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Maddox v. Owens

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

March 27, 2018

CHRISTOPHER M. MADDOX, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner BRIAN OWENS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE

         Defendants Don Blakely, Trevonza Bobbitt, Stephen Bostick, Dominico Demundo, Tracy McIntyre, Gregory McLaughlin, and Brian Owens have moved for summary judgment on the claims of the Plaintiff, Christopher Maddox. Doc. 23. For the reasons discussed below, the Defendants' motion (Doc. 23) is GRANTED, and Maddox's claims are DISMISSED with prejudice.

         I. FACTS[1]

         In 2013, Defendant Owens, then the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections, approved a policy to address the “major system-wide safety and security issue related to a gang (known . . . as a ‘Security Threat Group' or ‘STG') known as the Goodfellas.” Doc. 23-11 ¶¶ 4-5. Under the policy, the Administrative Segregation program was used to separate all confirmed members of Goodfellas from the rest of the prison population in order to protect inmates and staff, in particular the segregated inmates themselves, until the Georgia Department of Corrections could safely reintroduce the members into the general population. Docs. 23-3 ¶ 27; 23-11 ¶¶ 4-5; see 23-4 at 53 (Standard Operating Procedures for Administrative Segregation policy, effective in 2008, outlining that Administrative Segregation is appropriate when “the staff determines that admission to or continuation in administrative segregation is necessary for the inmate's/probationer's own protection”); id. at 18, 20-21 (Standard Operating Procedures policy for Tier II, the descendant of the Administrative Segregation program, effective in 2016, outlining an expanded policy to also protect “staff, offenders, and the public, ” including in particular inmates with “documented STG activities/involvement”). The Tier II program is the successor to the Administrative Segregation program and serves a similar purpose. Docs. 23-3 ¶ 29; 23-4 at 18, 20-21. It assigns prisoners to one of several phases, incentivizing prisoners to advance through the phases by behaving well and adhering to their individualized case plan. Doc. 23-3 ¶ 5. As prisoners advance through phases of Tier II, their privileges increase. See, e.g., id. ¶ 12.

         The Defendants have set forth uncontroverted evidence that the implementation of the Administrative Segregation and Tier II programs to segregate members of STGs-in particular Goodfellas-was not intended to be punitive but rather was implemented for the safety of all staff and inmates, including in particular the prisoners who were segregated because of their membership in STGs. See Doc. 23-11 ¶¶ 4-5 (affidavit of Defendant Owens, swearing that the Goodfellas presented a “major system- wide safety and security issue, ” which led Owens to approve the Administrative Segregation program); 23-3 ¶ 4 (Defendant McLaughlin: “The Tier II Program is not punitive in nature.”); 23-3 at 22 (Standard Operating Procedures policy for Tier II dated August 1, 2013: “This program is an offender management process and is not a punishment measure.”); id. at 53 (Standard Operating Procedures policy for Administrative Segregation dated June 1, 2008, providing for Administrative Segregation when, among other circumstances, “the staff determines that admission to or continuation in administrative segregation is necessary for the inmate's/probationer's own protection”); see also Docs. 23-7 ¶ 4; 23-8 ¶ 4; 23-9 ¶ 4; 23-3 at 60; 23-4 at 18.

         In September 2011, while incarcerated at Ware State Prison, Maddox was identified as a member of the Goodfellas gang, based on questioning by Georgia Department of Corrections STG specialists and his own admission. Docs. 23-3 ¶ 26; 23-12 ¶ 3; 23-13 at 10:13-25. Maddox was transferred to Macon State Prison later in 2011. Docs. 23-4 at 51; 23-13 at 8:19-23. On February 11, 2013, members of the Corrections Emergency Response Team at Macon State Prison handcuffed Maddox, escorted him away from his general population cell, and put him in the Administrative Segregation program pursuant to the policy of segregating all confirmed members of Goodfellas. Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 11-13.

