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Gatewood v. Juknelis

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 26, 2017

ANTOINE GATEWOOD, #333847 Plaintiff
v.
PETER JUKNELIS, Hearing Officer, JOHN WOLFE, WARDEN, JESSUP CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, STEPHEN T. MOYER, SECRETARY, D.P.S.C.S. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge.

         Antoine Gatewood is an inmate in the custody of the Maryland Division of Correction (''DOC''), presently incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution (''NBCI'').

         On May 25, 2016, Gatewood filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Hearing Officer Peter Juknelis; former Warden John Wolfe; and Stephen T. Moyer, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (''DPSCS''). ECF 1. The suit is rooted in events that occurred at Jessup Correctional Institution (''JCI'') on July 27, 2012, where Gatewood was found in possession of eight sharpened metal objects. He was subsequently found guilty of prison rule violations by Hearing Officer Juknelis.

         Gatewood alleges that plaintiffs disciplinary hearing violated his right to due process. ECF 1. As relief, Gatewood asks for reinstatement of 90 days of good conduct credit, back pay from his prison job, and punitive and compensatory damages. ECF 1 at 3.

         The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. ECF 14 (''Motion). The Motion is supported by several exhibits. Gatewood has filed an opposition (ECF 21, ''Opposition''), with exhibits.[1] No reply was filed.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, I shall construe defendants‘ Motion as a motion for summary judgment and grant it.

         I. Factual Background

         On July 27, 2012, correctional officers searched Gatewood‘s cell at JCI and discovered eight sharpened metal objects and one stone sharpener. ECF 1 at 3; ECF 14-2 at 5 (Disciplinary Hearing Record); ECF 21-1 at 32 (Administrative Law Judge‘s Decision). Gatewood was placed in administrative segregation and received a Notice of Inmate Rule Violation that same day. ECF 21 at 2.

         A disciplinary hearing was held on August 23, 2012, at which Juknelis presided. ECF 14-2 at 4-7. Gatewood acknowledged the sharpened objects were his, but claimed he used them as tools to repair appliances. Gatewood did not claim he was innocent of the infractions. ECF 14-2 at 4-5; ECF 21-1 at 37-38.

         However, at the hearing, Gatewood moved to dismiss the infractions against him, contending that the disciplinary hearing was untimely and contravened Code of Maryland Regulations (''COMAR'') 12.02.27.12B. ECF 1 at 3. It provides:

A defendant inmate shall appear before the hearing officer for a preliminary review of the rule violations charged within 7 business days after the following events have concluded in the specified order:
(1) The investigation of the reported event and misconduct is completed;
(2) The Notice of Inmate Rule Violation and Disciplinary Hearing form is completed; and
(3) The Notice of Inmate Rule Violation and Disciplinary Hearing form is reviewed by a shift supervisor.

         There is no dispute that the hearing was conducted twenty-seven days after Gatewood was served with the Notice of Rule violation, or twenty days after the end of the prescribed period to hold the hearing. ECF 21-1 at 34; see also ECF 21-1 at 34 (indicating that the shift supervisor reviewed the notice of hearing on the same day it was served on Gatewood).

         Juknelis took notice of COMAR 12.02.27.01 during the hearing. ECF 14-2 at 3. COMAR 12.02.27.01 provides:

A. The Commissioner of Correction shall establish inmate disciplinary procedures intended for the:
(1) Efficient administration of inmate discipline; and
(2) Orderly operation of a correctional facility.
B. These regulations do not convey or create enforceable rights, interests, or benefits for a Division of Correction inmate.
C. Except for failure to comply with due process, an inmate's conviction for a rule violation is not affected by the failure of the Division of Correction to meet procedural or time requirements under this chapter.

         At the hearing, the facility representative explained that the delay in holding the hearing was due to ''a large back log of cases that are being heard in the order which they are received.'' ECF 14-2 at 4; see also ECF 1 at 3; ECF 21 at 1-2. Juknelis found the explanation reasonable and noted that Gatewood could not articulate how the delay harmed his defense. The hearing proceeded. ECF 14-2 at 3.

         Juknelis found Gatewood guilty of violating inmate Rule 105 (possession of a weapon) and Rule 406 (possession of contraband). ECF 1 at 3; ECF 14-2 at 5; ECF 21-1 at 32.[2] He sanctioned Gatewood with 90 days of punitive segregation, revoked 90 days of good conduct credit for the violation of Rule 105, and imposed 30 days of punitive segregation for the violation of Rule 406, to be served concurrent with the sanction for the violation of Rule 105. ECF 14-2 at 6; ECF 21-1 at 32. Juknelis also sanctioned Gatewood with a mandatory loss of visitation for six months. Id.

         Gatewood appealed the hearing officer‘s decision to the Warden, but received no response. ECF 1 at 4; ECF 21-1 at 14-16. Therefore, on October 15, 2012, Gatewood appealed to the Inmate Grievance Office (''IGO''). ECF 21-1 at 3-6, 29.[3] He claimed a denial of due process and a lack of evidence to support the rule violations. In addition, ...


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