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Hawes v. Foxwell

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 24, 2018

TRACEY HAWES, #1467573, Plaintiff



         The above-captioned civil rights action alleging the loss of property occurring at the Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”) was filed by Maryland state prisoner Tracey Hawes.[2] In his unverified complaint, Hawes seeks compensatory damages of $10, 000.00 and punitive damages of $750, 000.00. Hawes names Defendant ECI Warden Ricky Foxwell, together with four officers, Defendants Blake, Clayton, Arndt and Murphy, for failing to secure his personal property after searching his cell.

         Hawes does not contest the propriety of the cell search, nor does he complain about disciplinary sanctions imposed as a result of the contraband uncovered during the search.[3] Instead, his claims focus on the loss of personal items caused by Defendants' failure to secure his property. ECF No. 1.[4]

         Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 11), and Hawes has filed an opposition (ECF No. 13), as supplemented (ECF No. 14).[5] The motion may be decided without a hearing. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons set forth herein, Hawes' property claim will be dismissed.


         A. Plaintiff's Statement of Facts

         Hawes claims that on May 4, 2016, he was placed in a disciplinary segregation cell on staff alert status. ECF No. 1, p. 5. On May 13, 2016, the staff alert was removed and he was placed in a cell and provided a bed, mattress, and allowable property. Id.

         While on staff alert status, prison personnel informed him that his personal property taken from his cell had been misplaced. He places the blame for the loss on Defendants Blake, Clayton, Arndt, and Murphy who, he claims, searched his cell and failed to inventory fully and store properly his personal property. Id., p. 7. Among the lost items were various legal documents that Hawes maintains cannot be replaced, including his trial transcript, his “homicide” file, and legal briefs. ECF No. 1-1, p. 4. Hawes states generally that the loss of these materials limits his access to the courts.[6] Id.

         Hawes filed an administrative remedy procedure (ARP) grievance regarding the misplaced property. Id., p. 6. The ARP was found to be meritorious, and Hawes was offered compensation of $497.91, which he refused. Id., p. 2. He appealed the award to the Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”), which referred it to the Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”) for adjudication. Id., p. 6. After an evidentiary hearing, an administrative law judge found in Hawes' favor and awarded him $684.58 as compensation for the lost property. Id., p. 16. The Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) affirmed the award on July 19, 2017. Id., p. 18.

         B. Defendants' Statement of Facts

         On May 4, 2016, Defendants Arndt, Blake, and Clayton conducted a search of Hawes' cell, located on Housing Unit #6.[7] During the search, they found Hawes wearing a prohibited cell phone watch. A charging cable also was discovered. ECF No. 11-2, pp. 4-5 (Notice of Inmate Rule Violation); ECF No. 11-3, ¶ 4 (Blake Decl.); ECF No. 11-4, ¶ 4 (Clayton Decl.); ECF No. 11-5, ¶ 4 (Arndt Decl.). The three officers escorted Hawes to the dayroom to be strip-searched. ECF No. 11-2, p. 4. While in the dayroom, Hawes threatened staff and the prisoner who had informed staff about the cell phone watch. Id. He received a notice of inmate rule violation for possessing the contraband and for threatening staff and other inmates, and was taken to Housing Unit #4. Id. Hawes was placed on administrative segregation pending adjustment on a level one staff alert due to his behavior, threats, and violation of inmate rules.[8]ECF No. 11-2, pp. 5-6, 11.

         On May 13, 2016, Hawes' status was adjusted to level three and he received additional amenities, including all allowable property ordinarily given to segregation prisoners. Id., p.15, 22. On May 16, 2016, Hawes' staff alert status was removed. Id., p.16. Hawes later pleaded guilty to three rule violations and received ninety days in disciplinary segregation. ECF No. 11-2, pp. 9-11.

         In their Declarations, Defendants Blake, Clayton, Arndt and Murphy aver they had no involvement with Hawes' personal property once the search was concluded, and were not involved with the inventory and storage of the property. Warden Foxwell likewise avers no involvement in the property inventory and storage.[9] All Defendants aver that they made no determination as to Hawes' housing status or assignments. Id., Declarations.

         Standard ...

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