggests that claims arising prior to February 21, 2010,
are barred by the applicable two-year limitations period.
Goodman asserts that he placed his complaint in the prison mail
service on February 17, 2012, which, in light of the two-year
limitation period, should cover events occurring on and after
February 17, 2010.
The "mailbox rule" applies to complaints
filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See, e.g., Douglas v.
Noelle, 567 F.3d 1103, 1107 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing cases and
noting that, "A majority of circuit courts has been asked to
apply the Houston mailbox rule to § 1983 suits filed by pro se
prisoners, and all of those circuits have done so.").
Accordingly, any claims arising out of conduct that
occurred prior to February 17, 2010, are barred by the
applicable limitations period.
This observation, however,
inasmuch as (1) Mr. Goodman asserts that he "is
not complaining of any issue prior to February 18, 2010," (First
Set of Objecs. at 3), and (2) the events for which he seeks a
recovery occurred on or after February 25, 2010.
Next, Mr. Goodman parses Policy Directive 1.23 in an
attempt to demonstrate that it was misapplied respecting his
receipt of the financial gift from the outside giver.
Amendment religion aspect of the claim arises from the fact that
the outside giver made the gift as a result of Mr. Goodman being
a "Christian brother" to the giver's son.
Policy Directive 1.23, which governs the matter of
trading and selling with others, provides materially as follows:
No inmate shall . . . receive, . . . gift or receipt
any goods or services of any nature with . . . any . .
. persons . . . including visitors, other than through
the system established by the Warden/Administrator for
Mr. Goodman's interpretive attempts to extricate himself from
the reach of this applicable rule are unavailing.
he stresses that the alleged gift was unsolicited.
immaterial under Policy Directive 1.23.
It would be expected
that inmates would caution outside parties about sending such
unsolicited items without first seeking correctional staff
In any event, the First Amendment challenge is doomed
for more obvious reasons.
There is no indication that the
Policy Directive was applied other than in a neutral manner,
without any prohibited reliance upon the ostensible religious
purpose underlying it.
For these reasons, and the reasonable
and security-based interpretation given to Policy Directive
1.23, the objection is not meritorious.1
Mr. Goodman also challenges the fairness of his
disciplinary hearing inasmuch as the hearing officer did not
call the gift giver for an explanation. Assuming he was able to
demonstrate the required atypical and significant hardship
necessary to state a due process claim under these
circumstances, as more fully discussed infra, he cites no
authority for the proposition that correctional officials must
contact witnesses on his behalf who reside outside the facility.
Indeed, our court of appeals has observed as follows: "[H]earing
officers. . . may decide that legitimate penological interests
justify the denial of an individual inmate's witness request,
and their decisions are not to be lightly second-guessed by
courts far removed from the demands of prison administration."
Brown v. Braxton, 373 F.3d 501, 505 (4th Cir. 2004). In any
event, the process given was adequate even if considered under
the three-factor test found in Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S.
319, 335 (1976); see also Lovelace v. Lee, 472 F.3d 174, 202
(4th Cir. 2006).
Mr. Goodman also appears to assert that another regulation
at the prison prohibits inmates from receiving outside funds in
more than $100 increments, with checks and money orders
exceeding that amount being returned to sender without the
inmate being disciplined. He asserts that the unsolicited gift
should have thus been returned to sender without disciplinary
action. Mr. Goodman, however, ignores the fact that he received
funds not only in a prohibited amount, but from a prohibited
source. The regulation he cites does not control the matter.
Mr. Goodman next asserts that the magistrate judge
erred in recommending dismissal of his claims related to the
destruction of "legal document's [sic] and personal records that
. . . [he] had accumulated over a period of . . . twenty years."
(First Set of Objecs. at 8).
Analyzed under the First
Amendment, it is the case that the citizenry enjoys, under
certain circumstances, a right of access to court documents, as
Mr. Goodman notes.
No one, however, denied Mr. Goodman access to court
and other records.
Instead, the reduced documents appear to
have been taken from him based on their volume and a concern
that they might be used for purposes of harassing correctional
staff or intimidation.
It is worth noting at the outset that
the decision requiring Mr. Goodman to reduce his records is
outside the applicable limitations period.
(See PF&R at 7).
While the actual reduction of those records by
correctional officials, following their discovery of contraband
therein in the form of personal records concerning prison
employees, falls within the limitations period, Mr. Goodman
offers no authority for the proposition that the Constitution
requires the unlimited storage and use of such materials.
Indeed, it is well settled that an inmate's constitutional
rights can be limited to achieve legitimate penological
A correctional institution
practice that infringes
on an inmate's constitutional rights is valid if it is
reasonably related to a legitimate objective.
Turner v. Safley,
482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)(stating factoring test for assessing
The reduction demand, and its
implementation, do not offend the First Amendment.
objection is not meritorious.2
The balance of Mr. Goodman's claims allege violations
of the Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process.
the magistrate judge notes, however, inmates in correctional
facilities do not enjoy the same procedural due process
protections as ordinary citizens.
It is instead
Mr. Goodman to demonstrate that his administrative segregation,
To the extent that Mr. Goodman lodges a separate First
Amendment claim asserting impairment of his right of access to
the courts, it too fails. He appears to claim at certain points
that the reduction has resulted in his loss of certain evidence
and his inability to demonstrate exhaustion in other cases he
intended to file inasmuch as some grievance records were among
the documents discarded. First, Mr. Goodman offers little in
the way of specifics about the documents lost, the reasons he is
unable to recreate them, and why their loss eviscerates his
Second, and more importantly, no one has closed the
courthouse doors to Mr. Goodman. For example, on the matter of
exhaustion, the court is confident that correctional officials
would supply Mr. Goodman copies of prior grievances for purposes
of satisfying any exhaustion requirement imposed upon him for
and the other procedural due process deprivations he alleges,
resulted in an atypical and significant hardship to him.
