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Condon v. Bouffard

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 17, 2017

JOHN JAY CONDON, Plaintiff
v.
RODNEY BOUFFARD, et al., Defendants

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, Plaintiff John Jay Condon alleges Defendants Rodney Bouffard, Troy Ross, and Jody Breton violated his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, the Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, and the First Amendment Petition Clause. Plaintiff alleges the violations occurred when Defendants subjected him to prolonged confinement in segregation at the Maine State Prison and, after he petitioned for review of administrative action in state court, transferred him to the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution in Florida.

         The matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 6.) Through their motion, Defendants contend Plaintiff has failed to state an actionable due process claim because the segregation was the product of an administrative procedure that complied with procedural due process and because the segregation and out-of-state transfer did not involve atypical and significant hardships. Defendants also argue Plaintiff has not asserted any other actionable constitutional claim.

         Following a review of the relevant pleadings, I recommend the Court grant in part Defendants' motion to dismiss.

         Background Facts

         The facts set forth herein are derived from Plaintiff's verified complaint. (ECF No. 1-2.) The factual allegations of the complaint are deemed true when evaluating the motion to dismiss. Beddall v. State St. Bank & Trust Co., 137 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir. 1998).

         On March 5, 2014, Plaintiff was removed from the general population of the Maine State Prison and placed in the segregated Special Management Unit (SMU) of the Prison's “supermax” building.[1] (Compl. ¶ 9; Pl.'s Opposition to Motion at 4, ECF No. 10.) Five days later, Plaintiff's placement was the subject of an administrative segregation review (ASR), at which time he was informed that another inmate reported that he posed a threat to a member of the prison staff.[2] (Compl. ¶ 10.) According to Plaintiff, the reviews are conducted by the ASR board based on investigations conducted by inner perimeter security (IPS). (Id. ¶ 11.)

         On March 20, 2014, Plaintiff received a second review, during which he learned he would remain in segregation in the SMU pending the outcome of the IPS investigation. (Id. ¶ 13.) At each review, Plaintiff stated that he had no intention of hurting anyone. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         On March 27, 2014, the ASR board convened and decided to return Plaintiff to general population. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff asserts, however, that Defendant Troy Ross, the Deputy Warden, overruled the board's decision. (Id. ¶¶ 16 - 17; see also ASR Minutes of March 27, 2014, ECF No. 10-10.) Plaintiff had no ability to present his case to Defendant Ross, nor to appeal from Defendant Ross's decision. (Compl. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff contends the lack of an appeal is a constitutional flaw in the ASR process. (Id. ¶¶ 19 - 20.)

         In April 2014, Plaintiff received four more reviews without a change in his segregation status. During one of the reviews, Plaintiff learned that a new unit was being formed for certain inmates and that he would eventually be moved to the new unit. (Id. ¶¶ 21 - 23, 29.) On April 15, in response to Plaintiff's inquiry as to when the investigation would conclude, the chief of the investigatory team informed Plaintiff there was no pending investigation regarding Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 26.) Defendant Ross denied Plaintiff's appeals from the results of the reviews. (Id. ¶ 29.)

         Plaintiff also filed a grievance regarding the lack of an investigation. On April 28, 2014, the grievance was dismissed, and he was informed the process to address Plaintiff's complaint was the ASR. (Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff subsequently filed a grievance claiming the process was flawed, but his grievance was dismissed. (Id. ¶¶ 30 - 31.)

         Plaintiff's segregation status was maintained following his May 2, 2014, ASR. (Id. ¶ 32.) Defendant Ross denied his appeal. (Id. ¶ 33.) At Plaintiff's next ASR, on June 24, 2014, his placement was not changed. (Id. ¶ 34.) His appeal was again denied by Defendant Ross. (Id.)

         On July 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed a petition for judicial review of administrative action in state court. (Id. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff's ASR reviews in July and August did not result in a release from segregation. (Id. ¶¶ 36 - 37.)

         In September 2014, Defendant Jody Breton, the Deputy Commissioner, conducted a six-month review of Plaintiff's placement. Plaintiff was not permitted to attend the review or address Defendant Breton in connection with the review. Defendant Breton approved Plaintiff's continued segregation pending the conclusion of the IPS investigation. (Id. ¶ 38.) When Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Breton to complain that he had not been heard, Defendant Breton responded that she relied on the recommendation of the warden (Defendant Rodney Bouffard). (Id. ¶¶ 39 - 40.)

