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Johnson v. Todd

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 30, 2018

EARL JOHNSON, JR. Plaintiff,
v.
MELCHIZEDEK TODD, et al.[1]Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On July 20, 2017, Plaintiff Earl Johnson, Jr. filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action concerning prison disciplinary charges and sanctions that were issued against him in 2012. ECF Nos. 1, 7. On February 9, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 29. Plaintiff has filed a Response in Opposition to the dispositive motion, ECF No. 31, and a Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 34. The matter is now ripe for review. The court finds a hearing in these matters unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied and Defendants' dispositive Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 31, 2012, Jessup Correctional Institution Officers Jaynice Brooks and Christopher Kiviyatu conducted a search of Plaintiff's shared cell. ECF No. 1 at 4; ECF No. 1-1 at 13. According to Plaintiff, an unknown object was on the floor, which Plaintiff picked up; the object was subsequently determined to contain suboxone, a contraband substance. ECF No. 1 at 4; ECF No. 1-1 at 2, 13. Plaintiff's cellmate claimed ownership of the object. ECF No. 1 at 4.

         As a result of this search, on August 1, 2012, Brooks[2] charged Plaintiff with Rule Violation 114.[3] ECF No. 1-1 at 13. Also on August 1, 2012, Plaintiff received another Notice of Inmate Rule Violation which charged him with Rule Violation 111, possession or use of an unauthorized drug (excluding alcohol and controlled dangerous substances), and Rule Violation 406, possession of contraband.[4] ECF No. 1-1 at 2. This second Notice was drafted by Defendant Todd and based on his field test of the substance found during the search of Plaintiff's cell. Id. The Notice recommended that Plaintiff be placed on administrative segregation pending a hearing, and Defendant Rowland approved this recommendation. Id.

         On August 28, 2012, a disciplinary hearing for each Notice of Rule Violation was held, both conducted by the same hearing officer. See ECF No. 1-1 at 4-6 (hearing for Rule Violations 111 and 406 assigned Event ID number 2012-336986 and reportedly commenced at 1:40AM); ECF No. 1-1 at 12-13 (hearing for Rule Violation 114 assigned Event ID number 2012-337072 and reportedly commenced at 1:24AM). The hearing officer found Plaintiff not guilty of Rule Violation 114. Id. at 12-13. However, the hearing officer found Plaintiff guilty of Rule Violations 111 and 406, both of which prohibit possession of certain items, explaining that Plaintiff admitted physical possession of the contraband item by admitting that he was holding the item in his hand when the officers conducted the cell search. Id. at 5-6. Accordingly, Plaintiff was ordered to be placed in disciplinary segregation for 265 days, lost 265 days of good time credit, and had his visitation privileges suspended for 18 months. Id. at 6; ECF No. 29-2 at 2.

         Plaintiff appealed the result of the disciplinary hearing to the Warden. Id. at 8-10. On September 24, 2012, the Warden ordered that the guilty finding on both violations be reduced to “Incident Report.” ECF 1 at 4; ECF No. 1-1 at 11. Plaintiff's good time credit was restored, ECF No. 29-2 at 2, and it appears that the other disciplinary sanctions were dismissed or vacated as a result of the Warden's conversion of the guilty finding to an incident report. See ECF No. 1 at 4; ECF No. 1-1 at 11. However, Plaintiff claims that, even after the Warden's conversion of the guilty finding to an incident report, Plaintiff remained in segregation housing for an additional 28 days. ECF No. 1 at 4.

         At some point between April 2014 and October 2014, Plaintiff filed a civil action against Defendant Todd in the District Court for Anne Arundel County. See ECF No. 1 at 2 (Plaintiff's initial Complaint reports an approximate filing date of April 2014); ECF No. 7 at 2 (Plaintiff's Supplemental Complaint reports a filing date of June 4, 2014); Johnson v. Todd, Case No. 07-02-0009038-2014 (Dist. Ct. Anne Arundel Cnty.), available at http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/ casesearch/inquiryByCaseNum.jis (Maryland Judiciary Case Search reports filing date of October 9, 2014). On October 9, 2014, Todd moved to dismiss the state case, but this motion was denied. ECF No. 7 at 2. Plaintiff states that the state case was disposed of on December 10, 2014, id., although the Maryland Judiciary Case Search does not report any such dismissal and designates the case status as “active, ” Johnson v. Todd, Case No. 07-02-0009038-2014.

         On July 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant action. He alleges that Defendants Kiviyatu and Todd wrongfully charged him with disciplinary violations, and that such charges violated his right to procedural due process. ECF No. 1 at 3-4. He asserts that Defendant Rowland is also responsible because he “has the last say” over whether Plaintiff should be placed in segregation housing. Id. at 4. Plaintiff states that the officers' decision to charge him with disciplinary violations was “vindictive and discriminatory” and evinced evil motive. Id. However, the primary focus of the Complaint appears to be the fact that Plaintiff was placed in segregation housing for 82 days as a result of the charges and subsequently converted guilty finding. Id.

         Before Defendants filed a responsive pleading, Plaintiff filed a Supplemental Complaint.[5] ECF No. 7 at 1, 3. Aside from the plain statement that Plaintiff is also pursuing claims for “False Imprisonment, Negligence, and Violation of the MD Constitution, ” the Supplemental Complaint appears aimed solely at preemptively arguing that Plaintiff's Complaint was timely filed under the statute of limitations, as it states:

I am transfer [sic] my case from District Court to U.S. District Court limitation is if the three year run out District Court in MD Court. I am transferring this claim this should be [illegible] First well as claim see document I sent to show limitation didnt run 12/10/2014[6] is the time of limitation not to transfer the case out.

Id. at 2 (errors in original).

         The Court attempted to serve all three Defendants, but was unable to obtain service on Defendant Todd. Defendants Kiviyatu and Rowland filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 29. The Motion argued that Plaintiff's claim was barred by the statute of limitations and, alternatively, that he failed to sufficiently allege that his placement in administrative segregation implicated a constitutionally protected interest. Id. at 4-6. Plaintiff filed a Response which was captioned in the alternative as a Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 31. He has also filed a separate Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 34.

         II. ...


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