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Thomas v. Thompson

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 14, 2015

MICHAEL A. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHERYL THOMPSON and IAN WALLACE, in Their Official and Individual Capacities, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 84) as supplemented (Doc. No. 92) on Plaintiff Michael Thomas's third amended complaint. Thomas is a Missouri inmate. He brings claims under 42 U.S.C. against two prison officials - Ian Wallace, Warden at Missouri's Southeast Correctional Center ("SECC"), and Cheryl Thompson, an administrative segregation Housing Unit Manager at SECC - for violation of his constitutional rights related to his placement and retention in administrative segregation. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment shall be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initiated this action pro se on April 1, 2013, against 11 prison officials, including Wallace and Thompson, asserting that he had been in solitary confinement since June 2012, in violation of his due process rights. On June 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. The Court appointed counsel who filed an amended complaint, clarifying that Plaintiff was in administrative segregation, not solitary confinement. A hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction was held on October 24, 2013. By Order dated October 29, 2013, the motion was dismissed pursuant to an agreement reached by the parties. On December 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint against the same 11 Defendants, without specifying in what capacity they were being sued. Plaintiff was released from administrative segregation on December 21, 2013.

By Order dated January 28, 2014, the Court granted the motion to dismiss filed by all Defendants except Thompson and Wallace. On September 15, 2014, Thompson and Wallace filed the motion for summary judgment now under consideration. On October 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed a response to the motion for summary judgment, as well as a motion for leave to file a third amended complaint to make it clear that Thompson and Wallace were being sued in both their official and individual capacities. On October 22, 2014, the Court granted the motion for leave and Plaintiff's third amended complaint, naming only Thompson and Wallace as Defendants and specifying that they were being sued in both their official and individual capacities, was filed.

Plaintiff asserts three claims in his third amended complaint. In Count I he asserts that Defendants' failure to provide him "adequate exercise, personal contacts and basic necessities" while he was in administrative segregation constituted cruel and unusual punishment, and that Defendants showed a deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's health and safety, in violation of the Eighth (and Fourteenth) Amendment. (Doc. No. 88 at 5.) In Count II he claims that placing him in administrative segregation in the first place and retaining him there for so long violated his due process rights because he was not guilty of the initial conduct violation and the reviews of his retention in administrative segregation were meaningless. And in Count III he maintains that on June 7, 2013 he was moved to a more restrictive administrative segregation unit in retaliation for filing the action. He seeks actual and punitive damages.

The evidence of record, including the testimony at the October 24, 2013 preliminary injunction hearing, establishes that Plaintiff, who was incarcerated upon guilty pleas to several felonies including forcible rape and sodomy, was placed in administrative segregation in June 2012, after being charged with sexually assaulting another inmate. In July 2012, following an internal investigation, Plaintiff was found guilty of the assault and was assigned to remain in administrative segregation. Plaintiff was transferred to SECC on August 14, 2012, where he was assigned to Housing Unit 2, an administrative segregation unit in which inmates were double celled.

On December 1, 2012, and January 15, 2013, Plaintiff was found guilty of minor rule violations. As noted above, on April 1, 2013, Plaintiff filed his pro se complaint in this action. On April 6 and April 9, 2013, he received two more minor conduct violations. During the time Plaintiff was in administrative segregation he received periodic reviews of his classification; each time he was kept in administrative segregation based primarily, if not solely, upon the serious nature of the initial conduct violation of sexual assault.

On June 6, 2013, the classification committee submitted a request for a 12-month extension of Plaintiff's administrative segregation. On June 7, 2013, Plaintiff was moved from a two-person cell in Housing Unit 2 to a one person cell in Housing Unit 1, also an administrative segregation unit, but more restrictive than Housing Unit 2. On June 14, 2013, the 12-month extension was approved. A prison policy calls for a psychological evaluation of prisoners before such an extension is granted, but the record is devoid of such an evaluation for Plaintiff.

At the October 24, 2013 hearing, Wallace testified that Plaintiff's initial placement in a two-person cell (Housing Unit 2) at SECC was an error - he should have been placed in a one-person cell (Housing Unit 1). Plaintiff testified that at a review hearing on July 19, 2013, Thompson told him that she was keeping him in administrative segregation, "because I can." On August 30, 2013, as Wallace was going through Housing Unit 1, Plaintiff spoke to Wallace from Plaintiff's cell and asked Wallace when he would be released from administrative segregation. Conflicting evidence was presented as to Wallace's response, with Plaintiff and three other inmates testifying that Wallace responded that had Plaintiff not filed his lawsuit, he would have been out of administrative segregation. They also asserted that Wallace used racial slurs. Wallace denied making the statements, and testified that he did not know about the present lawsuit before September 2013.

Plaintiff testified that on October 16, 2013, he was moved to another floor in administrative segregation where the conditions were more adverse. He was not provided with an explanation of goals he could achieve to be returned to Housing Unit 2. The policy manual related to administrative segregation reviews provides:

Promotion from housing unit #1 to housing unit #2 will be results-driven and based upon the offender successfully meeting goals set during regularly scheduled administrative segregation hearings. Goals and time frames for promotion will be specific for each offender and documented on the classification hearing form.

Plaintiff testified that while he was in Housing Unit 1, Thompson had his windows covered for about 15 days, such that he could not see outside and was in total darkness, and that the cells in administrative segregation were filthy and infested with rodents. (Doc. No. 85-2 at 14.) He also testified that he filed prison complaints about the dirt and infestation, but nothing was done. Id. at 19. As noted above, on December 21, 2013, Plaintiff was released from administrative segregation.

Defendants have submitted the prison investigation records supporting Plaintiff's June 2012 conduct violation for sexual assault, and the affidavit of an individual named Regina Beggs, attesting that inmates in administrative segregation have access to rags to clean their cells on a ...


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