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Roberts v. Goodwin

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

September 29, 2017

BRYAN CLAYTON ROBERTS
v.
JERRY W. GOODWIN, ET AL.

          HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. [Record Document 29]. As of his last filing, Plaintiff had been held in disciplinary detention extended lockdown at David Wade Correctional Center (“David Wade”) for over four years. [Record Document 20]. Plaintiff has since been transferred to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Because Plaintiff was no longer being held in disciplinary detention extended lockdown at David Wade, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief. [Record Document 28]. Thus, the only claims remaining before the Court are Plaintiff's claims for compensatory relief related to his past confinement at David Wade.

         After an independent review of the record, this Court accepts in part the Magistrate's findings. The Court accepts the Magistrate's findings with regard to Plaintiff's claims that he was denied access to programming and to the law library and limited in the number of books he was allowed to have in his cell. The Court also accepts the Magistrate's findings with regard to Plaintiff's initial placement in disciplinary detention extended lockdown. The Court rejects the Magistrate's findings regarding Plaintiff's due process and Eighth Amendment claims as the findings relate to Plaintiff's continued confinement in disciplinary detention extended lockdown and the lack of opportunity to exercise; the Court instructs Plaintiff to submit the additional information requested by the Court. Finally, although the Report and Recommendation did not address them, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim regarding his being required to wear restraints outside of his cell as well as his retaliation claim.

         Due Process Claim

         Plaintiff was confined in disciplinary detention extended lockdown for over four years. Because prison regulations require that prisoners in disciplinary detention extended lockdown have their placement reviewed every 90 days and because he was not present at the hearings where this review occurred, Plaintiff alleges that David Wade officials violated his due process rights. [Record Document 2-1].[1] A restrictive placement such as Plaintiff's requires the provision of due process when it “imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). Following this line of reasoning, the Fifth Circuit has concluded that restrictive placements of less than two-and-a-half years do not implicate due process and that placements of more than five years likely do. Wilkerson v. Goodwin, 774 F.3d 845, 855 (5th Cir. 2014); Bailey v. Fisher, 647 F. App'x 472, 476-77 (5th Cir. 2016). The Fifth Circuit has also concluded that a court must consider both “the nature of the more restrictive confinement and its duration in relation to the prison norms and to the terms of the individual's sentence.” Wilkerson, 774 F.3d at 853 (quoting Harden-Bey v. Rutter, 524 F.3d 789, 792 (6th Cir. 2008)). Potentially indefinite placements heighten due process concerns. Id. at 855.

         Plaintiff's four year confinement in disciplinary detention extended lockdown was potentially indefinite. [Record Documents 5-2 at 4 and 20 at 5]. While in disciplinary detention extended lockdown, Plaintiff alleges that he had very limited opportunity for out-of-cell exercise, that he had limited access to books and the prison library, that he had the opportunity to use the telephone only once a month, and that he had no opportunity to work. [Record Document 20 at 4-5]. Taking these allegations as true, the Court finds that the combination of the conditions alleged and their potentially indefinite duration states a claim that prison officials were required to provide Plaintiff with procedural due process.

         The Supreme Court has held that informal, nonadversarial reviews of placement in restrictive confinement are sufficient, provided that the prisoner has advance notice of the review and an opportunity to submit information for the reviewers' consideration. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 228-29 (2005) (citing Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460 (1983); Greenholtz v. Inmates of the Neb. Penal and Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1 (1979)). Hence, a prisoner has no automatic right to a personal appearance at the review. Hewitt, 459 U.S. at 476 (noting that “[o]rdinarily a written statement by the inmate” will satisfy the requirements of due process). Plaintiff's filings indicate that periodic reviews occurred and that the results were delivered to him in his cell. [Record Documents 5-2 at 5, 15-19]. However, the record is silent on whether Plaintiff received the required advance notice and an opportunity to submit information to challenge his placement. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted, but is instructed to submit additional information to the Court.

         Eighth Amendment Claims

         Plaintiff alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated because he was denied adequate opportunity to exercise, he was confined in disciplinary detention extended lockdown for four years, he was restrained whenever he left his cell, he was denied access to programming and to the law library, and he was not allowed to have more than three books in his cell. To establish that his Eighth Amendment rights have been violated, a prisoner must show that the conditions of his confinement are “sufficiently serious” and that the defendant has acted with “deliberate indifference” in the face of knowledge of a “substantial risk of serious harm” to the prisoner. Williams v. Hampton, 797 F.3d 276, 280 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-34 (1994)).

         Thus, to be cognizable under the Eighth Amendment, a denial of exercise must expose a prisoner to “substantial risk of serious harm” to which prison officials can be found to have been deliberately indifferent. Hernandez v. Velasquez, 522 F.3d 556, 561 (5th Cir. 2008). Plaintiff alleged that only being allowed to exercise outside of his cell for one hour per week caused “extreme stress and daily tension resulting in physical deterioration [and] hypertension.” [Record Documents 5-1 at 3 and 20 at 4-5]. While the Fifth Circuit has held that a lack of outdoor exercise opportunities may be actionable under the Eighth Amendment, Hewitt v. Henderson, 271 F. App'x 426, 428 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Green v. Ferrell, 801 F.2d 765, 771-72 (5th Cir. 1986); Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115, 1152 (5th Cir.), modified, 688 F.2d 266 (5th Cir. 1982)), it has also granted summary judgment when a prisoner merely stated that a thirteen-month denial of all out-of-cell exercise opportunities caused “muscle atrophy, stiffness, loss of range of motion, and depression, ” Hernandez, 522 F.3d at 561; see also Moore v. Cain, Civ. No. 15-0812, 2017 WL 3492331, at *5 (M.D. La. July 25, 2017) (recommending dismissal of a claim that segregation without opportunity to exercise caused “stiffness, ach[es], and pain”). Therefore, while Plaintiff's complaint as to this issue is not frivolous, he has failed to allege facts with sufficient specificity in order to survive dismissal and is instructed to submit additional information to the Court.

         Construing Plaintiff's pro se complaint liberally, he has also alleged that his confinement in disciplinary detention extended lockdown for more than four years violated the Eighth Amendment. Social interaction and environmental stimulation are likely “basic psychological human needs.” Wilkerson v. Stalder, 638 F.Supp.2d 654, 678 (M.D. La. 2007). While the Fifth Circuit has affirmed that short stays in segregated environments are not unconstitutional, see Carter v. Hubert, 452 F. App'x 477, 478 (5th Cir. 2011) (finding that a 26-day restrictive cell placement did not state a claim of an Eighth Amendment violation), Plaintiff's confinement lasted over four years. As discussed above, the length of his confinement in extended lockdown may trigger due process protections. It is thus possible that his confinement may be cognizable under the Eighth Amendment as well. Nevertheless, Plaintiff has not alleged any specific deprivation of human contact other than a lack of contact visits with his family. [Record Document 20 at 5]. As a result, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted and is instructed to submit additional information to the Court.

         Plaintiff has complained that he was restrained every time he left his cell. [Record Document 20 at 5]. In the absence of specific allegations of injuries caused by the restraints, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted. See Ruiz v. LeBlanc, 643 F. App'x 358, 362-63 (5th Cir. 2016).

         Finally, the Court determines that the Magistrate Judge's findings regarding Plaintiff's claims that he was denied access to programming, access to the law library, and limitations on the number of books that he may possess are correct under ...


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