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Inman v. Austin

United States District Court, D. Maine

March 2, 2016

FRANK INMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
LARRY AUSTIN, et al., Defendants.

RECOMMENDED DECISION ON PENDING MOTIONS

JOHN C. NIVISON, Magistrate Judge.

In this action, Plaintiff Frank Inman seeks relief as the result of alleged violations of his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.)

The matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint to add new grounds for his claim (ECF No. 31), to join Diane Sleek as a defendant (ECF No. 32), and to join James Lussier as a defendant (ECF No. 34). After consideration of Plaintiff's motions and Defendants' objections to the motions, I recommend that the Court deny the motions.[1]

DISCUSSION

Courts should grant leave to amend "freely" when "justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Leave to amend is properly denied for "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). "Futility' means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted." Glassman v. Computervision Corp., 90 F.3d 617, 623 (1st Cir. 1996).

A. Request to Add New Grounds (ECF No. 31); Request to Join James Lussier (ECF No. 34)

Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to assert additional claims against several of the Defendants and to join James Lussier, a sergeant at the Correctional Center, based on two events that occurred after the filing of his complaint in this action.[2]

1. December 10, 2015, cell search and write-up, and resulting discipline.

The first event that Plaintiff seeks to add involved the search of a cell Plaintiff shares with other inmates. According to Plaintiff, following the search, Mr. Lussier, a sergeant under Defendant Monahan's supervision, cited Plaintiff for having "porn" in the cell. Mr. Lussier also conducted the related disciplinary hearing and imposed a 10-day room restriction as punishment. (ECF No. 34 ¶ 1.) Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Lussier acted under Defendant Monahan's directive and that the sanction was unconstitutional. ( Id. ) Plaintiff further asserts that Defendant Monahan was directly involved in the search and subsequent "write-up." ( Id. ¶ 2.)

Preliminarily, the mere write-up and discipline for possession of pornography in the prison environment does not give rise to a due process violation. As explained in the prior Recommended Decision After Screening Complaint (ECF No. 8), the Constitution does not guarantee prisoners due process in prison disciplinary matters absent a sanction that imposes an "atypical and significant hardship... in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). A 10-day room restriction as Plaintiff alleges does not constitute such a hardship.

Plaintiff's additional allegations also fail to state a plausible retaliation claim. Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Lussier charged Plaintiff with a rule violation and sanctioned him for improper conduct. Plaintiff has not alleged the falsity of the charge, nor has he cited any facts from which a fact finder could reasonably infer that Mr. Lussier or any of the other Defendants made the charge because Plaintiff engaged in a protected activity or that the actions of Mr. Lussier and the other Defendants did not advance a legitimate correctional goal. See Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005) ("Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal."); Bryant v. Ochoa, 460 Fed.App'x 624, 625 (9th Cir. 2011) (reversing dismissal of retaliation claim because of alleged "false rules violation"); Davis v. Ali, No. 2:11-cv-00955, 2012 WL 762008, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2012) ("Plaintiff fails to allege facts indicating that Ali's search of his cell... did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal.").

Finally, in the event Plaintiff contends that the search of his cell was retaliatory, Plaintiff's claim also fails. Plaintiff has no expectation of privacy in a prison cell. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 528 n.8 (1984). A search of Plaintiff's cell, therefore, does not amount to the adverse action necessary to support a retaliation claim. Pope v. Bernard, No. 10-1443, 2011 WL 478055, at *1-*2 (1st Cir. Feb. 10, 2011) (per curiam) (" Hudson precludes Fourth Amendment challenges to prison cell searches and seizures taken for any reason, whether reasonable or not.... Given this, any [retaliation] claim based on the search of appellant's cell and the seizure of his Kufi can only be described as de minimis .").

In short, Plaintiff's proposed amendment to include the December 10, 2015, incident and to join Mr. Lussier as a defendant ...


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