         Plaintiff filed a grievance on September 29, 2014, to complain that the warden, contrary to a policy statement that the warden would visit the SMU weekly, had not visited the SMU during the period of Plaintiff's segregation. (Id. ¶ 43.) The grievance was dismissed. (Id. ¶ 44.)

         Plaintiff's stay in the Maine State Prison's SMU ended on October 28, 2014, at which time he was transferred to the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections. (Id. ¶ 46.) Defendants withdrew $156.76 from Plaintiff's inmate account to cover the cost of forwarding Plaintiff's property to Florida. (Id. ¶ 50.) According to Plaintiff, the letter of introduction to the Florida Department of Corrections falsely stated that he made threats to staff and another inmate, and that his assaultive behavior made him a management problem. (Id. ¶¶ 47, 48.) Based on the representation, the Florida Department of Corrections placed Plaintiff in a one-year “close monitoring” program. (Id.) Plaintiff claims Defendants arranged for the transfer in retaliation for the state court lawsuit he filed in April 2014. (Id. ¶ 49.)

         While in segregation at the Maine State Prison, Plaintiff was continuously confined in various cells of roughly 60 square feet for over 23 hours daily. Between Maine and Florida, Plaintiff was in segregation for 673 days. (Id. at pp. 10 - 11.) In addition to the loss of association with other inmates, Plaintiff lost the ability to work; to attend educational, vocational, religious, and special musical programs; to listen to his radio; to recreate outdoors and exercise in a congregate setting; to attend group meals; to access the library; to attend club functions; and to sit in a chair. (Id.)

         Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may seek dismissal of “a claim for relief in any pleading” if that party believes that the pleading fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In its assessment of the motion, a court must “assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff[] the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Blanco v. Bath Iron Works Corp., 802 F.Supp.2d 215, 221 (D. Me. 2011) (quoting Genzyme Corp. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 622 F.3d 62, 68 (1st Cir. 2010)). To overcome the motion, therefore, the plaintiff must establish that his allegations raise a plausible basis for a fact finder to conclude that the defendant is legally responsible for the claim(s) at issue. Id.[3]

         B. Analysis

         Defendants argue dismissal is warranted because Plaintiff's alleged conditions of confinement do not constitute an atypical and significant hardship; Plaintiff's ability to present his case to the ASR board satisfies the procedural due process requirement; due process does not require a hearing on an administrative appeal; and Plaintiff has not alleged facts that would support a plausible causal connection between protected activity and his transfer to the Florida Department of Corrections. (Motion at 3 - 7.)

         1. Due process

         The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a state from depriving a person of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. The analysis of a due process claim includes two issues. A court first considers “whether there exists a liberty or property interest of which a person has been deprived, ” and if so, it then considers “whether the procedures followed by the State were constitutionally sufficient.” Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S. 216, 219 (2011). “[T]he processes required by the Clause with respect to the termination of a protected interest will vary depending upon the importance attached to the interest and the particular circumstances under which the deprivation may occur.” Walters v. Nat'l Ass'n of Radiation Survivors, 473 U.S. 305, 320 (1985).

         “[W]hile persons imprisoned for crime enjoy many protections of the Constitution, it is also clear that imprisonment carries with it the circumscription or loss of many significant rights.” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 524 (1984). With respect to the Due Process Clause, “[a]s long as the conditions or degree of confinement to which the prisoner is subjected is within the sentence imposed upon him and is not otherwise violative of the Constitution, the Due Process Clause does not in itself subject an inmate's treatment by prison authorities to judicial oversight.” Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236, 242 (1976).

         A convicted prisoner thus does not have a constitutional right to a particular security classification or to confinement in a particular facility. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 - 22 (2005) (“[T]he Constitution itself does not give rise to a liberty interest in avoiding transfer to more adverse conditions of confinement”); Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 468 (1983) (“[T]he transfer of an inmate to less amendable and more restrictive quarters for nonpunitive reasons is well within the terms of confinement ordinarily contemplated by a prison sentence” (concerning administrative segregation)); Haymes, 427 U.S. at 242 (“The Clause does not require hearings in connection with transfers whether or not they are the result of the inmate's misbehavior or may be labeled as disciplinary or punitive.”); Meachum v. Fano,427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976) (no liberty interest arising from Due Process Clause itself in transfer from low- to maximum-security prison because “[c]onfinement in any of the State's institutions is within the normal limits or range of custody which the conviction has authorized the State to impose”). See also Williams v. Lindamood, 526 ...


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