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Inman v. Austin

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 30, 2016

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


          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Frank Inman alleges that based on actions taken by Defendants Larry Austin, Joseph Fitzpatrick, Scott Landry, Scott McCaffery, Luke Monahan, and Jerry Scott, and in retaliation for his constitutionally protected speech activity, Plaintiff was transferred from a minimum security facility to a medium security facility.[1] Plaintiff also asserts state law claims for defamation and infliction of emotional distress.

         The matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, through which motion Defendants assert, inter alia, that Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies. (ECF No. 50.) Plaintiff did not file an opposition to the motion.

         Following a review of the pleadings and summary judgment filings, I recommend the Court grant Defendants’ motion as to Plaintiff’s federal claim, and dismiss without prejudice Plaintiff’s state law claims.

         Facts [2]

         According to Plaintiff, Defendants transferred him from a minimum security facility to a medium security facility because in August 2014, he wrote letters to officials and involved an attorney in a dispute over the mental health treatment he was receiving from the Department of Corrections. (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID ## 5 - 6.) The Court has construed this claim as a First Amendment retaliation claim actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         The Maine Department of Corrections has a prisoner grievance policy that allows prisoners to “…request administrative review of any policy, procedure, practice, condition of confinement, action, decision, or event that directly affects [the prisoner]…” The procedure covers complaints of retaliatory conduct by administrators and staff. (Defendants’ Statement of Material Facts (DSMF) ¶ 1, ECF No. 51; Policy 29.1, Prisoner Grievances, ECF No. 51-2.) If an attempt to achieve an informal resolution of the prisoner’s grievance is unsuccessful, the prisoner may file a formal grievance with the grievance review officer. If the prisoner is not satisfied with the response to the grievance, he may appeal that decision to the chief administrative officer of the facility and ultimately to the Commissioner of the Department.[3] (DSMF ¶ 2.)

         During the time he was incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center, Plaintiff filed seven grievances. None of the grievances involved the alleged act of retaliation at issue in this case. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff did not file any grievances during the time he was incarcerated at the Charleston Correctional Facility. (Id. ¶ 4.)

         In addition to its Prisoner Grievances Policy, the Department of Corrections has Policy 23.1, Classification System, which policy governs the classification and transfer of prisoners among the various facilities in the system. The Classification System Policy allows a prisoner to appeal a classification decision regarding transfer or custody level to the Director of Classification and, ultimately, to the Commissioner.[4] (Id. ¶ 5; Policy 23.1, ECF No. 51-5.)

         In August, 2014, Defendant McCaffery, the Classification Director, and then-Associate Commissioner Cynthia Brann approved a request by Defendant Austin, who at that time was the Director of the Charleston Correctional Facility (CCF), to transfer Plaintiff from CCF, which is a minimum custody facility, to a more secure facility. Plaintiff’s custody level was changed at that time from minimum to medium custody, and he was transferred to the Maine Correctional Center. (DSMF ¶ 6.) Plaintiff did not appeal from that decision. (Id. ¶ 7.)[5]

         Plaintiff attached to his complaint two client classification forms, one dated October 22, 2014, and another dated December 5, 2014, which forms reflect that on both dates, the Department’s Classification Committee recommended a medium security classification. (ECF No. 1-2.) Plaintiff also filed exhibits which suggest that he engaged in classification-related appeal activity in December of 2013 and in May, June, and July of 2014. (ECF No. 1-2, PageID ## 9 - 11.) Plaintiff, however, did not submit evidence that he filed an appeal from any classification recommendation or decision made after August 2014 regarding his medium security classification.

         In connection with an attempt to amend his complaint on October 19, 2015, Plaintiff filed numerous grievance-related exhibits regarding various matters that occurred in 2015. (ECF No. 16.) None of the grievances related to his transfer to a medium security facility. One document filed by Plaintiff reveals that he received a minimum security classification in May of 2015. (ECF No. 16-12.)

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “The 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). “After the moving party has presented evidence in support of its motion for summary judgment, ‘the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, with respect to each issue on which he has the burden of proof, to demonstrate that a trier of fact reasonably could find in his favor.’” Wood ...

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