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Strozier v. Hall

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

July 11, 2019

PHIL HALL, Warden; CATHY LEWIS, Deputy Warden of Care and Treatment; FRED GAMMAGE, Deputy Warden of Security; and BARBARA GRANT, Unit Manager, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, an inmate at Ware State Prison (“WSP”) in Waycross, Georgia, brought this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 regarding events alleged to have occurred at Telfair State Prison (“TSP”) in Helena, Georgia. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”). The Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS Defendants' motion to dismiss be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, (doc. no. 22), Plaintiff's claims for retaliatory transfer be DISMISSED, and Plaintiff's injunctive relief claims be DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's Complaint Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1) Phil Hall, Warden; (2) Cathy Lewis, Deputy Warden of Care and Treatment; (3) Fred Gammage, Deputy Warden of Security; and (4) Barbara Grant, Unit Manager. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 1-3.) Taking all of Plaintiff's allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present motion, the facts are as follows.

         On August 4, 2016, Plaintiff was strip searched under command of Deputy Warden Gammage in Building H Dorm 1. (Doc. no. 1-1, p. 1.) He was then escorted by Deputy Warden Gammage and other security personnel to the segregation unit and placed in an isolation cell in Building E Dorm 1. (Id.) Plaintiff was never told why he was being subjected to this treatment. (Id.) On August 11, 2016, after seven days in the isolation cell, Sergeant Knight offered Plaintiff a plea bargain for ninety days commissary duty, visitation, phone restriction, and no disciplinary isolation. (Id.) Plaintiff was not aware of any charges or disciplinary offenses against him. (Id.) Twenty-seven days later, Plaintiff was still in the isolation cell. (Id. at 1-2.) Outside of his presence, his personal papers with contact information of family and friends were searched and lost. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff lost several privileges including: (1) his mail was withheld, (2) he was not allowed to call anyone, (3) he could not attend religious services, (4) he received a new offender schedule detailing he had lost his good prison job as a diet specialist assistant in the kitchen, (5) he was not allowed to shave or get haircuts, and (6) he was denied use of an electrical socket to power a fan in his cell, which had no air conditioning. (Id.)

         On August 29, 2016, Plaintiff was visited by Unit Manager Grant and Counselor Ates who together told Plaintiff he was being recommended for the Tier II Program because of cellphones and drugs. (Id.) He refuted ever having cellphones or drugs and stated there were never any disciplinary processes. (Id. at 3.) Defendant Grant asked Plaintiff if he would sign the form detailing the Tier II Program change and Plaintiff did. (Id.) However, Plaintiff's door sheet only said he had “failed to follow instructions” as the reason for him being in isolation. (Id.) On September 16, 2016, Plaintiff was escorted from his isolation cell to the shower in handcuffs. (Id.) Plaintiff saw Deputy Warden Gammage on the way to the shower and asked him what was going on. (Id.) Deputy Warden Gammage only responded with a taunt about how much different Plaintiff looked after being in the isolation cell. (Id.)

         On October 3, 2016, Plaintiff received a copy of the Georgia Department of Corrections Standard Operating Procedures on Offender Discipline and Involuntary Administrative Segregation. (Id.) Plaintiff then wrote a grievance about his housing situation. (Id.) Warden Hall rejected the grievance because involuntary housing assignments based on administrative segregation was a not a grievable issue. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff appealed the grievance denial. (Id.) Plaintiff wrote personal letters to all Defendants explaining procedural errors and received no response. (Id.) On November 8, 2016, Plaintiff was again visited by Unit Manager Grant and Counselor Ates who were conducting a disciplinary segregation thirty-day review and recommending Plaintiff for the Tier II Program again. (Id.) Plaintiff asked why he was still in an isolation cell with no disciplinary report, and Unit Manager Grant responded by stating “they didn't need a disciplinary report to do what they wanted.” (Id.) Plaintiff appealed the Tier II recommendation, and the appeal was denied by Warden Hall. (Id. at 4-5.)

         Deputy Warden Lewis came to Plaintiff's cell for inspection. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff asked if she received his letter and why he had not received a hearing in front of the classification committee, of which Deputy Warden Lewis was head, and she responded she did not know what was going on. (Id.) On November 17, 2016, Plaintiff was placed in the administrative segregation Tier II Program and remained in an isolation cell. (Id.; doc. no. 13, pp. 1-2.) He began writing each Defendant letters daily about his situation and procedural errors occurring in his case. (Doc. no. 1-1, p. 5.) Defendants became angry and upset Plaintiff was informing Defendants of their wrongdoing, and Defendants agreed Plaintiff would be transferred to a disciplinary prison. (Id.) Subsequently, on November 29, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to WSP in retaliation for writing letters to Defendants pointing out their procedural errors. (Id. at 5-6.) Upon transfer to WSP, unknown officials placed information in Plaintiff's administrative file prompting hardships by WSP officials. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff was immediately placed in the segregation unit, and TSP officials placed false gang affiliations in his file. (Id.) Plaintiff is seeking injunctive relief, $300, 000 in compensatory damages against each Defendant, jointly and severally, and $300, 000 in punitive damages against each Defendant, jointly and severally. (Doc. no. 1, p. 5; doc. no. 1-3, p. 1.)

         B. Grievance History

         Defendants attached Plaintiff's grievance history to their motion to dismiss. (Doc. no. 22-2, p. 25.) Plaintiff's grievance history show he filed five grievances between January 8, 2014 and August 23, 2017. (Id.) Plaintiff filed only two grievances during August to November 2016, the relevant period of this case. (Id.) Plaintiff filed Grievance 227741 on September 20, 2016, which was categorized as a policy/procedural challenge. (Id.) Grievance 227741 was “dropped by offender” on October 19, 2016. (Id.) Plaintiff also filed Grievance 227738 on September 20, 2016, which was denied on appeal on April 3, 2017. (Id.) Plaintiff admits he did not file any grievance relating to his retaliatory transfer allegations. (Doc. no. 27-1, p. 9.)

         C. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         On March 19, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss alleging (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies as to his First Amendment retaliatory transfer claim; (2) Plaintiff failed to state Fourteenth Amendment due process claims against Defendants Gammage and Grant for placing Plaintiff in an isolation cell from August 4, 2016 to November 17, 2016; (3) Plaintiff failed to state Fourteenth Amendment due process claims against all Defendants for placing Plaintiff in Tier II isolation cell from November 17, 2016 to November 24, 2016; and (4) Plaintiff is not entitled to the injunctive relief he request and, even if he was, his request is now moot upon being transferred from TSP. (Doc. no. 27-1.) On May 3, 2019, Plaintiff responded to Defendants' motion, arguing (1) he did not fail to exhaust his First Amendment retaliatory transfer claim because it was non-grievable; (2) he did properly allege due process claims against Defendants; and (3) his request for injunctive relief is narrowly drawn and necessary even after his transfer. (Doc. no. 27-1.)


         A. Plaintiff's Exhaustion of ...

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