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Johnson v. Owens

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

November 21, 2014

ERIC O'BRIEN JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner BRIAN OWENS, et al., Defendants.

ORDER ON RECOMMENDATION

C. ASHLEY ROYAL, District Judge.

Before the Court is the United States Magistrate Judge's Recommendation to (1) dismiss Plaintiff's supervisory liability claims against Defendants Owens and Brown; (2) dismiss Plaintiff's due process claims; (3) dismiss Plaintiff's conditions of confinement claims regarding deprivation of outdoor recreation, deprivation of property, denial of adequate medical care, and use of excessive force; and (4) allow his retaliation claims against Defendants Nelson, Ivey, Hill, Pleas, and Ransom to go forward. Plaintiff has filed Objections [Docs. 20 & 21] to the Recommendation objecting to the dismissal of his supervisory liability and due process claims. Defendants have filed no objection to the Recommendation that Plaintiff's retaliation claim may proceed.

The Court has considered Plaintiff's Objections de novo and has thoroughly evaluated this record and the case law. For the reasons that follow, the Recommendation [Doc. 8] is hereby ADOPTED IN PART. The Recommendation is ADOPTED as to Plaintiff's supervisory liability claims; his Eighth Amendment claims for deprivations of outdoor recreation, property, and medical care; and his retaliation claims. Thus, Plaintiff's supervisory liability and Eighth Amendment claims for deprivations of outdoor recreation, property, and medical care are hereby DISMISSED; his retaliation claim may proceed.

The Recommendation, however, is NOT ADOPTED as to Plaintiff's due process claims and Eighth Amendment excessive force claim. Plaintiff's excessive force claim is hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Plaintiff's due process claims regarding deprivation of his personal property and his appeal are hereby DISMISSED. Plaintiff's due process claim involving his segregation, however, may proceed together with his retaliation claim.

I. Supervisory Liability Claims

Despite Plaintiff's objections otherwise, the Court agrees with the Recommendation that Plaintiff's supervisory liability claims against Defendants Brown and Owens must be dismissed because Plaintiff fails to allege any specific harms arising from their actions. In his Objection, Plaintiff continues to assert vague and conclusory statements in his attempts to state a supervisory liability claim. Thus, these claims must be dismissed.

II. Due Process Claims

Plaintiff's due process claims arise out of his initial placement and subsequent retention in segregation. Reading his Complaint and Supplemental Complaint liberally, as this Court must, Plaintiff alleges that he arrived at Hancock State Prison (HSP) on October 10, 2013, and was immediately placed in segregation in a Special Management Unit without a hearing and without understanding why he was being placed there instead of in the prison's general population. Five days later, on October 15, 2013, he states that he had an informal hearing at his cell door, but he had no prior notice of the hearing and was unable to call witnesses and present evidence on his behalf. Plaintiff states that Defendants refused to provide him with information as to why he was being placed in segregation; he only knew he was placed there for "serious misconduct."[1] Thus, on October 31, 2013, Plaintiff was moved to "Administrative Segregation, " and on November 13, 2013, he was placed in the Tier II Long Term Administrative Segregation Program. Plaintiff contends all of his personal items property and hygiene items were taken away from him when he was placed in Tier II. When Plaintiff filed his Objections to the Recommendation on April 28, 2014, he remained in Tier II Administrative Segregation. The Court is unclear whether Plaintiff currently remains in segregation.

While in segregation, Plaintiff states that he is isolated and denied outside recreation time. The prison rules state that inmates in segregation are supposed to get one hour of outside recreation per day, but Plaintiff alleges he is allowed outside recreation for one hour only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Plaintiff alleges that the conditions he endures in segregation are "atypical" and a "significant hardship" on Plaintiff "in relation to the ordinary incident of prison life."[2] For example, Plaintiff states that inmates housed in the prison's general population have the ability to leave their cells and work, take classes, and mingle with others for 8-12 hours each day; he, on the other hand, spends the entire time alone in solitary confinement except for one hour each Tuesday and Thursday when he is allowed time for brief exercise and a shower. Plaintiff states he remains isolated, constrained by leg irons and waist chains; he is subjected to long periods of isolated segregation in the "disciplinary cell or strip cell"[3]; he is allowed only one visit per month; he does not receive basic needs such as showers and outside recreation on a daily basis; and he is allowed no personal property, commissary, receipt of package privileges, or participation in educative, religious, or rehabilitative programs.

Plaintiff alleges that he appealed his placement in segregation through the prison's internal grievance procedure, but Defendants failed to properly evaluate his appeal form within the required fourteen days. When Defendants finally did respond, they "added charges to Plaintiff's appeal form... denying [his] right to prepare a defense to avoid sanction."[4]

As stated earlier, when Plaintiff filed his Objections to the Recommendation on April 28, 2014, he remained in Tier II Administrative Segregation. Thus, accepting his allegations as true that he has remained in segregation since his arrival at HSP on October 10, 2013, Plaintiff has been in segregation for at least six and a half months. The Court does not know if he currently remains in segregation.

Plaintiff contends Defendants violated his due process rights by taking his personal property, depriving him of outside recreation, failing to properly respond to his appeal, and confining him to segregation without notice or a proper hearing. It is well-settled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects against deprivations of "life, liberty, or property without due process of law."[5] In order to establish a procedural due process claim under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, a plaintiff must show that a person acting under color of state law deprived him of a constitutionally protected liberty or property interest without constitutionally adequate process.[6] There can be no constitutional violation without the deprivation of a protectable interest. Thus, the Court must first determine if Plaintiff has stated the deprivation of a protectable interest. Here, Plaintiff asserts he was deprived of both his property interest and his liberty interest.

A. Property Interest

Plaintiff contends he was deprived of all of his personal property in violation of his due process rights. Even if these allegations are true, they do not describe a constitutional violation. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not offended when a government official deprives an individual of his personal property so long as the State makes available a meaningful post-deprivation remedy for the loss of his property.[7] Because the State of Georgia provides Plaintiff an adequate post-deprivation remedy for the ...


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