United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
December 10, 2014
ROBERT WATKINS, Plaintiff,
CARL HUMPHREY, et al., Defendants. No. 5:12-CV-118
MARC T. TREADWELL, District Judge.
Before the Court is Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles's Order and Recommendation. (Doc. 165). The Magistrate Judge recommends granting the Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 95) Plaintiff Robert Watkins's complaint because the Plaintiff abandoned his Eighth Amendment claims in his motion to amend the complaint filed on March 4, 2013 (Doc. 120) and because his Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim based on being transferred to the Special Management Unit ("SMU") of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison ("GDCP") fails to state a claim. The Magistrate Judge further recommends denying the Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order. (Doc. 17). After the Defendants filed their motion to dismiss, the Plaintiff filed two motions to amend his complaint. (Docs. 120; 161). The Magistrate Judge granted the first motion in part, dismissing the Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims per his request, but denied the motion regarding his Fourteenth Amendment claims because the complaint as amended would still be subject to dismissal. The Magistrate Judge denied the second motion because he found the Plaintiff acted in bad faith and unduly delayed seeking to amend the complaint. The Plaintiff has objected to the Recommendation, and the Defendants have responded to the objection. (Docs. 185; 189). The Court has reviewed the Recommendation and has made a de novo determination of the portions of the Recommendation to which the Plaintiff objects.
In dismissing the Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim, the Magistrate Judge found the Plaintiff failed to allege how the conditions in the SMU differed from the "ordinary incidents of prison life" such that the conditions impose "atypical and significant hardship" on him. As discussed in the Recommendation, prisoners generally have no liberty interest in a certain prison classification and a liberty interest implicating the Fourteenth Amendment only arises in one of two circumstances: (1) the change in conditions is so severe that it exceeds the sentence imposed by the court; or (2) "the state has consistently bestowed a certain benefit to prisoners, usually through statute or administrative policy, and the deprivation of that benefit imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.'" Kirby v. Siegelman, 195 F.3d 1285, 1291 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995)). The first circumstance is not at issue in this case. In the second circumstance, there must be a comparison between the challenged conditions and other "typical" conditions in order to determine whether the state has created a protected liberty interest. See Mathews v. Moss, 506 F.Appx. 981, 984 (11th Cir. 2013) (noting complaint "did not allege any facts showing (or that could be liberally construed to show) that [plaintiff] was confined in harsher conditions than inmates in administrative confinement or close management I status generally"); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 F.Appx. 733, 739 (11th Cir. 2006) (finding no state-created liberty interest because of "the substantial similarity between the privileges and conditions of life in the general population of GSP in comparison to conditions in administrative segregation").
In his objection, the Plaintiff does provide some detail of what conditions in the general prison population are like. The Court construes this portion of the objection as a motion to amend the complaint. See Newsome v. Chatham Cnty. Det. Ctr., 256 F.Appx. 342, 344 (11th Cir. 2007) (holding district court should have considered new allegations in objection as motion to amend the complaint). However, to the extent the new allegations can be construed as a motion to amend, that motion is denied. The Defendants pointed out the deficiency of the Plaintiff's allegations in their motion to dismiss, and the Plaintiff filed a response to the motion and two motions to amend without ever seeking to include these additional allegations. Therefore, the Court finds the Plaintiff unduly delayed in seeking to amend.
The Plaintiff also cites Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312 (11th Cir. 1999), where the Eleventh Circuit held a deprivation of two hours per week of yard time, given the Florida Administrative Code's provision that prisoners in Close Management are given two hours per week of yard time unless clear and compelling reasons exist to do otherwise, constituted atypical and significant hardship. Id. at 1318. In the present case, the Plaintiff contends he has a liberty interest in out-of-cell recreation because there is a policy that inmates get five hours of out-of-cell recreation per week, but he is either wholly or largely deprived of out-of-cell recreation in the SMU. The Plaintiff failed to mention this five-hour policy in either his complaint or proposed amended complaints. As the Court has denied the Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint at this late stage in the litigation, his argument based on new allegations is without merit.
Finally, the Plaintiff points out in his objection that the conditions alleged in the complaint are almost identical to those found by the Supreme Court in Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209 (2005), to constitute atypical and significant hardship. However, that does not change the fact that the complaint provides no baseline for comparison. To the extent the Plaintiff suggests he has a liberty interest based on the mandatory language of some of the prison's policies, the Supreme Court has made clear that the focus of the inquiry is not whether a particular prison regulation has mandatory language. See Sandin, 515 U.S. at 483-84.
The Plaintiff also objects to the Magistrate Judge's denial of his second motion to amend. However, the Court agrees that the motion was properly denied based on the Plaintiff's undue delay and bad faith.
The Court has reviewed the Recommendation and the Plaintiff's objections, and the Court accepts and adopts the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. The Recommendation is ADOPTED and made the order of this Court. Accordingly, the Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 95) is GRANTED, the Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice, and the Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order (Doc. 17) is DENIED.