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Lomax v. Shepherd

September 5, 2008

RICHARD D. LOMAX
v.
JOSEPH SHEPHERD*FN1 AND CORPORAL WALKER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Ronnie Greer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

This state prisoner's pro se civil rights complaint, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which he claims that his rights were violated during his incarceration at the Northeast Correctional Complex, was transferred from the Western District. Two motions are pending, the first of which is defendant Joseph Shepherd's unopposed motion for partial dismissal. [Doc. 2].

In ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded factual allegations contained in the complaint must be accepted as true, but also must be sufficient "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, U.S. , , 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 and 1974 (2007). Mere "labels and conclusions" will not do. Id. U.S. at , 127 S.Ct. at 1965. Moreover, a pro se pleading must be liberally construed and "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, U.S. , , 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

In his motion, defendant Shepherd argues that dismissal is warranted with respect to three claims: (1) that plaintiff was improperly charged with violating the disciplinary rule which prohibited participation in a security threat group activity, (2) that, despite the subsequent dismissal of the charge, he was reclassified as a member of a security threat group, and (3) that he was transferred to a West Tennessee prison.

To state a viable § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that he was deprived of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a person while acting under color of state law. Flagg Bros. Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-156 (1978). The first element is the one that is missing here.

(1) False Disciplinary Charge

Prisoners have "no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely or wrongly accused of conduct," Freeman v. Rideout, 808 F.2d 949 (2nd Cir. 1986), and prison disciplinary proceedings give rise to a due process claim only if they result in the imposition of restrictions which constitute an "atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (2005).

Though plaintiff has no due process protection against being falsely written up in the first place, as he acknowledges, the charge was dismissed and no disciplinary proceedings followed. Since there were no disciplinary proceedings, no restrictions were imposed as a result of those proceedings. Because there was no constitutional deprivation, plaintiff has failed to state a claim entitling him to relief under § 1983.

(2) Reclassification

An inmate has no constitutional right to be held in a specific security classification. Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 245 (1983); Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 244 (1976) (convict enjoys no due process protection from being transferred from a low- to a maximum-security prison). However, a protectible liberty interest would arise if the assignment to a higher security level imposes an extreme restraint which is not ordinarily part of the prison experience. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209 (2005) (finding that assignment to a "supermax" prison imposes an atypical and significant hardship because the aggregate of conditions are more restrictive than other prisons) (citing Sandin, supra).

Petitioner offers nothing to show that he has been subjected to such a hardship as a result of his reclassification as a member of a security threat group. Therefore, due process was not violated by plaintiff's designation as a security threat group member. Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, (6th Cir. 2005) (classifying inmate as a security threat group leader not a due process violation since he has no constitutional right to be held in a specific security classification). Here again, plaintiff has failed to state a claim.

(3) Prison Transfer

In Bazzetta v. McGinnis, 430 F.3d 795, 804 (6th Cir.2005), the Sixth Circuit recited the law regarding an inmate's transfer to another prison.

In fact, a prison inmate does not have a liberty interest in transfer from one prison to another for whatever reason or for no reason at all, within the State or to another State, regardless of differing conditions in the prisons. Even a transfer to a maximum security facility with more burdensome conditions is within the normal limits or range of custody which the conviction has authorized the State to impose. This is true even though such a transfer operates as a real hardship on the inmate who is effectively separated by the transfer from his only contact with the world outside the prison. Analysis of the nature of the interest involved ... compels the conclusion ...


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