         The Administrative Segregation program was designed to separate out prisoners for a number of reasons, including situations in which “the staff determines that admission to or continuation in administrative segregation is necessary for the inmate's/probationer's own protection.” Doc. 23-4 at 53. In order to protect prisoners' rights, the Georgia Department of Corrections Procedures required prison officials to take several steps when assigning prisoners to Administrative Segregation, including (1) an initial hearing conducted by a Classification Committee in which the prisoner is given the reason for his placement; (2) 30-day reviews of prisoners' status in Administrative Segregation; (3) maintaining individual records for each prisoner; and (4) the minimum prison conditions required for Administrative Segregation. See id. at 53-61. Pursuant to the Georgia Department of Corrections policies on the Administrative Segregation program, Maddox received an initial segregation hearing on February 18, 2013. Docs. 23-3 ¶ 29; 23-4 at 62.[2] Maddox had segregation hearings on March 18, April 18, May 13, May 16, June 17, July 15, August 15, August 19, and October 10, 2013. Doc. 23-4 at 63-71. In each instance, Maddox was given notice of the reason for his placement and the chance to rebut those reasons, and in each instance Defendant McLaughlin or his designee affirmed the decision of the Classification Committee to keep Maddox in the Administrative Segregation program. See id.[3]

         In October 2013, Macon State Prison implemented the Tier II program as a successor to the Administrative Segregation program. Doc. 23-3 ¶ 29. On October 31, Maddox was put in the Tier II program. Doc. 1-1 ¶ 23. Georgia Department of Corrections policies impose certain requirements on prison officials placing prisoners in the Tier II program, such as: (1) an initial hearing conducted by the Classification Committee, subject to the warden's approval and the prisoner's right to appeal; (2) assessments by the warden of the prisoner's well-being and mental status every seven days; (3) 90-day reviews at which the Classification Committee evaluates the prisoner's progress and determines whether to transfer the prisoner to a different Tier II phase, retain the prisoner in the current phase, or reassign the prisoner out of the Tier II program altogether, subject to the warden's approval and the prisoner's right to appeal; (4) safety measures; (5) maintaining individual records for each prisoner; and (6) the minimum prison conditions required for the Tier II program, including individualized privileges for each phase of the program. See Doc. 23-3 at 22-59. Maddox appealed his placement in the Tier II program on November 1, 2013. Doc. 23-4 at 72. Defendant McLaughlin's designee concurred with the decision to keep Maddox in the Tier II program. Id. Maddox then had Tier II program 90-day reviews on February 3, April 23, July 23, November 4, and December 11, 2014. Id. at 73-74, 76, 78, 80. Throughout his Tier II reviews, Maddox progressed through the program. See id. By August 4, he had successfully gone through all three phases of Tier II, but the Classification Committee recommended Maddox be kept in the Tier II program because of his being confirmed as a member of Goodfellas. Id. at 76-77.

         Maddox then wrote a letter to Defendant McLaughlin, asking why he remained in Tier II-where his privileges were more limited than they would be in general population-despite his completion of the Tier II program. Doc. 1-4 at 1. On August 7, 2014, McLaughlin answered that Maddox remained separated because of his Goodfella STG designation; McLaughlin also wrote that he would restore Maddox's privileges but that Maddox was still expected to adhere to the policies and procedures expected of him as a prisoner in the Tier II program. Id. at 2. On September 2, Maddox again wrote McLaughlin, admitting that he had become a Goodfella member in 2007 but stating that he left the gang in 2011. Doc. 1-5 at 1. Maddox asked to “get[] that GF label out my file.” Id. McLaughlin wrote back that he would not change the designation and that Maddox would remain in his Tier II status. Id. at 2. On September 18, Maddox filed a grievance against McLaughlin and Owens for his assignment to Tier II. Doc. 1-7 at 1. The grievance was denied because involuntary assignment to the Tier II program is not valid grounds for a grievance. Id. at 3. Maddox appealed, but his appeal was rejected on November 4 for the same reason. Id. at 5.

         Ultimately, another phase was added to the Tier II program, and Maddox was assigned to the higher phase following his December 11 hearing. Doc. 23-4 at 80-81. This phase, called “Phase 3, ” was designed for prisoners like Maddox who advanced through each of the Tier II phases and therefore have earned expanded privileges, but must remain segregated from the general population for other reasons. Doc. 23-3 ¶ 5. On December 23, Maddox again appealed his assignment to the Tier II program, but again Defendant McLaughlin concurred with the assignment. Doc. 23-4 at 82. Maddox received more Tier II program 90-day reviews on March 12 and June 8, 2015. Id. at 83, 85. In each review, Maddox again had notice of the recommendation to keep him in the Tier II program, he had the opportunity to rebut the reason, and Warden McLaughlin or his designee approved of the Tier II Program Classification Committee's decision. On June 10, 2015, Maddox appealed the June 8 decision to send him to a lower phase of the Tier II program, but Defendant McLaughlin concurred with the original decision. Id. at 88.

