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Bennett v. Green

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 16, 2016

CHAUNCEY BENNETT, #259742 Plaintiff,
v.
KATHLEEN GREEN Warden, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES K. BREDAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action was filed on October 6, 2015. Chauncey Bennett, who is incarcerated at the Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”), seeks punitive and compensatory damages, the restoration of back wages with pay and raises, and the award of diminution credits he would have earned. Bennett alleges that in the early morning hours of September 25, 2014, a search of cells on his housing unit was conducted outside his presence by a “drunk” search team. He claims that upon completion of the search, food was missing from his commissary items, property was mixed up, and “there was no mention of contraband.” ECF No.1.

         Bennett states that following the search, he was cited with an infraction on October 1, 2014, charging him with possession of contraband (a “Black Street Hookers” DVD found with his property). He maintains that at the subsequent disciplinary hearing, he explained to Adjustment Hearing Officer (“AHO”) Rowe that the officers were drunk, no DVD was ever shown to him before or during the adjustment hearing, and there was no confiscation form stating that he had any contraband. Id. Bennett states that the infraction form was not signed and the infraction was written six days after the search was conducted. He contends that Rowe’s decision to find him guilty was “highly tainted” and the sanctions imposed on him violated his due process rights ECF No. 1.

         On March 4, 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment which has been treated as a motion for summary judgment.[1] ECF No. 13. Bennett has filed an opposition response[2] and defendants have filed a reply. ECF Nos. 15-18. The Court has examined the record and finds that no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md., 2014). For reasons to follow, defendants’ summary judgment 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 Aaffirmative 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 provided by defendants, on September 25, 2014, ECI Correctional Officers Holland and Arndt conducted a cell search of ECI Housing Unit 6, Cell D06. ECF No. 13-2. Bennett was one of the occupants of that cell. Holland asserted that he found a sexually explicit DVD in Bennett’s property, asked Bennett if the DVD was his, and Bennett admitted ownership of the DVD. He was charged with violating Rule 406 (possession of contraband). Defendants claim that the infraction notice was signed by both Holland and Approving Supervisor Lieutenant William Clayton.

         Bennett was served with a notice of disciplinary hearing on October 1, 2014. ECF No. 13-3. On November 7, 2014, AHO Scott Rowe found him guilty of violating Rule 406. ECF No. 13-4 at Switalski Decl. No disciplinary segregation or loss of good conduct time was imposed. He was sanctioned with 15 days’ cell restriction. Id. He was only allowed to go to meals, work/school, commissary for hygiene items only, showers, sick call, medical appointments, church services (not studies), visits, classification hearings, and interviews with counselors. ECF No. 13-5.

         In his opposition, Bennett claims that timing of the issuance of the notice of infraction violated the 72-hour rule and while on cell restriction he was not permitted to attend the legal reference library. ECF No. 15. He alleges that Holland and Arndt conducted several cell searches and he was not present when the examination of the cell took place. Bennett further asserts that although the infraction states that he acknowledged ...


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