For example, Mr. Goodman alleges a Fourteenth
Amendment procedural due process deprivation arising out of one
or more correctional officers serving on his classification and
administrative segregation committee, despite their alleged
personal animus against him.
Mr. Goodman's administrative
segregation here, however, does not give rise to a protectable
He has not shown that the alleged deprivation
visited, as required by Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995),
an atypical and significant hardship upon him in relation to the
ordinary incidents of prison life.
Absent that showing, no
procedural due process foundation arises upon which to build a
claim that the decision making committee lacked impartiality.
See, e.g., Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 223 (2005)("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.'"); McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S.
24, 37 (2002) ("[T]he Court in Sandin held that challenged
prison conditions cannot give rise to a due process violation
unless those conditions constitute 'atypical and significant
hardship[s] on [inmates] in relation to the ordinary incidents
of prison life.'”); Kitchen v. Upshaw, 286 F.3d 179, 188 (4th
Cir. 2002) ("Sandin clearly mandates that we find prisoners
enjoy a protected liberty interest only when an inmate can
demonstrate he suffered an 'atypical and significant hardship in
relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.'”); Beverati
v. Smith, 120 F.3d 500, 504 (4th Cir. 1997)("And, because they
possessed no liberty interest in avoiding confinement in
administrative segregation, the district court properly granted
summary judgment in favor of prison officials on Inmates'
procedural and substantive due process claims.").
It is worth noting that, assuming Mr. Goodman could
make out an atypical and significant hardship, there are a
myriad of other problems with his laundry list of due process
Two examples will suffice.
First, respecting the lack
of a neutral decision maker, Mr. Goodman has not directed the
court to any contemporaneous objection he made to the
committee's allegedly flawed composition.
See, e.g., 2 Michael
B. Mushlin, Rights of Prisoners § 10:45 (4th ed. 2012) ("As is
true with many other due process rights, the right to an
impartial hearing officer or tribunal may be waived by failing
to raise the issue at a time in the process when appropriate
remedial action could have been taken.").
Second, respecting the attempted procedural due
process challenge to the reduction of his papers, the claim is
covered by the Supreme Court's decisions in Parratt v. Taylor,
451 U.S. 527 (1981), Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984), and
Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113 (1990).3
Our court of appeals
summarized this line of precedent as follows:
In each of those cases, the Court evaluated the
viability of a § 1983 claim that state employees,
disregarding established state procedures, had
deprived the plaintiff of property or liberty without
a prior hearing, in contravention of the procedural
aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process
Clause. The Court held in Parratt and Hudson that such
a deprivation cannot be challenged under § 1983 if the
employees' conduct was random and unauthorized -rendering it impracticable for the State to provide a
predeprivation hearing -- so long as the State has
provided for an adequate postdeprivation remedy.
Bogart v. Chapell, 396 F.3d 548, 551 (4th Cir. 2005).
Under the aforementioned line of authority, the
alleged unauthorized and retaliatory reduction of documents
For example, the decision in Hudson involves what appears to be
precisely the same circumstances as those alleged by Mr.
Goodman. An inmate, Palmer, was the subject of a "shakedown"
search of his locker and cell for contraband by a correctional
officer, Hudson. Palmer instituted a section 1983 procedural
due process action against Hudson based upon Hudson's
intentional destruction of certain non-contraband personal
property during the search. That property included legal
papers. The majority opinion notes as follows: "We hold . . .
that, even if petitioner intentionally destroyed respondent's
personal property during the challenged shakedown search, the
destruction did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment since the
Commonwealth of Virginia has provided respondent an adequate
postdeprivation remedy." Id. at 536.
could not have been preceded by a predeprivation hearing.
was, treating Mr. Goodman's allegations as true, a random and
calculated act to punish him much like the circumstances in
Hudson. Further, inasmuch as Mr. Goodman has not alleged the
absence of an adequate post-deprivation remedy under West
Virginia law for the allegedly wrongful act, his property was
not taken without due process.
Indeed, as in Hudson, there is
no indication that Goodman could not challenge the reduction of
his records in a garden-variety tort claim in state court,
similar to inmate Palmer.
See Hudson, 468 U.S. at 536 ("Both
the District Court and, at least implicitly, the Court of
Appeals held that several common-law remedies available to
respondent would provide adequate compensation for his property
loss. We have no reason to question that determination . . .
Having considered all of the challenges lodged by Mr.
Goodman in his first and second sets of objections, the court
concludes that the objections are not meritorious.
accordingly, ORDERED as follows:
That the PF&R be, and it hereby is, adopted by the
court and incorporated herein;
That this action be, and it hereby is, dismissed with
prejudice and Mr. Goodman's Application to Proceed
Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs is denied; and
That Mr. Goodman's motion for a temporary restraining
order and preliminary injunction be, and they hereby
are, denied; and
That this action be, and it hereby is, stricken from
The Clerk is directed to forward copies of this
written opinion and order to the pro se plaintiff, all counsel
of record, and the United States Magistrate Judge.
November 29, 2012
John T. Copenhaver, Jr.
United States District Judge
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