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Bennett v. Green

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 16, 2016

CHAUNCEY BENNETT, #259742, Plaintiff,
v.
KATHLEEN S. GREEN (Warden) SCOTT ROWE (Hearing Officer). STEPHEN T. MOYER (Secretary D.P.S.C.S.), Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

JAMES K. BREDAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. BACKGROUND

This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action was filed on October 6, 2015. Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at the Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”), seeks punitive and compensatory damages, the restoration of lost diminution credits, back wages, single-cell status, the expungement of his infraction, and double cell credits. He alleges that on December 5, 2014, although he was threatened by another inmate and defended himself accordingly, he was charged with violating prison rules. ECF No. 1. He contends that the prison failed to provide adequate supervision in the area, his infraction was not signed, and the incident was not properly investigated. Plaintiff claims that the Adjustment Hearing Officer (“AHO”) did not recuse himself, overrode his sentencing penalty without justification, and placed him in a “poor” adjustment category. He argues that the adjustment sentencing matrix is unbalanced and discriminatory. Id.

On April 6. 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment which has been treated as a motion for summary judgment.[1] ECF No. 18. Plaintiff has filed an opposition response. ECF No. 20. The undersigned has examined the record and finds that no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md. 2014). For reasons to follow, defendants’ dispositive motion will be granted.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 56(a) of the federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought. 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. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.

''The party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment 'may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must 'set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.''' Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court should ''view the evidence in the light most favorable to....the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility.'' Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). The court must, however, also abide by the ''affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.'' Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)). "The party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Rivanna Trawlers Unlimited v. Thompson Trawlers, Inc., 840 F.2d 236, 240 (4th Cir. 1988).

III. ANALYSIS

According to the documents attached to the declaration of Sergeant Michelle Switalski, on December 5, 2014, ECI Correctional Officer King was assigned to escort and relief and was observing the inmate movement for lunch. ECF No. 18-2 at Switalski Decl. King observed plaintiff speaking to inmate Neal Twyman, a food service inmate, in the area between the bread and drinks. After plaintiff received his lunch, King saw Twyman step out of the serving area and witnessed plaintiff say something to Twyman, but could not understand what plaintiff said. Id. King saw plaintiff hit Twyman several times in the head with closed fists. King called for assistance and ordered both inmates to stop. Plaintiff, however, continued to hit Twyman. King did not see Twyman hit plaintiff, but saw Twyman step back and attempt to block the hits from plaintiff.[2] Both inmates were handcuffed and escorted to the medical department for evaluation. ECF No. 18-2 at pp. 13-14.

That same day, on December 5, 2014, plaintiff was issued a notice of inmate rule infraction for violating Rules 102, 400, and 402 (assault on an inmate, disobeying an order, and being in an unauthorized location, leaving an assigned location without authorization, or refusing to follow or obey an order). ECF No. 18-2 at pp. 6, 15-18. On December 30, 2014, plaintiff was found guilty of violating Rules 102 and 400, but not guilty of violating Rule 402. He was sanctioned with 180 days of disciplinary segregation and the loss of 120 good conduct time (“GCT”) credits. Id.

In his opposition, plaintiff claims that he was not the aggressor and inmate Twyman attacked him. ECF No. 20. He takes issue with the investigation conducted into the incident, claiming that it was not looked into within "one calendar day." Plaintiff also claims that he was given an infraction within two hours, in violation of the equal protection clause. ECF No. 20.

IV. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff has failed to allege how Warden Green and Secretary Moyer personally participated in violating his rights. Under § 1983, individual liability must be based on personal conduct. See Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985); see also Foote v. Spiegal, 118 F.3d 1416, 1423 (10th Cir. 1997). Further, in the absence of subjective knowledge, a prison official is not liable under the civil rights ...


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