         Maddox filed this lawsuit on February 5, 2015, alleging that the Defendants violated his rights by “a[r]bitrarily placing the Plaintiff in potentially indefinite administrative segregation characterized by ‘Super Max' confinement conditions that are atypical and significant in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life-without conducting a segregation placement hearing before or anytime thereafter his placement in administrative segregation.” Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 1, 41.[4] Maddox also alleges that Defendants Bobbitt, McLaughlin, and Owens violated his rights by “upholding the placement decision” and by “refusing to conduct actual investigations in respects of [sic] the Plaintiff's administrative appeals, ” which “reveal that they have conspired to act in concert with one another to either personally and intentionally deprive the Plaintiff of his constitutional rights” or to “overlook their subordinates' infringements upon the same.” Id. ¶¶ 41-42.

         United States Magistrate Judge Charles H. Weigle ordered Maddox to supplement his complaint to “state in detail the specific conditions of his confinement that he believes are unconstitutional, ” as well as “how [his] conditions of confinement differ from those he would experience in general population” and “the specific actions or inactions of each Defendant that violated [his] constitutional rights.” Doc. 5 at 2 (emphasis omitted). Maddox timely supplemented his complaint. Doc. 6. In his supplement, Maddox alleges that he faces numerous conditions of confinement which are different from those he would experience in general population, where the conditions are less restrictive. Id. at 1-2. He also alleges specific actions or inactions of each Defendant that he argues violated his constitutional rights. Id. at 2-4. Further, the Plaintiff's supplement clarifies that his claims relate to his placement in the Tier II program in October 2013, “where conditions of his confinement became unconstitutional.” Id. at 1. The Magistrate Judge determined that, for purposes of screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), Maddox's Fourteenth Amendment due process claims should proceed for factual development, and the Magistrate Judge ordered service on the Defendants. Doc. 7.[5]

         The Defendants now move for summary judgment on Maddox's claims, arguing that, as a matter of law: (1) Maddox's conditions do not rise to the “atypical and significant hardship” relative to other prisoners necessary to implicate the due process clause; (2) even if the due process clause had been implicated, Maddox received fair process throughout his time in the Administrative Segregation and Tier II programs; (3) individual Defendants were not causally connected to Maddox's alleged constitutional violations; and (4) the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. See generally Doc. 23-1.[6] Maddox, who is representing himself, filed two documents in response to the Defendants' motion: a “Plaintiff's Motion in Opposition to Summary Judgment” (Doc. 25) and a “Plaintiff's Motion for 120 Day Continuance” (Doc. 26). In the first motion, the Plaintiff alleged that “he has not constitutionally had procedural access to the federal discovery process in violations of the 5th and 14th Amendments” and requested an order denying the motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, granting the Plaintiff a 120-day extension to respond to the Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Doc. 25 ¶¶ 2, 4-5. In the second motion, the Plaintiff moved for a “90 to 120 day continuance in order to adequately respond to the named Defendants['] motion for summary judgment.” Doc. 26 at 2. The Court denied Maddox's motions, finding that Maddox had not “explained how he was denied discovery, and he has not demonstrated good or providential cause for an extension of time.” Doc. 28 at 1-3. The Court also ordered Maddox to respond substantively to the Defendants' motion for summary judgment on or before January 12, 2018, or risk the Court accepting all of the Defendants' factual allegations as uncontroverted. Id. at 3. Maddox did not respond.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         A court shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citation omitted). A material fact is any fact relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248. And a factual dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non[-]moving party.” Id. (citation omitted). Accordingly, “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party.” Johnson v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Ga., 263 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2001) (citation and punctuation marks omitted).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden to show that there is no issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may make this showing by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” or by showing that the non-movant cannot produce admissible evidence to support the issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). If the movant meets this burden, the non-moving party must produce evidence showing that an issue of material fact does exist. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. To do so, the non-moving party must “go beyond the pleadings” and identify “specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” Id.; see also Fed. R. ...


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