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Upshaw v. Jones

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

January 26, 2015

MICHAEL G. UPSHAW, Plaintiff,
v.
BRENDA JONES, ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER TO MODIFY THE DOCKET, DISMISSING CASE, CERTIFYING AN APPEAL WOULD NOT BE TAKEN IN GOOD FAITH AND NOTIFYING PLAINTIFF OF APPELLATE FILING FEE

JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.

On July 11, 2014, Plaintiff, Michael G. Upshaw, Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") prisoner number 304427, an inmate at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, accompanied by a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) In an order issued on July 14, 2014, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Defendants named in Plaintiff's original complaint were former WTSP Warden Brenda Jones, Sergeant Dustin Chumley, and Lieutenant Matthew Hayles. Each Defendant was sued in his or her individual and official capacities. (ECF No. 1 at 1.)[1]

The Court issued an order on December 5, 2014, that dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 7.) The claims against Defendants in their official capacities were dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)-(iii) and 1915A(b)(1)-(2). ( Id. at 5-6.) The order noted that "[t]he allegations of Plaintiff's complaint are too vague to plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief" ( id. at 6), that Defendant Jones cannot be held liable as a supervisor ( id. at 6-7), that Defendant Hayles cannot be held liable for issuance of a false disciplinary charge ( id. at 7-9) or for failing to make a sufficient investigation before issuing the write-up ( id. at 9), that Plaintiff's rights were not violated when he was assigned to segregation pending a hearing on the disciplinary charge ( id. at 10-11), and that the complaint did not adequately allege that Defendant Chumley had violated Plaintiff's due process rights at his disciplinary hearing ( id. at 11-12). The Court granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint that cured the defects in his claims and directed that any amendment must be filed within twenty-eight days. ( Id. at 13.)

Plaintiff filed his amended complaint, which was titled "Petition to Amend Complaint Under 42 USC § 1983, " on December 24, 2014. (ECF No. 8.)[2] The amended complaint is brought against Defendants Jones, Chumley and Hayles in their individual capacities. ( Id. at 1.) The amended complaint alleges that, while Plaintiff was eating breakfast in the chow hall on December 19, 2013, he noticed officers running toward housing Unit 9. ( Id. ) Defendant Hayles "arbitrarily and capriciously seized Plaintiff of his liberty and placed him in solitary confinement pending investigation." ( Id. ) After the initial seven-day investigation period had elapsed, Defendant Chumley, with the permission of Defendant Jones, granted a seven-day extension. A second extension of time was granted, extending the investigation period to January 9, 2014. ( Id. ) As a result of the investigation, Plaintiff was charged with "assault and group threat." ( Id. )

The disciplinary hearing was held on January 26, 2014, fourteen days after the investigation had completed. ( Id. at 2.) For reasons that are not clear, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Jones is responsible for the timing of the disciplinary hearing. ( See id. ) The complaint also alleges that "no evidence was presented at the disciplinary hearing to suggest Plaintiff conspired, or participated in the alleged assault or group threat. No evidence exist [sic] or was presented during the hearing to place the Plaintiff on the scene of the alleged assault." ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims that he "produced notarized statements under oath from the inmate involved in the assault and group threat, indicating Plaintiff was not involved in the incident." ( Id. )

Plaintiff was subsequently convicted of two Class A disciplinary offenses. He was sentenced to serve a total of forty days in punitive segregation, assessed a fine of $4.00 per write-up, lost forty-eight days of good time credit, lost his job assignment and was subject to a pay reduction, and lost the opportunity for visits from his family members over the holidays. Plaintiff also did not have access to a Christmas package that contained perishable items that spoiled while he was in segregation. ( Id. ) Because he lost his minimum security designation, Plaintiff suffered "a continued loss of an additional six (6) days from March 2014 to date totaling an additional sixty (60) days good time credits." ( Id. at 3-4.)

Plaintiff asks that each Defendant be reprimanded and that the reprimand be recorded in his or her personnel file, that he be awarded $600 for pain and suffering against each defendant, and that he be awarded $250 in punitive damages. ( Id. at 2, 3, 4.) Plaintiff also asks that the disciplinary charge be dismissed, that he be reinstated to his prison job at the recycling plant, that his minimum security custody classification be restored, and that one hundred eight days of good time credit be awarded. ( Id. at 2, 3, 4.)

Attached to the amended complaint is an incident report by Defendant Hayles, dated December 26, 2013, which states:

AFTER AN ONGOING INVESTIGATION INTO AN INCIDENT THAT OCCURRED ON 12/19/2013 IN UNIT 11 THE FOLLOWING INMATES DID ACT IN CONCERT OF THE STG GANGSTER DISCIPLES IN AN ASSAULT. THEREFORE THEY ARE BEING CHARGED WITH PGA MICHAEL UPSHAW #304427, JOHN BURKS #397521, PHILLIPE HENDERSON #428397 AND JAVAR ROSS #422429. EVIDENCE WILL BE PRESENT [sic] AT DISCIPLINARY BOARD.

(ECF No. 8-1 at 1.) The incident involved an assault in which the only weapons used were fists. The victim, Waymon Russell, TDOC prisoner number 124919, suffered only minor injuries. ( Id. at 2-3.) The report states that "CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION WILL BE PRESENT [sic] AT DBOARD." ( Id. at 3.)

Also attached to the amended complaint is a report of the disciplinary hearing detail, dated January 31, 2014. It states, "INMATE FOUND GUILTY BY THE BOARD BASED ON THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED ATH [sic] THE GEARING [sic] AND REPORTING OFFICIALS TESTIMONY." ( Id. at 4.) The amended complaint does not state whether Plaintiff appealed his disciplinary conviction to the warden and, if unsuccessful, to the TDOC Commissioner. ( See TDOC Admin. Policies and Procedures, Uniform Disciplinary Procedures, Index # 502.01, ¶ VI.M (appeal procedures for TDOC institutions).)

Plaintiff has also submitted statements signed by nine inmates asserting that they observed Plaintiff eating breakfast in the dining hall at approximately 7:20 a.m. on December 19, 2013. (ECF No. 8-1 at 5-6.)

The standards for assessing the claims in an inmate's complaint were stated in the previous order. (ECF No. 7 at 2-4.) Even if Plaintiff were to prevail in this action, the Court could not order that his disciplinary conviction be vacated or his good-time credit restored. When a prisoner seeks to challenge the validity or duration of his confinement, his sole remedy is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973); see also Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004) (per curiam) ("Challenges to the validity of any confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus."). An inmate may not bring a § 1983 action to obtain restoration of good-time credits. Preiser, 411 U.S. at 476-77, 500. The only potential relief available to Plaintiff is money damages.

For the reasons stated in prior order of dismissal, Plaintiff has no claim against Defendant Hayles for issuing him a disciplinary write-up and placing him in segregation. (ECF No. 7 at 8-11.) Although Plaintiff cites the unpublished decision in Person v. Campbell, No. 98-5638, 1999 WL 454819 (6th Cir. June 21, 1999), for the proposition that "the false accusation of misconduct filed against him constitute[s] a deprivation of his constitutional rights because the charges were not adjudicated in a fair hearing" (ECF No. 8 at 4), the case provides no support for Plaintiff's position. In Person, the prisoner claimed that a false disciplinary charge had been filed against him and that his right to due ...


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